Dear Mr. Trump,
First off, I do hope you enjoyed your stay in Chicago. I lived there for several years, and there’s a lot to love about the city: The rich and varied nightlife, the excellent food, the walkable neighborhoods and, oh, yes, the city’s utter refusal to put up with fascist bullshit.
I think that last one may be where you ran into a bit of trouble.
For, while Rachel Maddow makes a compelling case that you absolutely hoped and planned to have violence break out at your Chicago rally, I don’t think it played out in quite the way you expected.
You are, after all, a man who likes to have the odds overwhelmingly, almost ridiculously on his side. You bailed on owning a casino, for chrissakes. My guess is that you were expecting to have enough demonstrators outside that you could claim to be persecuted by “politically correct” liberals who don’t like open bigotry, and then a few protesters inside — but only a few. I’m guessing you wanted the usual narrative: Your white crowd, outnumbering the protesters by the thousands, pushing and shoving and “escorting” a few protesters out of the building. They’d get to feel strong and vital and you’d get to keep your hands clean, all the while hurling big-guy talk about how our nation needs to get tougher on people who speak out and disrupt things. Maybe throw in a few racially coded words like “thug,” or maybe not bothering to code at all.
But that’s not how it went down. Quite a lot of protesters showed up and made it inside, and that got uncomfortable. Your crowd likes to throw out brown people, yes, but they also like to pretend they aren’t racists, and that’s trickier when a large, mixed-race crowd is standing outside the arena chanting “Racists go home!” as your followers are trying to leave the rally.
And your big, bad guys in the crowd, I’ve noticed, prefer to do their tough-guying under odds more like yours: Shoving a single young black woman or racing down the aisle to sucker punch a man who is leaving and harming no one. A fair fight — even a slightly more fair fight — isn’t really their speed.
So even though you may indeed have hoped to have a bit of a scuffle at your rally, and though your fans will be luxuriously howling their victimhood, I suspect that this isn’t the outcome that you had in mind.
The going has just gotten tough, Mr. Trump, and history tells us that this is when you hand the bag to someone else, declare bankruptcy, and get the hell out.
You have a problem, though: You almost transparently got into this race to sell product and pump your brand — why bother to have an hour-long infomercial/victory speech if you hadn’t?
Billions of your “wealth,” as your own financial disclosures state, are in your estimation of the value of your name as a brand that can be licensed. Before you got caught up in the possibility of actually winning this thing, this race was about getting the Trump name out there even more. Slapping it on more building projects, writing another book or pitching another TV show. Maybe finally figuring out how to sell those mall steaks.
But now you’re in a bit of a branding pickle. Your name is now associated with only two categories of people: White supremacists and white people who are still pretty damned racist but don’t want to admit it. And while plenty of brands can get away with being wink-wink bigoted, Paula Deen and the Duck Dynasty family found out pretty quickly that no brand can thrive while being openly bigoted.
So what can you do? It looks like the protests have reached a tipping point where quite a lot of people will show up to object to the fact that you’re making an open appeal to racism and a tacit one to fascism. The newscasters may actually start asking tough questions. Not to mention the fact that the Republican party has about a 50% chance of finding enough spine to screw you over at the convention and you’re probably mathematically screwed in the general election either way. This is where it officially stops being easy and fun, which is when you bail. You also can’t just bail back into your business-guy brand with some extra Fox News gigs — you’ve poisoned both of those.
As a good liberal, my first instinct is to laugh my butt off and watch the show. And I would, were it not for the fact that you have genuinely stoked both racism and fascism in my country, and that cannot stand. It’s this weird policy we have where you do the less fun thing for the greater good. Maybe a staffer can explain it to you. No, not one of the high-level ones. Trust me.
So, if I may anticipate your desires a bit, let’s agree that you need to:
1. Shake off the racism.
2. Denounce the fascism.
3. Not look like you were wrong or have to apologize.
4. Shank the media for being so rude to you.
5. Shank the Republican establishment for trying to make an end-run around you.
6. Shank Fox News in particular for the same reason.
Mr. Trump, I believe I have you covered.
You’ll be delighted to know that the first three goals can be accomplished with one of your own favorite tactics: doing a complete reversal and pretending that that’s what you were really doing and saying all along.
Go ahead and win another state or two. Just enough to make your point and scare the crap out of those other guys. Then call a major press conference. You know everyone is going to show up and run it live. They ran an hour of you talking about steaks you don’t sell and somebody else’s wine. They’ll be there, cameras riveted.
And that’s when you announce that you have been running to show how broken the Republican Party truly is. All you’ve been doing is saying out loud what they’ve been implying for a couple of decades. You were just making it explicit to show how truly, deeply bigoted the party has truly become. You also wanted to show how easily the media runs with it and how easy it is to get them to keep running with it.
One-two. You have payback on the media in general — they’ll be twisting themselves into knots to both confirm and deny it, and either way you’ll be on the air — and a solid start on the GOP.
But you’re not done yet. As you’ve doubtless noticed, you will have just cut loose a hell of a lot of angry white dudes. And you know how dangerous those guys can be; you’ve been inciting them to sucker-punch strangers.
Just go ahead and cut loose the career racists. They’re idiots anyway, and you know that. (Or at least you should.) But those people that have been getting nudged into racism for years — the ones you’ve been trying so hard to give that final shove to — they’re going to be a problem.
Because the anger of poor and blue-collar whites is real. Wages have been stagnant and getting squeezed, skilled-labor and manufacturing jobs have been disappearing, and it’s been getting harder and harder to pay for housing and get by. They’re not going to get less angry if you pull this exit move — they’re just going to feel more betrayed.
That’s why you need to blow up the game, Mr. Trump. Expose it completely and blow it up.
You know the sleight-of-hand trick that’s been played out in Republican rhetoric and Fox News as well as they do: The current financial and tax laws mean that 95% of new wealth in the United States gets shot straight up the ladder to our already-wealthiest citizens. But you can’t make a coin disappear without making a distraction with your other hand, and that’s where stoking a fear of Muslims and Mexicans and brown people in general comes in. Because as long as you can convince poor and working-class whites that black and brown people are getting ahead unfairly and/or trying to kill them, you can distract them from noticing that their real problem comes from tax policies that move wealth up the ladder and financial laws that encourage pumping stock prices instead of reinvesting in a company or its employees.
You can keep saying that Social Security will be insolvent in 25 years and no one will notice that you’re not finishing the sentence. Because that sentence should read “Social Security will be insolvent in 25 years because we refuse to tax the rich on their entire incomes.”
As long as you can keep poor whites angry at and frightened of black and brown people — Might as well throw liberals and LGBT people into the mix for a little fun, right? — you may be able to keep them from noticing that their real problems are coming from the rich white guys at the top.
Because if everyone notices that it’s the rich white guys at the top and the reams of legislation on their behalf, the current Republican party is really, truly fucked, and so is Fox News.
Doesn’t that sound like fun?
So blow it up, Mr. Trump. You know you want to. In the first place, it’ll refocus that white anger you’ve been huffing, and you’ll still get to be a hero. In the second place, some liberals will actually buy this as a genius super-secret plan, and the rest will be too busy dancing around the bonfire to care.
But the most important reason is that you know you can’t trust the GOP and the powers that be at Fox News ever again. They’ve tried to cut your throat before, and they’ll do it again. Sure, it’s possible that Fox and the Republicans may try for an uneasy truce for a bit. After all, you have ratings and votes on your side. But if I may quote a bit of wisdom from Willie Stark in All the King’s Men — a character people may have been mentioning around you lately — Bust ’em and they’ll stay busted, but buy ’em and you can’t tell how long they’ll stay bought.
It’s time to bust ‘em, Mr. Trump. They’re exploding anyway. You might as well take the credit for doing it and polish your brand while you do.
The only downside to this plan is that a bunch of Democrats will get elected to Congress in 2016 and you may, if they don’t act like complete chickenshits for once, end up paying slightly higher taxes.
But you’ll be paying slightly higher taxes on products and licenses you’ll actually be selling instead of paying no taxes for enterprises that are rapidly going down the drain because the Trump brand has become synonymous with racism — the open kind that we can’t give a pass to.
Bust ‘em, Mr. Trump.
You’ll save your brand and you know you’ll enjoy the revenge. Plus it’ll put you on TV forever.
Stay in the race and it will be difficult and no fun and a series of financial, publicity, and electoral defeats the minute the general election fight starts.
Get out now and you can’t lose.