Campaign 2016 Elegy: Days of Trump Everlasting

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Presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Louisiana Aug. 19.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Louisiana Aug. 19.

Ever since Donald Trump announced that he was a candidate for president of the United States, we have been living in the world of Donald Trump.

Every day has been Trump day.  Good news, bad news, it’s the Trumping of America moving on apace.

These days,  it doesn’t seem to matter whether Donald Trump will actually win in November. It doesn’t matter that, these days, he’s apparently trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls by very solid margins.

Go for a walk, take a bike ride, sit around having coffee in a coffee house. Watch the news or not. Troll the Internet and:  there’s that hair, that raspy voice, those slogans, those half-truths  and that hand waving and thumb up, hyperventilating hyperbole.

Candidate Trump complains about his press coverage—that it’s wrong, inaccurate, false, biased and not very nice. What he doesn’t say is that in sheer volume, compared to Hillary Clinton, he blots out the sun.

Even Trump has acknowledged that there is no such thing as bad publicity, there’s only publicity.

About the only time you see stories about Clinton on the front pages are those that concern her e-mail accounts — “the gift that keeps on giving,” as Bob Woodward once characterized the Nixon tapes — the Clinton Foundation or claims that Clinton is not in good health and medically unfit to be president.

We have watched now for well over a year Trump triumphant, knocking out a gaggle of GOP candidates, from the formidable (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz) to the silly (Ben Carson) during the course of the road to the GOP presidential nomination.  Trump ran the sort of campaign — amateurish, full of hate-spewing rallies, insults to women, minorities, handicapped, Muslims and so forth — that invades your dreams and emerge as nightmares.  It was a campaign in which Trump trumped America. His campaign, aided by his penchant for expressing himself through insta-grams and twitter,  became the talk of every town, talk shows, cocktail parties and tailgating parties, and diner and dinner chit chat. He was and remains all pervasive and seemingly immune to takedown.  He claimed that he could probably shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still have his polls go up.

However, that hasn’t been the case when he took his medicine show to the national stage — beginning with a doomsday speech at a convention where he was the centerpiece, surrounded by his family, obscure mini-celebrities and near hysterical politicians on the right.

Since then, he took big hits after basically insulting American-Muslim parents, whose son was a soldier and killed in America’s Iraq war.  There were campaign shakeups along the way and attempts to prevent Trump from being Trump — which is to say attempts to muzzle him and make him read from a teleprompter.

The latest blowup and shakeup — after a heavy drop in the polls which freaked out Republicans across the board — involved the resignation of the slick, former Bob Dole operative Paul Manafort and the ascent to campaign leadership of Stephen Bannon, chief of the arch conservative Breitbart News and Kellyanne Conway, a longtime pollster and Trump supporter.

The result — at least for the past week — has been,  against all odds, a slightly milder, on-script (the usual slogans, plus constant bashing of Clinton) version of Trump, who even courted Hispanic and black voters.

Uncharacteristically, Trump also did something that seemed both natural and empathic by dropping in on the victims of the horrific flooding in Louisiana — something neither President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton thought of doing.  “I’m here to help,” is what Trump had to say.  But he also seemed uncomfortable just being there with no speech to give, handing out the comfort of his autograph and helping with a delivery. It seemed like a missed opportunity. Nor has he really followed up in what would be a perfectly legitimate attack on Clinton for not being there at all.

It’s anybody’s guess how long this new face of Trump—reading prepared speeches, staying on “message”— persists and may change when Bannon weighs in more forcefully.

You can be sure, however, that Trump won’t fade to the back pages, or even page two, or from the nightly news. He may be behind in the polls, but he’s on the front page, always tangible, always somehow there.

The question is: When was the last time you or I got through a day without mentioning his name?

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