the national interest

The Good News Is That Donald Trump’s Campaign Is an Absolute Strategic and Managerial Garbage Fire

Donald Trump, not a political svengali. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States would pose an unprecedented threat to the health of American democracy and possibly world stability. There is, however, an upside: Trump’s campaign is an absolute garbage fire. By all accounts it is the most organizationally and strategically inept campaign for a successful major-party nominee in recorded history. Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman round up many of the details, but the basic story that emerges from their reports and others is that Trump has absolutely no idea what he’s doing.

Trump is reliant on information he garners himself, and can be swayed by the last person he talked to,” Parker and Haberman somewhat delicately put it. His campaign staff is far too small, and yet constantly at war with itself, already having gone through multiple shakeups and coups. In keeping with his general disdain for data, Trump has eschewed any use of analytics to target voters or competitive areas. Indeed, he has fixated bizarrely on plans to compete in New York and California, two states where any Republican faces hopeless odds against an entrenched Democratic electorate. He is currently in North Dakota for reasons nobody fully understands. He attacks fellow Republicans for no apparent reason. The super-pac donors who are supposed to be raising money on his behalf are disorganized and confused about basic questions like which super-pac they’re supposed to donate to.

To the extent that running a competent campaign matters, it will hurt Trump very badly. Yes, he won the Republican primary by relying on a massive imbalance of media coverage and exploiting a divided, extremely large field that failed to coalesce against him. Yes, he tapped into deep strains of anger in the conservative base that fellow Republicans ignored. But he’s not a political savant, and he hasn’t abolished the rules of politics. He’s a reality-television performer who tapped into a deep vein of cultural resentment that appeals to a decided minority of the electorate. Fortunately, many of the same qualities that would make Trump epically dangerous in the presidency — his impulsive ignorance, blustering arrogance, and contempt for data — also make him unlikely to obtain it.

Trump’s Campaign Is a Managerial Garbage Fire