I and I Alone: Donald Trump's Campaign and the Arrogance of White Privilege
Campaigns are a reflection of their candidate.
With the current 2016 presidential election cycle, we've seen this time and time again. Whether it was Bernie Sanders and his campaign's increasing negativity once it became apparent he wouldn't be the Democratic nominee or Ted Cruz and his campaign's willingly getting down in the gutter against his Republican opponents, we've seen multiple campaigns take on the true personality of their candidate once those campaigns faced adversity. With both the Sanders and Cruz campaigns, this increased negativity came at a time where they were being beaten on the policy side by their opponents so they felt they had no choice but to lob baseless attacks as a last-ditch Hail Mary effort. Not only did these efforts fail, but the general public was left with a lasting impression of two bitter, defeated candidates who would go on to become a simple footnote in the annals of presidential campaign history.
The current contrast between Hillary Clinton's and Donald Trump's campaigns can be simply explained by the candidates themselves. For Hillary Clinton, she has truly learned the lessons of 2008 and have applied those lessons to her 2016 campaign. She has surrounded herself with young, talented advisors and campaign staff. She has prioritized the swing states, fully staffing those states beginning in April with hundreds of field organizers and has already gone ahead with a full ad blitz nearly five months before the election. At the same time, she has not written off any states and has numerous staff in the suddenly competitive states such as Georgia, Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina, and Utah. All of these efforts in conjunction with a 50-state strategy has made the Clinton campaign a reflection of the candidate: a methodical, detailed, and driven enterprise geared at not only winning the White House but also flipping control of the Senate and making significant gains in the House as well.
Compare all this to The Donald.
The Donald has prided himself on being an unconventional candidate and in doing so has chosen to run an unconventional campaign. He has had extreme instability within his staff, having recently replaced campaign manager Paul Mannafort with Kellyanne Conway and adding Steve Bannon as his campaign CEO. Rather than building up campaign infrastructure, The Donald has instead ended up spending four times as much money on merchandise than hiring field staff. He waited until mid-August to air his first television ad of the general election. He actually believes he has a chance to win California and New York and recently befuddled Republican Party officials by campaigning in solidly blue Connecticut. Add to all this a recent series of off-the-cuff remarks by The Donald insulting African-Americans and the campaign's painful attempts to do damage control and we can truly see the very real and very stark differences between the two campaigns.
And yet, these differences should not surprise any of us.
Because unlike Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump believes that he is entitled to the presidency. And why shouldn't he? Donald Trump has gotten anything he always wanted in life. A wealthy upbringing? Check. An elite prep school education? Check. A paid-for college education? Check. Five draft deferments that allowed him to avoid military service? Check. A "small" million dollar loan from his father to start his own business? Check. Multiple extramarital affairs that he was able to downplay? Check. Six separate bankruptcies? Check. At this point in his life, there is nothing that Donald Trump feels he can't overcome simply because he has never had any genuine hardships to overcome.
Which is why he is running his campaign in exactly the same way. He honestly believes that the majority of Americans support him because he has always surrounded himself with people who support him. It's why he can stand in a predominantly White suburb of Lansing, Michigan and claim that African-Americans would have "nothing to lose" by voting for him. It's why he refuses to invest in a ground game, even in such crucial swing states as Florida. It's why he continues to refuse to release his tax returns because he honestly believes that his life's work has made him trustworthy and that nobody has the right to question his integrity. And it's why he insists that he and he alone can fix our broken system, a system that he admittedly took advantage of to get to where he is today.
Presidential elections are won in the trenches. They're won by making phone calls, banging on doors, and registering new voters in the hot August sun. They're won by amassing an army of volunteers willing to give up valuable time and resources to the candidate of their choice. They're won by crunching numbers and data and micro-targeting of specific populations that are necessary to swing a close race. They're won by doing all the small things and doing them well and by the ability to keep doing all those small things right up through Election Day. It's all painstaking hard work and none of it can be taken for granted.
Donald Trump has never had to work. For anything. He doesn't know what hard work is. His staff is a direct reflection of him and his lifetime of White privilege. Trump's staff would rather flatter him than tell him that campaigning in Connecticut is a futile idea. They would rather complement his business acumen than question his campaign spending. They would rather host one big Florida rally than hire a hundred field organizers. They would do all this because they would rather make The Donald happy than tell him what needs to be done. They know that if you question The Donald you get fired a la Paul Mannafort, something that The Donald has had plenty of practice doing. That's what happens when your party's standard-bearer has been the epitome of White privilege: nobody is able to tell him no.
Not even if it costs you the election.
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