An Upside of Donald Trump’s Candidacy That Nobody is Talking About

August 10th 2015

Many people handicapping the current Republican primary are talking about the timing of Donald Trump’s departure from the race. What will bring him down? Over and over all weekend, I heard serious broadcasters and politicians say, “This is the over-the-top remark that signals the beginning of Trump’s demise.” Yet, he is still on top of the polls. 


Listening to the media narrative around Donald Trump since the debate, some have claimed that Fox News was out to get Donald Trump. Why would they be? After the best ratings of any debate ever, it would seem to me that the media is using Trump as much as he is using the media, actively pursuing what means the most: money.

If you don’t believe me, look at what Donald Trump just tweeted:

Twenty-four million viewers watched Thursday night’s Fox News debate. No politician today, with perhaps the exception of the Clintons and President Obama, can garner ratings of that size. Only someone who has been on primetime national broadcast television for 15 years has that kind of draw. And the other candidates are basking in the attention that Trump has brought them.

Whether that is good for the Republican brand is for them to decide. However, I disagree that Fox or any other network wants to take Trump down. Quite the opposite – Trump is excellent for their bottom line. And I suspect that there is something else going on that media pundits have yet to fully discuss.

Almost every candidate on stage is admittedly seeking the support of the billionaire donor class - people like Charles and David Koch as well as Sheldon Adelson. Donald Trump does not need these people. He is one of them. He does not need their money. He has his own and will be glad to tell you about it. He will not wait his turn. And he is the frontrunner. 

And now the Republican Party has a big problem. Can they afford to take Trump down? For over 40 years the GOP has catered to their base – fueling the energy of those most disenchanted with government. They don’t like politicians. They don’t like Washington. Now those Republican primary voters and more are turning away from the mainstream GOP and turning to Donald Trump who, to them, is an authentic voice, a non-politician and, according to a New Hampshire focus group, one of them. 

So what will the GOP do? My guess is that the media and party will use Mr. Trump for building their ratings/name identification as long as they can and then, either make a deal with him or go after him. Expect some serious opposition research to be exposed when the time is right. Expect some serious business people to question the way Trump has conducted business. And expect Mr. Trump to respond in kind and hang on as long as his ego wants to.  But regardless of how events unfold, the upside of Trump's campaign is that he can’t be bought or co-opted—whether you agree or disagree with his message.

Joel Silberman is a distinguished media critic, expert, and strategist as well as a partner at Democracy Partners.

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