A tip of the hat to Fredda Foxy, upstairs here at Happy Acres, for directing me to Tim Wu’s article How Donald Trump Wins by Losing.
Long before there was Donald Trump there was P.T. Barnum, who famously said that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Wu’s thesis is that Trump is a great believer in Barnumism, who focuses on “wining the contest for mindshare,” whether the minds he’s sharing approve of him or not. By his own lights, Trump is winning, because “the Trump circus … has more of the nation paying more more attention to the president than at any time in decades.”
But, Wu concludes,
While the strategy — like an annoying advertisement — may be surprisingly effective, it may also hint at this president’s greatest weakness. If Mr. Trump is immune to ordinary defeats or criticism, he does, of course, have a desperate fear of being ignored. As the presidency progresses it may prove as much a slave to the ratings as any TV network. So if the public is bored by the Affordable Care Act (without Mr. Obama, there’s no “opponent”), might Mr. Trump lose interest and start a new battle somewhere else?
Being hitched to the twin necessities of constant warfare and the public’s limited attention span may yield a series of unfinished projects that ultimately amount to little. It also suggests that Mr. Trump’s eventual downfall may be less like Richard Nixon’s than Paris Hilton’s. To live by attention is to die by it as well, and he may end up less a victim of political defeat than of waning interest, the final fate of every act.
How long before we can expect to see Trump in public without his boxers?