Before people became “brands” there was this quaint notion that the only wealth that matters is the “riches of a good name.” You don’t have to be religious to understand this.
We are now on the precipice of an election where one candidate has violated almost every norm of acceptable behavior — and almost four in 10 Americans support him. He has repeatedly insulted women both in public words and private actions. He has denigrated our neighbors in Mexico, an entire religion (Islam), the handicapped, veterans like John McCain, Gold Star families like the Khans, and the list goes on. In fact, who hasn’t the Republican nominee insulted?
With less than two weeks left in this interminable campaign cycle, the consensus is that Hillary Clinton is on the way to an electoral victory by a very wide margin. What would that make Donald Trump? The biggest loser of the year — but even worse, it looks like he is planning to be an even bigger sore loser.
There is a fine tradition in America of hard-fought political battles that result in a gracious loser who recognizes that the bedrock principle of our democracy is the orderly transition of power. This is what separates America from authoritarian, non-democratic regimes. Even Al Gore, who won the popular vote by a lot in 2000, recognized that he must concede expeditiously for the good of the country once the Supreme Court had ruled against him. He has not gone around saying the election result was rigged since then.
Everyone in this country is understandably focused on what happens on Nov. 8, Election Day, when the future of our country will be shaped by the result not just in the presidential contest, but also by a few Senate races that will determine which party will have the upper hand in the confirmation of the next few Supreme Court justices.
Donald Trump’s scorched-earth campaign has done a lot of damage to our political system, to the Republican Party and to his family’s standing in the world. The Trump brand, which is really the only business that the brash billionaire has consistently succeeded with, is now in tatters. There are numerous reports of high vacancy rates at his new Washington, D.C. hotel, tenants in buildings named after Trump petitioning for a name change, and even his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line is starting to suffer with women who are disgusted by her father’s misogynistic rhetoric and actions.
So, on Nov. 9, when Trump wakes up to headlines proclaiming him a big loser, will he also suffer from his once-desired brand tanking? Will the name Trump be so toxic that building, hotel, and golf course facades will change overnight? Will his children and grandchildren perhaps try to seek refuge in a new family surname?
This scenario does not seem that far-fetched as each week passes with new and even more disturbing revelations about Trump’s past behavior and current vulgarisms. I shudder to think what ill behavior will be on display in the final 10 days of a desperate campaign that looks like it is sinking further into the mud. Who can the Republican nominee attack or scapegoat so that his impending loss seems like an unfair result?
Many believe that this is all a cynical ploy to start a lucrative television network after the election — Trump TV — that will make Fox News seem innocent and sweet by comparison.
I don’t buy that.
Sure, Trump and his blindly faithful extended family will look to make lemonade out of the lemons he has offered up. But like his wildly unsuccessful foray into the gaming industry in Atlantic City, Trump’s attempt at launching a media empire is destined for failure, too. Like his relatives who have tried to dabble in media and his ill-fated Trump magazine, this futile effort will only further erode the family brand.
Here’s one potential exit strategy that might save the Trump brand: claim that like “The Producers” did in Mel Brooks’ farce, this campaign was a comic attempt to badly run a losing campaign that would only enrich its inner circle.
This would be a plausible explanation for an inept campaign that kept on trying to find a new bottom each and every week.
Maybe they could even make it into a hit reality show.
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallo