Is Donald Trump Playing Us For ‘Chumps’?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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This morning, the Club for Growth announced a $1 million ad buy in Iowa to attack Donald Trump. “It’s important, I think, for the ads to show people…what [Trump is] doing,” said Club President David McInthosh. “He’s playing them for chumps.”

To anyone paying close attention, it does seem like he’s playing a rather masterful game of manipulation.

Last month, The Weekly Standard’s Jim Swift published a piece titled “Donald Trump and the 48 Laws of Power.” The conceit involved comparing Trump’s strategy to the book The 48 Laws of Power. Much of the book’s advice (numbers 6, 10, and 20, for example) are eerily Trumpian. But Law 8 – “Make Other People Come To You – Use Bait If Necessary” struck me as perhaps the easiest to illustrate. Interestingly, The Weekly Standard piece was written before Trump most famously employed this law.

I’m referring to the time the RNC Chairman Reince Priebus traveled to New York to have Trump sign a GOP loyalty pledge (the bait). Again, this was offensive in part because he was so transparently employing techniques of manipulation. At the time, I compared this maneuver to the time Napoleon summoned the pope to Paris for his coronation rather than deigning to travel to Rome.

He is constantly doing or saying things that suggest to me that he has studied history (according to an old Vanity Fair article, Trump used to read Hitler’s speeches) and that there is a method to his madness.

Let’s take last night’s speech in Dallas as a prime example. At one point, Trump told the audience: “You’re going to remember this evening, and you’re going to say to your children, and you’re going to say to anybody else, that we were part of a movement to take back our country. And we will make America great again.”

There were echoes of Churchill’s “finest hour” speech, Reagan’s 1976 convention speech (the part about the time capsule), and Patton’s speech to the Third Army (“what did you do in the great World War II?”).

But my mind kept returning to the last of The 48 Laws of Power: “Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cult-like Following.” As [the book’s author] writes: “People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow.” As Jim Swift suggests, “Let’s Make America Great Again” checks all the boxes.