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Pundits like to say that Donald Trump defies the laws of political gravity, because he breaks all the rules of politically-correct and presidential behavior, yet continues to rise in the polls.
Since he routinely violates Ronald Reagan’s so-called Eleventh Commandment (“Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill Of A Fellow Republican”) and benefits from doing so, let’s put the rules in the form of commandments.
So what are Trump's holy tenets?
1. Honour Thy Money And Fame By Trumpeting Thy Successes
No presidential candidate has been more boastful than Trump – a distinction which he might brag about some day. But he’s always been a braggart; that’s part of his celebrity appeal. Last year, when he spoke as a non-candidate at the National Press Club, a reporter noted that he was supposed to talk about branding, but mostly talked about himself … with eight different boasts.
2. Thou Shalt Not Speak Above A Fourth-Grade Vocabulary
A linguistic analysis determined that Trump spoke at a 3rd- or 4th-grade level. Politico reported:
Flattening the English language whenever he speaks without a script, Trump relies heavily on words such as “very” and “great,” and the pronouns “we” and “I,” which is his favorite word. As any news observer can observe, he lives to diminish his foes by calling them “losers,” “total losers,” “haters,” “dumb,” “idiots,” “morons,” “stupid,” “dummy” and “disgusting.”
3. Thou Shalt Make Promises So Huuuuge And Vague People Cannot Doubt Thy Boldness
Trump’s slogan is to “make America great again.” He’s pledged to build a classy wall at the border and make Mexico pay for it. He says he’ll deport 11 million “illegal immigrants” so fast “it’ll make your head spin.” He promises to find a General Douglas MacArthur who will rebuild the military so “everyone” will respect the U.S. again.
When asked how he’d get Mexico to pay for the wall, or how he’d round up and deport so many people, and at what cost, his answer is just to reiterate that he will do it all easily and quickly. Not only has his “vague is beautiful” style not hindered him, he went along with Jimmy Fallon’s mockery of him on his preposterous promises in a skit that helped him win the “Tonight Show” audience.
4. Thou Shalt Never Apologize; But When Expedient, Just Explain That Offensive Remarks Were Misunderstood
Trump has insulted Mexican immigrants, Sen. John McCain, conservative talk show hosts, and in each case, it was widely thought that Trump would have to express regret at “inappropriate” remarks. But no, he continued to rise in the polls after each supposed gaffe. More recently, it was thought he crossed the line again when he was quoted in “Rolling Stone” denigrating rival candidate Carly Fiorina, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” But instead of apologizing, he denied talking about her face, and claimed he was talking about her “persona.” That inspired this headline on a New Yorker magazine article: “Donald’s Trump nose is growing longer and longer.” Yet he continued to surge in polls.
5.Thou Shalt Worship Repetition, For It Is The Essence Of Branding
Trump has been hailed by some in the media for selling himself like a product — saying he’s a “genius” at branding. Repetition is a big part of that. He’ll say over and over and over that Jeb Bush is “low-energy,” for instance, and people can’t look at Bush without wondering about his energy.
A woman who supports Trump explained in a focus group:
“We know his goal is to make America great again. It's on his hat. And we see it every time it's on TV. Everything that he's doing, there's no doubt why he's doing it: It's to make America great again."
6. Thou Shalt Exalt Personality Over Principle And Policy
In the conservative The Federalist, Robert Tracinski wrote that a “cult of personality” explains the Trump phenomenon:
“After Donald Trump’s bombastic performance in last week’s debate, it’s clear that the key to his appeal is not his policy positions, which are all over the map. No, it’s all about his personality, and the paradox is that the more unpleasant his personality is revealed to be, the greater his appeal to his core group of supporters.”
7. Thou Shalt Respect Power Of Insults For They Shall Slay Your Enemies, Entertain The Masses
Trump is an insult machine. For a sample, you can view “Top 20 Trump Insults” on YouTube. Or you can just wait for his next interview.
8.Thou Shalt Never Pass Up Opportunity To Attack A Media Doubter For They Shall Be Intimidated
In the 2012 presidential race, Newt Gingrich was thought to have won a debate — and the South Carolina primary right after — because he indignantly criticized CNN anchor John King for opening the debate by asking him about remarks from his ex-wife. But Trump has gone much further, criticizing even popular conservative talk show hosts like Megyn Kelly and Hugh Hewitt without suffering in the polls.
Trump’s eagerness to blame the media for any controversy was apparent when he attacked both hosts of NBC’s Today Show, Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, after his disparagement of McCain’s military service. Sounding not just defensive, but paranoid, he told Lauer, “So you misrepresent — like everybody else.”
9. Honour Thy Trolling And Tweeting To Know The Sweet Joy Of Mocking The Meek
Trump has millions of followers on Twitter, and he tweets throughout the day. His comments are treated like press releases by many in the media, enabling him to trigger news coverage at will, and dominate a news cycle. He knows the secrets of generating publicity: knock an opponent, comment on something in the news, or just say something wacky. Such statements (in 140 characters or less) are all considered quote-worthy, no matter how simple-minded.
10. Remember The Days Of Whining Lead To Winning
One Trump comment illustrates how he can get away with saying foolish (“entertaining” he’d say) things that would probably have caused a presidential candidacy to implode back in the day.
That “boast” may seem immature - or to use a Trumpian word, dumb. But Trump supporters would consider it refreshingly candid and authentic.
Sadly, it’s hard to argue with Trump’s claim. After all, he has been whining and winning.
Maybe that will change in Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate. But if Trump does poorly, there’s one person he won’t blame for it: Donald Trump.
After all, thou shalt not take the name of the Donald in vain, right Trump?
Todd Domke is a Republican political analyst for WBUR.
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