The Etch-a-Sketch Moment
(VANCOUVER ISLAND) As Donald Trump’s nomination moves from likely toward inevitable, speculation is rampant as to if, when, and how much he is going to pivot as the race becomes one for the presidency of the United States of America. Historically, this pivot has always been necessary, but with the advent of the Age of Communications, it has become much more apparent to the average voter; back in the mists of history, in the pre-Internet days, most people would only really start paying attention to the campaigns when there were two nominees, each with a vice-presidential candidate, to choose between. That’s all different now; it became especially clear during the last election cycle when Mitt Romney was challenging Barak Obama for the Oval Office. That’s when Romney was roundly mocked as being the Etch-a-Sketch candidate because of his campaign’s resemblance to the classic children’s toy. When one wanted to change the picture, one just turned the toy upside down and shook it up; when it was turned back, lo and behold, there was a blank slate upon which a brand new narrative could be written.
It seems likely that now that even the GOP greybeards are accepting that it is all but sewn up for the bombastic, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, self-worshipping, demagogue, the Trump campaign will hang a left and try to make the candidate acceptable to people who aren’t mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, uneducated, inbred, rednecks. And therein lies the rub.
In the first place there is real doubt that, given his arrogance and refusal to hear anyone but his paid yes men, Trump is capable of masking his character well enough to maintain a façade of decency for the next six months. But more importantly, he is unlikely to have learned from Romney’s mistakes. He is so ignorant about everything of importance that, despite his credentials as a manipulator of the media, he will probably not take in the Romney lesson that flip-flopping at this point will do little but move him up a few notches on the laughing-stock scale.
What is likely to happen is that Trump will try to lower the temperature of his rhetoric when he’s speaking to the country as a whole rather than only to the committed. He will continue to spew the same bigotry he has always espoused but with a very thin and almost transparent veneer of civilised discourse. He will be asked and will fail to answer questions of substance and will be trounced by Hillary Clinton in any genuine debate. Trump will, in other words, try to shake the Etch-a-Sketch and will be called on it in the general election campaign. He will flail about and in very little time revert to his real character; he will forego the teleprompters and speak extemporaneously, allowing himself to be the buffoon he is seen as throughout the civilised world. He will cease to filter his misogyny, he will continue to alienate minorities of all sorts and his breathtaking ignorance of geopolitical matters will become manifest. Despite gerrymandering and concerted efforts at voter suppression, he will be trounced at the polls.
After the shakeup and before the reversion to pure Trumpism, people will look at the flip flop and ask themselves why Trump feels that he can speak like an ignorant hillbilly when addressing his base but needs to appear more sophisticated, thoughtful and, well, presidential when addressing the public as a whole. Does he lack all respect for his base? And the short answer is: dya think? Of course he does. There is only one person alive for whom he has any respect and that person is about to be the Republican nominee for the Presidency of the United States of America.