Trump: An Exercise in Brand Destruction
Dear New York State ultra right-wing Republicans:
Andrew Cuomo is right.
The reason you’re so angry? You know he’s right.
But I would say the state GOP is split into three distinct factions, not just two.
In 2010, the Republican Party was divided between the wealthy, country clubby downstate moderate Republican hierarchy on the one hand, and a brash, obscene, bellicose, ultra right-winger who energized (and was energized by) the Palinist wing of the tea party. The glibertarian Paulist wing of the tea party also backed Paladino, somewhat begrudgingly. What all this amounted to was a complete blow-out whereby Democrat Andrew Cuomo defeated Carl Paladino 61% – 34%.
Paladino was largely self-funded, and could buy himself all the media attention he wanted. His only disadvantage was his own mouth. And the policies he espoused. New Yorkers rejected him convincingly.
Now, the ultra-right Palinists are thisclose to recruiting Donald Trump to run for governor against Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is, I’m sure, not relishing the fight because Trump has many advantages over Carl Paladino; for instance, Trump has an international brand; Trump is reasonably well-liked by people, regardless of his weird politics; Trump knows how to make headlines, and do so positively for himself; Trump has been vetted in the media for decades; people know Trump for fun things that have nothing to do with politics; he is a known quantity downstate; and, Trump has the New York Post in his pocket.
Trump has some negatives, too, though; for instance, he has no filter between his brain and his mouth; he can be not just exceedingly rude and hostile, but downright vicious when dealing with people who offer him even mild criticism; Trump has been scrutinized as a tabloid celebrity, but not as a serious candidate for elected office; Trump does not play well with others, and is used to getting exactly what he wants (or can buy); Trump is likely to mirror Paladino’s bellicose attitude and alienate many voters; Trump’s utterly bizarre and inexplicably vocal birtherism will make Obama voters (62.6% of New Yorkers voted for Obama vs. 36% for Romney) reject Trump outright; and Trump has never, ever before paid a stitch of care or attention to anything west of the Hudson and/or north of Saratoga when it comes to New York State.
If Republicans think that Trump can win (if he runs), they may be right – he has a chance. But it won’t remotely be the cakewalk they’re thinking it’ll be. Cuomo isn’t warm and fuzzy, either, but he is a centrist Democrat.
New York State is overwhelmingly populated by Democrats. The vast majority of New York voters are located within the New York City metropolitan area and media market. These people know Trump, and while upstate flirts with this pretty TV celebrity, he’s old hat downstate. Many of them are likely to not take him at all seriously.
All of these hypotheticals are naturally based on the assumption that he’ll run. He won’t if there’s a primary, he says, and the country clubbers that run the New York GOP aren’t warming to Trump yet. I’m not so sure he’ll run – this is already a huge publicity stunt for him, and running is secondary. What a wonderful branding exercise.
But is it? Is Trump ready to sacrifice his brand further by wading into hyperpartisan politics? As an Obama supporter, I’ve already resolved to avoid anything with Trump’s name on it like the plague; I see his relentless birtherism as thinly veiled racist xenophobia, and I see his rejection of irrefutable evidence as a huge character flaw that disqualifies him for public office, and the money I earn. If Donald Trump thinks that the President is a foreign national who is ineligible for the Presidency in the face of a certified long-form Hawaiian birth certificate, that calls his judgment and credibility into question. Now expand that aggressive ignorance into state politics, and he’ll alienate Democrats and moderate Republicans even more.
Oh, and here’s a tip, tea partiers: stop calling Andrew Cuomo “il Duce”. He was duly elected, and you maintain a right to hate and criticize him. He is, therefore, not a fascist totalitarian dictator. But he is Italian. Your defamation of Cuomo with this false, childish, base slur will not ingratiate you or your candidates to New Yorkers of Italian descent. This bigotry is vile and beneath you; you might as well call him a mob boss or depict him as an organ-grinder as soon as you’d depict Obama as an African chieftain or with a watermelon.
Because for all the bleating about the NY SAFE Act, this race will be decided in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. The rural areas will go for the Republican, the urban areas will go for the Democrat, and these key suburban swing counties could go either way. Right-leaning upstate counties simply don’t have a lot of people. 60% or so of New Yorkers are registered Democrats. 30% or so of New Yorkers are registered Republicans. The Conservative and Independence Parties are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party, so add another 5% on the Republican side. That’s the gap that Trump would have to win, and Cuomo made the point that he’s too extreme.
Here’s what Cuomo had to say in remarks that enraged many New York right-wingers:
You have a schism within the Republican Party. … They’re searching to define their soul, that’s what’s going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. It’s a mirror of what’s going on in Washington. The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.
… You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.
If they’re moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate Republican; but not what you’re hearing from them on the far right.”
Republicans can take umbrage to that, but it’s a fundamentally true declaration. New York Republicans may enjoy the extreme hatenouncements of pretty billionaires and petty millionaires, but your average New Yorker is pretty middle-of-the-road. Pataki won because he wasn’t an extremist. Cuomo won because he wasn’t an extremist. It’s about the center in New York, and Trump may have had appeal there before the birtherism, but now he’s just Paladino with a cleaner outbox, a TV endorsement, and more money in the bank.
Oh, by the way, the New York State Attorney General is suing Trump for defrauding students through a now-defunct “Trump University” which took money in exchange for nothing.
So, my initial prediction is that Trump won’t win because (a) there would likely be a primary; and/or (b) he doesn’t need the headache. If I’m wrong and he does run, then I think he outperforms Paladino, but doesn’t defeat Cuomo. The reason why? Trump is being backed and promoted by a small minority of a small minority political party – a fraction of 35% of the state population.
You guys are great at buying your own BS, and because you only credit right-leaning media and reject any sort of critical thought or debate, you think that you “surround us”. The problem is that the numbers are not in your favor, and the ease with which you descend into crass, ugly rhetoric doesn’t help. This is before we get to the actual policies you espouse, most of which would never fly in a cosmopolitan blue state like New York.
So, good luck with this, but you might want to consider ways in which centrists and liberals might be attracted to Trump, rather than alienating them right from the start. Have a great weekend!