Is Donald Trump trying to lose?

The Republican nominee is saying all the right things to sink his campaign. But there may be a method to his madness.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Wilmington, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Wilmington, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Donald Trump says the kinds of things few modern politicians would ever consider saying, even in private, on a daily—sometimes hourly—basis. Trump’s supporters have so far greeted his statements mostly with apparent glee. His detractors, on the other hand, have gone through a range of reactions, from initially dismissing him entirely, to then speculating that he would alienate himself too much to ever win the Republican nomination to, now, suggesting that his outrageous statements might signal that he doesn’t even want the presidency at all.

Could it be?

This latest theorizing has its strongest roots in a comment from the former communications director for the pro-Trump Make America Great Again super PAC. “I don’t even think Trump thought he would get this far. And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all,” Stephanie Cegielski wrote for xoJane back in March. Last week, David Axelrod, the former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, speculated along a similar line. Axelrod qualified some of Trump’s more recent comments—like his purely fanciful claim that the NFL had sent him a letter regarding scheduling of football games that coincide with fall debates— are “crazy stuff.”

“If Donald Trump were trying to lose this election, and I’m not saying he is, but if he were, I’m not sure he’d behave any differently than he has in the last few days,” Axelrod told CNN.

Could the Trump campaign be too unwieldy, too impossible, too ramshackle and weird for even Donald Trump to maintain? Is there some other goal that he has in mind? Like, say, launching a TV channel, for instance?

If Trump does want to throw his campaign, the latest polling figures seem to suggest it is finally working. The slide seriously began in the last couple of weeks, and may have been prompted most by Trump’s open and public bickering with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a U.S. Muslim soldier killed in Iraq in 2004.

Around the same time, Trump gave an interview with the New York Times in which he displayed an almost callous disregard for the traditional role of the United States on the world stage, and in particular within NATO. A few days later, during a press conference he suggested that Russia ought to use hackers to access missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens, that’ll be next,” he said.

Soon after that, the host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough, revealed that “a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked:  if we had them, why can’t we use them?” The comment was met with what is perhaps the most uncommon thing heard on U.S. cable news: total silence.

Just this week, Trump told a rally that “Hillary wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment. And by the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.”

This comment has sparked a national debate over whether Trump merely meant that the pro-gun lobby in the U.S. is very strong, or whether he was suggesting that someone ought to shoot Clinton. And while it does matter very much which it was, what is equally worth noting is that such a debate exists at all. For, in what conceivable universe should Americans be seriously wondering whether a presidential candidate called for the assassination of another? The answer is: Trump’s universe.

It is normal to believe the goal of Trump’s campaign is to place him in the White House. In that case, all of these comments appear to be completely counter-productive. But what if he’s not throwing his campaign, so much as living his own reality—a reality in which his campaign serves a different purpose altogether?

There is something else that Trump has been saying a lot lately: that the election result in November is already fixed. The first time this theory made headlines was during a rally on Aug. 1. “The election is going to be rigged,” Trump said. He later told Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “I’m telling you, Nov. 8, we better be careful because that election’s going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.” He then repeated the assertion to the Washington Post, saying, “If the election is rigged, I would not be surprised.” Expanding on how, he said, that “the voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.”

Perhaps for Trump the point is not about the presidency, but the system that surrounds it. Cegielski, Trump’s former communications director, wrote in March that she was told early on that “the goal was to get the Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it… His candidacy was a protest candidacy.”

What if it still is?

In 2014, Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins spent nearly two days with Trump, after which he concluded Trump’s repeated threats to campaign for the presidency were “a sham.” This year, Coppins revisited his piece, writing that “what had most struck me during my two days with Trump was his sad struggle to extract even an ounce of respect from a political establishment that plainly viewed him as a sideshow. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that he’d felt this way for virtually his entire life—face pressed up against the window, longing for an invitation, burning with resentment, plotting his revenge.”

Could this be what Trump is still protesting?

What if the universe in which Trump is campaigning is one where the point of his campaign is not the presidency, but to convince the world that he is righteous and worthy, and the system that has for so long rejected him—even openly mocked him (Obama ridiculed Trump to his face at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner)—is lousy?

If this were the case, wouldn’t a self-funded, audacious and rampaging political campaign, with its open disdain for all the things that this unassailable political system holds dear—things like diplomacy, even-handedness, political correctness—be one way to do it?

The thing that’s most important in protest is making a point. As long as enough people show up to endorse that point, it cannot fail. Trump, Cegielski wrote, “does not fail.” He may have simply created a reality in which, no matter what happens—win or lose—for once, the system failed and Trump succeeded.


Is Donald Trump trying to lose?

  1. As long as the Politically Correct, SJWs and Hillary are getting peed off, then Trump is winning (at least in his mind).

  2. Pretty sure the Donald is steam rolling Clinton. No one actually listens to the media anymore, or the bullshit polls lol.

    Go Donald!

    • So let me get this straight, the polls are wrong and Trump is actually winning? I guess when he gets destroyed in November, you will be saying that the election was rigged, right?

    • I actually like some of his ideas but not very many. As a religious person I could not support anyone who is as self-centered and narcissistic as Trump. Also I could not support anyone who makes derisive comments and makes fun of disabled people, minorities. women…basically anybody who disagrees with him. He could be very dangerous to the world due to his defensive, thin skinned personality. It is a sad commentary on the US population that so many are supporting him .

      • What ideas? Building the mexican wall? Banning muslims? What ideas do you like?

  3. Is there anything more that could be written about Donald Trump but has not been written already? There’s no limit to what new outlandish things he might say or do, but surely what has been written about past outlandish things would only be repeated. Let’s just skip to voting day and get this gong show over with.

  4. I’ve been saying this since I first heard that he was running. It’s all to get hillary in office.

    Just think. If he has to swing that far right to be a decoy. How bad is it really going to be when the truth is revealed?


    • I am a bit confused by your comment “If he has to swing that far right to be a decoy.”

      Outside of immigration policy, how is Trump right wing? Heck, the man’s trade policies mirror those espoused by Bernie Sanders for crying out loud! Trump is a Democrat and the Republicans were just gullible enough to accept his left wing policies.

  5. It doesn’t matter who wins,America is toast.

  6. Trump is a master at manipulation. His narcissisim dictates that whatever he says has to be front page news every day. What he doesn’t want is Hillary Clinton on the front page, which would suggest her agenda is getting more attention than his. Hence his increasingly outrageous statements. The media is following this methodoligy every step of the way. Maybe if Hillary called publically for Trump to be tried and jailed for treason or accuse him of marrying and discarding russian prostitutes she would hit the front page.

  7. The strategy would be amusing if not for the collateral damage…

  8. Whenever I hear Trump’s speeches, I imagine it in the voice of Nelson from the Simpson’s. He’s been reduced to the school yard bully at this point. I am hoping we will all just walk away and ignore what comes out his mouth.

  9. When it became clear Bernie Sanders was incapable of tacking against establishment generated headwinds in favor of the Clinton anointment as Democratic Party nominee, and as a result of his assiduous attention to defining their differences on the issues and qualifications, or lack thereof, to hold the most powerful position in the free world, the need to get beyond Clinton campaign generated attacks against Trump became an imperative.

    Yes, he was way over the top with his campaign rhetoric and has been far from being Presidential or even respectable in making his case as a better choice. But running against 16 others, all of whom would be spouting the same right wing demagoguery that advanced Presidential wannabees in the past, called for seriously drastic measures. And if anyone was capable of taking those measures it was Trump.

    His purging of the opportunists was almost surgical in it’s execution, albeit exceptionally distasteful, and he will be challenged to present a more measured demeanor over the next 90 days, assuming that is even his intent. But the fact is, he has been almost gleefully challenging the Clinton apparatus to throw the worst of the narratives that they can at him, and about him, to which they have relentlessly responded. This column is no different.

    Once again, reference is made to the Khan family, a couple who unwisely chose to allow the Clinton/DNC campaign machine politicize the death of their heroic son, rather than directly condemn the Trump policy designed to keep out fanatic Muslims with hatred in their hearts for America and Americans. It certainly remains to be seen whether more discerning voters will be prepared side with him on the cynical gambit.

    Most telling perhaps is the conclusion by the Buzzfeed writer after further reflection upon a mere 2 days with Trump in 2014. Plotting revenge? Is that what the Trump campaign is all about? Is that the best the man has with which to disparage the campaign?

    The article concludes with reference to characteristics essential for establishment politics to function smoothly, all the while tilting scales of economics and justice in favor of the wealthy, the powerful and the gluttonous. If diplomacy, even-handedness and political correctness serve only to further entrench enrichment of the politically well connected and all the while leaving 1 in 5 Americans to live in 3rd world conditions, and 10s of millions more to scrape by, then better to have a Donald Trump shake the tree and see whether or not he has what it takes to perhaps even outdo Dwight Eisenhower as a peoples’ President.

    One thing is a certainty. With Clinton, what voters are lead to believe is not the America they would be seeking.

  10. Trump is obviously trying to lose – he cannot handle the job and today he even admitted it.. What a loser! On the hand, Clinton wants the job but is a super corrupt lady who is endorsed by the administration.. Sigh.. What a mess we have!

Sign in to comment.