For years, observers have been speculating that Donald Trump’s propensity for making off-the-cuff remarks would lead to his downfall – that, inevitably, his inability to censor himself would derail his political career.
Intuitively, it makes sense. Trump says crazy things; Trump says things that would get you fired from most jobs; Trump says things that suggest illegal conduct; Trump says things that raise questions about his mental acuity. And he does so in the political arena, where careers have been ruined for far less.
Consider Howard Dean’s infamous yell. Or President Bush 41 checking his watch. Or Hillary Clinton’s use of the word “deplorables.” Or Michael Dukakis in that tank helmet. National-level politicians are subjected to a withering standard of scrutiny before a public audience that is seemingly ultra-sensitive to foibles and faux pas.
Yet even in an environment as discerning as national politics, Trump endures. He can seemingly neither do nor say anything sufficiently offensive to discredit himself – which speaks to Trump’s status as the most resilient politician, perhaps, ever, and to his transcendence beyond just a mere politician, to an iconoclastic demagogue.
Donald Trump can seemingly say whatever he wants
By now, Trump has said something to offend just about everyone. Trump has made so many controversial, offensive, off-putting, and weird remarks that it’s become difficult to keep track of what he said and when. Most politicians would have ended their careers if they uttered just a few syllables worth of what Trump has been spewing consistently for the better part of a decade.
But that’s just it with Trump; he’s not a normal politician. In the eyes of his most loyal followers, Trump is the anti-politician. Trump’s 2016 messaging – which framed Trump as the ultimate outsider, who would go to Washington to drain the swamp, who would speak for the swaths of constituents that mainstream politicians had been neglecting for a generation, who wouldn’t be bullied – has stuck.
In effect, what Trump has done is created a scheme in which all mainstream criticism against Trump serves to validate the narrative that Trump is an outsider with powerful enemies. Trump’s brilliance lies in his ability to essentially invert criticism. What happens is that the things that are said or done in an attempt to degrade Trump or to impeach Trump’s character, serve only to make him stronger in the eyes of the base.
Through that scheme, Donald Trump has built himself a buffer to say or do whatever he wants, which he exploits. Trump knows that a large part of his appeal, his perceived charm, stems from his willingness to speak and act in a way that is unconventional. And that’s exactly what Trump does. He says what he wants, off-the-cuff, knowing that it will boost his appeal.
So, to all the observers sitting around waiting for the day that Trump will say something that finally ruins his political viability, I would advise not to hold your breath. With respect to verbal accountability, Trump is an anomaly. If Trump’s political career implodes, it will not be because of something he says. If that were going to happen it would have happened a long time ago.
Trump is absolutely going to be relevant throughout the 2024 election – and perhaps longer. He’s going to say crazy stuff throughout, the press is going to cover it ravenously – and it’s only going to bolster his appeal amongst his base.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.