Somewhere between rumor and conspiracy theory lies an idea that has been discussed a few times before but never fully fleshed out. Is Donald Trump trying to make a triumphant exit from the Presidential race? Before you assume the obvious answer, which is “no,” consider what we’ve seen since he became the last man standing just over a month ago.
Once Ted Cruz (and John Kasich, for the record) suspended his campaign, the road ahead for Trump became a relatively clear-cut path. All he needed to do was:
- Turn down the rhetoric to a more sane level
- Make new friends in the Republican party
- Rebuild a few bridges that he’d torched
- Turn all of his efforts towards attacking Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and liberalism in general
It was a simple plan when compared to the juggling of attacks and alliances he had to work when taking on 16 GOP contenders, four of which proved to be formidable. This was going to be a piece of cake. Instead, he:
- Turned up the rhetoric
- Formed some shaky friendships in the Republican party (some of which are now backing away)
- Burned even more bridges
- Left Hillary basically unscathed other than a handful of potshots.
Hillary and her super PACs have spent millions of dollars already in battleground states. Trump has spent none. Hillary is fundraising like a rabid dog locked in a room full of rabbits. Trump made 3 out of 24 fundraising calls before getting bored.
All of this has been excused by allies as inexperience, pondered by pundits as inexplicable, and ridiculed by enemies as ignorant. Any combination of the three components could have been the reason for his campaign meltdown the last few weeks, but there are three things that point in a different direction.
First, he’s neither a fool nor a novice. Trump won primaries by bending most of the accepted Presidential campaign protocols and breaking a few along the way. This gave him the anti-Establishment freshness that he needed to woo Republican voters. However, he’s savvy enough to realize that it won’t be as effective when trying to get Independents and Democrats in his corner. It also alienates the conservative wing of the Republican party, many of whom are voting for Trump as the lesser of two evils while others aren’t voting for him at all. What worked before won’t work now and if Trump has demonstrated anything, it’s that he’s nimble when it comes to change.
Second, his narcissistic nature prevents him from shooting for absolute failure. It would be easy for him to drop out. All he has to do is say, “I’m not having fun any more. I can help the country in other ways without being President. Here’s your nomination back. Thanks for letting me borrow it for a while.” The problem there is that he would lose almost everything that he’s built up in regards to post-election political power, the one thing I believe he wanted to acquire the most when he first launched his campaign.
Third, and this is the most pressing reason, is that he just fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. On the surface, it appears that his kids ousted him to keep his corrosive attitude and failing strategies away from dad. This is most likely the case from everyone’s perspective, but what if it’s deeper? What if Trump and Lewandowski have had a plan all along? What if the firing, which by all accounts was completely unexpected by Lewandowski, is actually part of an elaborate scheme to help Trump lose the election while still maintaining his prominence and political power?
If between now and the convention a “leak” comes out that damages Trump and gives him a reason to step away without losing influence and still looking alike a winner who was blindsided by an unfortunate situation, one could make the very logical leap to the concept that this has been the plan for a while. It probably wasn’t the plan from the start; I don’t believe Trump knew just how well he would do. Now that he has the GOP nomination locked up and is facing a candidate who could be indicted before November, he might just win this thing. If that’s not what he truly wants, he’ll need an exit plan. If evading the easy path was phase one of this plan, firing Lewandowski could be phase two.
Phase three would be the leak and his triumphant departure. By “triumphant,” I mean that he has to be able to say that he would have easily become President of the United States if it weren’t for some unforeseen circumstance. That’s the narrative required to make this conspiracy work the way he wants.
He’s laid the groundwork with rumors of “Trump News” after the campaign. That’s a strange thing to be discussing when there’s a Presidency to be won. He’s made the right connections, conspicuously holding sway over media outlets and personalities like Matt Drudge, Breitbart News, Fox News, and even conspiracy theory site InfoWars. One could argue that control of a major news network and media empire would make him more influential than being President while maintaining a lot more freedom.
I know what you’re thinking. All of this sounds crazy. That’s because it is. There’s nothing sane about this Presidential election cycle and any one rumor or conspiracy theory has about as much of a chance of being reality as anything that sounds sane.
One way or another, this is Trump’s America now. He has everybody talking about him whether they love, hate, or fear him. In Trump’s America, strange things are bound to happen.