Is Trump no More Than a Brand Bubble?

It does not take a seer, whether Democrat, Republican, Liberal or Green, to agree that this presidential election has been, by far, one of the strangest and most dramatic campaigns witnessed since WWII, not falling too far afield from the worst trash on reality TV.

Not a day goes by without new upheavals tipping the scale from one camp to the other. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that this dubious daily swing has little to do with politics. Sex scandals, racist slurs, sexist denigration, mockery of physically handicaps, religious defamation, and the threat of revolution and armed uprising, have animated spirits and defined the electoral landscape. Glibness has very much been the tuning fork of the current political discourse. And as much as Hillary Clinton has tried to steer clear from this engulfing cesspool, she could not prevent her message from being syphoned into the debasing maelstrom.

This new mainstream of insidious discourse reflects Trump's stunningly disruptive coup. 'Stunning' must be taken here with cautionary note because by applying old demagogic rhetoric, Trump has managed to undermine the fragility of progressive democracy and open the door to radical ideologies, and in so doing he has managed to push the boundaries of permissible far back into the ancestral land of "never again" warzones. This displacement of borders suits the scorching trail left in the wake of his questionable character, giving the entire campaign an aura of immunity from the laws upheld by common citizens. The long line of defaults on his contractors, the flurry of women accusing him of various sexual assaults, the mythic-proportions of his past bankruptcies, are just some examples of flagrant disregard for legality that have no discernible impact on his campaign. This new place of discourse has become Trumps' home base - a casino land where rules, conventions and traditions have all been eradicated when not working in his favor.

In this new playing field, neither Trump's jarring ignorance of world affairs, diplomacy, the process of legislative, executive and judicial branches, nor his contentious ethics and blind megalomania, matter a bit. He is so entrenched in his process, and so beyond the norms dictated by logic, that his opponents have been forced to confront him on his own rule-free turf; which explains why he has managed to survive the election minefields, even as a portion of his own party has jettisoned him. He can, at will, dismiss any accusation as falsification, as an attempt to undermine him. Trump can never lose. He is always at an advantage. He does not seek out his opponents. Whoever confronts him falls into the mindset of a demagogue who will stop at nothing to portray himself as the smart but victimized party. Trump's play-land is the new wild west of the electoral process, where the self-appointed sheriff can preach his dire vision and pontificate about a new world order.

If the past is any indication of the future, it does not take much insight to foretell that, as a president, Trump would be very much a defiant authoritarian, if not an outright tyrant. His constant dismissal in the face of criticism, accusations, his manipulation of facts, denunciation of an electoral system rigged against him, of media biases, while deriding basic democratic etiquette - which incidentally shows no signs of abating - offer a watermark of what Trump, if elected, would bring along to the White House and the entire global scene.

If a nation takes psychological and personality cues from the head of state, a world under Trump suggests that the US would turn into an angry nation. Since entering the presidential race, Trump has fomented wrath across the board, inflamed passions, and fanned the people's darkest thoughts, bringing about an unprecedented level of abrasion and confrontation. In true demagogic fashion, during each of his rallies, Trump taps into his supporters' most basic instincts, promoting a message of pending national anarchy, immigration doom, and an end-of-the-world economic scenario - with his "we are hanging by a thread" - that panders to our worst fears and borders on evoking mass hysteria. His "Rapists, murderers, drug-dealers are crossing borders" in troves, while his 'army of terrorism', waiting in the wings to strike, are there to do no less than strike terror into the hearts of people. This is a curious paradox, given that the economy has well recovered and even surpassed its 2008 markers, and crime and immigration numbers have been steadily dropping during the last decade.

The most worrisome aspect of his political anarchy is the fissure left between his words and self-perception - both verging on paranoia - being capable of totally disarming his opponents. There is no reason to believe, if elected, Trump will cease to divide, infuriate, and alienate his critics, or anyone standing in his way, including moderates within the GOP. Not being on Trump's side implies de facto being against him. No middle ground exists.

The unfettered road rage tone of the campaign has been virulent and contagious. Watching the political commentaries on TV, some politicians have already started to emulate his outrageous demeanor. Over the last weeks, Newt Gingrich and Rudolph Giuliani, mimicked Trump's provocative stance to defend him against the women accusing him, and only succeeding in coming across as second-rate buffoons. They raised their voice, talked over the speakers, wagged their fingers, sneered, ridiculed the comments of others, and employed twisted logic to accommodate their arguments while refuting explicit evidence, without, however, being able to match Trump's natural self-assuredness. Where there was restraint and reflection, politicians and political pundits have fanaticized their words, with unhinged ad hominem attacks, acting like the worst wounded candidates on "The Bachelor, or "Treasure Island." Life on Trump's contaminated land seems to bring out the worst in people .

There are only two types of competitors: those who win by exercising and improving their performance (in political terms, these are those who are driven to fulfill a sense of mission and idealism to improve their country), and those who win by destroying their opponents, because they lack the skill set, expertise, discipline, experience, or simply, the intelligence. An authoritarian like Trump wins by crushing opposition. He has little to offer in terms of ideology and can only be elected by running a smear campaign against Clinton. But like a classical showman, he has introduced a new twist: he has managed to turn his inexperience into an advantage, because he is the candidate that "tells it as it is." Again, he has achieved this by positioning himself as if everything coming out of Trump's mouth speaks the truth.

The assumption here, or rather the logic, is that because Trump does not come from politics, he makes for a better president in the Oval office. Would we hire a shoe factory CEO at Head Coach for the LA Lakers, simply because he is not a coach--but knows how to sell basketball shoes? History tells us that putting a businessman at the head of the nation is not beneficial - especially, given that the businessman in question has demonstrated over and over again that his knowledge about politics, the world, and the global economy, boils down to pat clichés. Business and politics do not mix well. Trump at the head of the nation is like sitting a five-year old down in the pilot's seat of a jumbo jet. He drops names here and there, to come across as an expert, but expert, debates have revealed, he is far from that.

So why does Trump want to be president? To understand his motivation, we must first go to the inception of the candidacy. What comes across watching him in this subversive version of the presidential "Apprentice," is a vision of a man armed with pursed lips and wagging finger, who has an unabated belief in his messianic mission as one who is solely qualified to save the nation from anarchy. This is a dark twist of fate since anarchy is all he has generated during his campaign.

Despite the many statements likening him to Hitler or Mussolini, Trump is a B-level tyrant. The distinction is important. He is a hollow shell of post-modern pastiche. He has none of the extensive political knowledge and fiery ideological drive to reform a country, to be a true dictator. He only wants to be president, not because he wants to, but because he can. He only shares the burning ambition for the sole purpose of promoting himself and building his brand empire. Which is why his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway reprimands him when he has confided that he is okay with losing the election. He has already achieved his goal: being the most famous man on earth. Becoming president is just perks.

This makes Trump the first YouTube candidate who has fooled an entire nation about his capacity to be elected, managing the feat by getting massive exposure on media. And we should blame ourselves for mistaking the role of being president of the largest economy in the world for someone using the system in the manner of a next American Idol contestant. This explains his recourse to the type of gutter talk employed on Reality TV. Like Kim Kardashian's legendary ignorance, turned into wisdom, he makes us believe that his constant provocations and rants are precisely not the marks of dumbocracy but of his greatness. "Make America Great Again" is a presidential pedigree facade.

The election will reveal if his brand is not just a bubble. Poll numbers bobbing along already signal weakness. Like all stocks shooting up in stratospheric value overnight, fueled by rumors or expectations, based on shimmering promises, they never last. The higher and the faster they climb, the greater and more quickly they fall. Trump's Achilles's tendon is not his hyper-sensitivity to criticism, although he has displayed a shocking inability to restrain himself at the slightest rebuke. His weak link is his brand. His brand has skyrocketed since the beginning of the campaign. Too fast, too high, and a devoid of substance. In his quest for fame, Trump has gotten ahead of himself. Now he is stuck in a brand bubble. The RNC nomination marked its climax. He has been unable to create consensus, because the only way he could get to where he is now, the Republican nominee, was by creating dissension. Dissension is not good for a brand, especially when the base is a working class full of rage. Rage is destructive. If there is logic to the market, with Trump losing the election, as he is predicted to, his brand empire will collapse with just as much noise.

Only if his core business starts failing in a massive way will the Trump train-wreck stop from bulldozering the very foundations of our nation. With people canceling their memberships to his golf courses, deserting his hotels and resorts - as his brand becomes synonymous with white radicals - Trump will be forced to watch the value of his buildings plummet. For someone who so fears public humiliation, this widespread implosion is the ultimate means to silence the growing wrath. Self-blame or not, his personality got in the way. He had it all but couldn't resist his delusions of grandeur. Billions were not enough.

Most worrisome, however, even if Trump ends up losing a major chunk of his wealth and is relegated into the dustbin of history, his pugnacious candidacy has already triggered a tsunami of radical political rage - something which will pervade the landscape for years to come. By going down that road, he invigorated Republican extremists. Symptoms are already manifesting. They pledged to wage war on the country's democratic institutions, with the promise to impeach Clinton. But we won't know until we get there. The focus now is entirely on sending Trump back to his ivory tower of delusion, where he can play pretend-king once again.