Is Trump Only Energizing His Base?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The Trump Campaign made two moves this week which were very curious given the fact that his campaign overall is only making slight progress against Hillary; both in national polls and in electoral vote counts according to most pollsters. The hullaballoo that Trump created in accepting the invitation from President Enrique Peña Nieto to visit Mexico to presumably discuss bi-lateral issues made no sense from the start. Given his deeply polarizing attitude and ideas expressed toward Mexico and especially toward the matter of illegal immigration the trip seemed pointless. To then follow a venture into diplomacy with a major campaign appearance the same evening in Phoenix, Arizona, reaffirming his offensive positions underscored the absurdity of the entire adventure. Expectations prior to the visit that Trump was softening his hard line on illegal immigrants in the U.S., were immediately dashed by the speech delivered upon his return which reaffirmed the same hardline views which he has been preaching throughout the campaign.
It seems to some that maybe Trump wanted to satisfy both sides of his advisory team; those who have wanted him to soften his rhetoric and those who have wanted “Donald to continue to be Donald.” On the other hand perhaps he actually believed that this dual track approach would impress some wavering voters of his diplomatic skills or willingness to consider all points of view. The blasts that reemerged after the Phoenix address have already deflated any realistic prospects of that response.
Second, a renewed drumbeat began to emanate from the Trump campaign on Thursday suggesting again that he was going to win the election unless the voters permit Hillary to take it away. Trump repeated the very dangerous message that is again suggesting that “crooked” “tricky”, “cheating”, Hillary was out to steal the election. To insure that this does not happen, Trump reiterated his call for volunteers to serve as election observers who would join him to insure that the election will not be stolen. With very scary potential implications, Trump is once again preparing his supporters to reject or challenge any outcome in November which fails to result in a Trump victory. The prospects of where such a proposal might go implies and includes an attack on the very democratic process.
Like his trip to Mexico, this form of campaigning does very little for Trump to expand his political base. All it does is reinforce his backers. While he excited a 24-48 news cycle, his actions probably frightened more non-Trump supporters than helped his effort. It once again challenges the thinking in his entire campaign.