Trump: Triumph of the Permanent Campaign

Donald Trump Laconia Rally, Laconia, NH by Michael Vadon July 16 2015

by Thomas L. Knapp…….

Less than a month into the first term of his presidency, Politico reports, Donald Trump appears to be back on the campaign trail, heading for Melbourne, Florida and one of his signature airport hangar rallies.

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump speculates that Trump’s outing is motivated by the simple need for an ego boost. It’s been a rough month. Heck, it’s been a rough week, marked by the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and the withdrawal of Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder, under shadows of different kinds. Rallies feel like … victory. Trump knows how to pack a house and pump it full of feelgood, taking away even more energy from his performances than he brings to them.

I’ve got an alternative theory: Donald Trump is the consummate politician.

Granted, he ran for president as “not a politician.” But there’s less to that image than meets the eye. Beneath the hype, hard reality: Donald Trump whipped 16 rivals for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, then went on to best an “inevitable” former First Lady, former US Senator, and former US Secretary of State in the general election. Some “non-politician.”

One of the losing candidate’s long-time confidants, Sidney Blumenthal, identified an interesting modern political phenomenon in a 1980 book, The Permanent Campaign. Blumenthal’s thesis was that the political center of gravity has moved over time away from the smoke-filled party/patronage rooms — stable long-term concerns — and toward a constant short-term concern with more mercurial factors like poll numbers and public perception.

Trump is well-known for his hyper-sensitivity to being perceived as anything less than top dog in every respect. He decries negative press and polling as biased and can’t wait to tout his latest triumph, even if he has to invent it himself (see, for example “inaugural attendance figures”).

It’s time to stop thinking of that as a character defect and recognize it for what it is. Donald J. Trump represents the pinnacle of the “permanent campaign” ethos. He’s all politician, all the time.

Ironically, Trump’s authoritarian stylings may end up producing results closely tracking direct democracy — rule of the majority, or at least the plurality, albeit on a drunken moment-to-moment lurch.

If so, I predict that his presidency, whether one term or two in duration, will validate HL Mencken’s conception of democracy as “the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”


Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

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8 thoughts on “Trump: Triumph of the Permanent Campaign

  1. Okay, you can call the “get togethers” campaigning or call them rallies, but obviously the most important label would be “reassurance meetings” with the American people. Not “a well oiled machine,” true, but shocking to almost all is that campaign promises are being fulfilled with lightning quickness. And just think what might have been accomplished already if President Trump had a full house in his cabinet? Or there were not “RESIST” marches and protests seemingly every day about everything under the sun?

    The amount of Bills passed has no bearing on results, and that reminds me of a restaurant customer once telling me that he was “only interested in results.” So I responded, “David, you started out the day with 2 complete Key Lime pies which are both gone now, and they are supposed to yield 8 slices each = 16 sales should be registered. However, only 4 sales have been rung up.” He looked at me in disbelief, refusing to accept the results that anyone in the industry should have instantly realized. But, he refused to see the results that he should have been interested in.

  2. Oh yeah, another thing in a list of many: During the Obama administration, over 3,000 illegals were rounded up IN JUST ONE MONTH, with hardly a peep from anyone .But now with President Trump in office, 658 illegals are deported and people are marching in angry protest, yelling and screaming with tears rolling down their cheeks. Now seriously, what’s up with that?

    1. The Obama regime abducted and deported more victims in 5.5 years than the Bush regime did in two whole terms. And some of us certainly peeped about that.

      1. “The Obama regime abducted and deported more victims in 5.5 years than the Bush regime did in two whole terms.”

        Come on, Thomas, you’re just baiting me with that remark. “Victims” is what you call the illegal, criminal felon immigrant rapists, murderers and gang members that the Trump administration wants to throw out of the country?

        1. “Victims” is what I call people who are kidnapped by overgrown street gangs for crossing those gangs’ proclaimed turf lines without kissing some gang lord’s ring first. Sorry if my dislike of your preferred street gang bugs you.

          1. Are you saying that the government of the United States of America is crossing felon rapists, murderers and gang member’s turf lines, and they shouldn’t be?

            If that is not the case, then I don’t follow what you are saying, sorry.

          2. What I am saying is:

            1) That governments are overgrown street gangs;

            2) That “borders” are the turf lines set by those overgrown street gangs; and

            3) Nobody owes any more respect to a sign saying “the border of the United States” than they owe to graffiti saying “this neighborhood belongs to the Latin Lords (or the Crips, or the Bloods, or MS-13).”

            4) If someone commits rape or murder, which side of one of those turf lines he or she came from is irrelevant.

            As to the non-rapists, non-murderers, etc., as long as they’re not on your property (“government property” isn’t yours — it’s unowned/unhomesteaded property that a street gang is violently withholding from legitimate homesteading/ownership) and are conducting themselves peacefully, where they go is none of your business.

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