|His immigration rant became his signature stance. He abandoned it at his peril.|
I became aware of the idea of "the pivot" when a communications director with Mitt Romney -- Eric Fehrnstrom -- made his famous Etch-A-Sketch remark. Though Fehrnstrom's misstep took place early in Romney's campaign year, during March of 2012, it had the effect of taking the blinders off the electorate. We were supposed to feel the pivot but not actually know it was a standard move. Now voters knew too much.
Romney then sealed his fate a few months later by deriding America's 47 percent, those too comfortable with an expansive government to ever vote for a candidate who almost reveled in writing them off in private, among his loyal -- and stinking rich -- friends. A colossal oops.
Now, four years later, the horse was already out of the barn, in as much as "the pivot" was no longer a secret campaign move but an expected sign that a candidate was savvy. This "pivot" was meant to show that a candidate was willing to move beyond his base, to reach out to the larger electorate he or she was to confront in the general election.
I suggest that this is the special province of the Republican Party, in as much as their core constituency, their base, is a narrower construct, a segment of the voting population that isn't enough to carry the GOP candidate to victory. Democrats already lean on a larger constituency or group of constituencies and only need to shepherd them to the polls. Barack Obama showed how that works, twice.
In Trump's case, his base was enough to get him the nomination, but he'd need a bunch of moderate Republicans, right-leaning independents, and, yes, some amount of so-called Reagan Democrats to capture the White House. Hence, he'd have to pivot.
At first, he didn't. Donald Trump thought, delusionally as it turns out, that he was a force of nature that could let his hordes carry him to victory. It took two campaign upheavals to get him to finally pivot, which, for Trump, had to involve softening his immigration stance.
What else was he going to do? What was his other move, his pivot, going to be? His hard-nosed SEND THEM ALL BACK and BUILD THAT WALL AND MAKE MEXICO PAY FOR IT declaration was his rallying cry. It turns out that his dark vision couldn't get him a single battleground state. The number of demographics he alienated were legion.
So, this past week, he finally pivoted, and what happened? He looked like a big fat stupid insincere dick. Now the emperor really had no clothes. It was all an act?? Awh, say it ain't so, Joe.
But it was. BUT I'LL STILL BUILD THE WALL now rang hollow. Now Donald Trump was going to be "nice," "humane," and "follow the law" with the brown people already here. What's worse, he said he'd do it like Obama, who'd already deported a good number of them following the law.
Did you really say that, Donald, that you'd "do it like Obama??" Yes, you did.
The thing is, it was inevitable. Donald Trump created his primary-winning coalition by awakening the non-college educated whites -- yes, also animated by the alt-right and Breitbart/Drudge types -- and rode it to the nomination. Then he delivered his law-and-order "Midnight in America" acceptance speech. Trump now was going to ride fear-and-loathing right into the White House door. Not.
So, finally, against all of his instincts, he pivoted. But it was too late. He'd boxed himself in with his fiery rhetoric. It turns out it was what animated his base and turned off the larger electorate he'd need to actually win. So his pivot has shown him to be beyond cynical, beyond insincere. Donald Trump is, quite frankly, no longer Donald Trump. He's this other person with a fractured base and a larger electorate that sees him naked and unattractive.
Sorry, Donald, bad move. Maybe you can get a new reality show when it's all over. Call it "Celebrity Candidate," in which contestants build a campaign and then try to pivot. If they succeed, they win. If they don't, you get to shout "Loser!" and they leave the show, crestfallen.
Yeah, Donald, that might work out for you. But this president thing, that's over.