Donald Trump is going to lose the election. That’s not an absolute certainty, of course. Things happen. But barring the discovery of a note handwritten in Vince Foster’s blood describing how Hillary and Web Hubbell planned 9/11 on a table stolen from the White House, Donald Trump is going to lose.
The Republican nominee knows he’s losing. Congenitally unable to take personal responsibility, he blames his slide in the polls on the people who have prodded him to act “presidential” and wage a more traditional campaign.
In a phrase that seems to be going around these days, he’s going to lose “big league.” So … then what?
Trump could go home to a nice long vacation, but the one thing the campaign has definitely done already is destroy the value of his largest asset.
Trump's campaign estimates his brand to be worth $3.32 billion. It's specifically listed in the line item "real estate licensing deals, brand and branded developments," according to a net worth assessment filed in 2015.
The top line item in Trump’s portfolio is simply the Trump name. It could certainly be argued that after this campaign, Trump’s name will be far better known, but better known doesn’t mean more valuable. After all, with a nod to Mr. Godwin, few people are better known than Hitler, but that doesn’t lead to a lot of licensing deals.
The decline in value of Trump’s name is already reflected in what’s happening to facilities currently carrying the big ‘T.’
Travel planning site Hipmunk reported that it has seen first-quarter bookings for Trump Hotels decline 59.3 percent year over year, while overall bookings through the site have generally risen during the same period.
For a large segment of the public, Trump’s name has become a "keep away” sign. That’s not a response that will go away soon.
So when the music stops and Donald Trump is left without a chair in the Oval Office, what will he do?
The same thing he’s done for the last year. Keep having rallies. Keep making outrageous speeches. Bernie Sanders might have had a movement, but Donald Trump could monetize his movement.
Installing Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway doesn’t mean much when it comes to Trump’s campaign—except that Trump is going to keep right on doing what he’s been doing anyway, and that there will be even less filter between Alex Jones, Drudge, Breitbart, and the content of Trump’s latest speech. (Hint: expect the “Hillary has some secret illness” theme to get more obvious.) Bannon may be a genius at chopping up video to generate a pseudo-scandal (though his Sarah Palin hagiography netted an amazing 0% rating from movie critics at Rotten Tomatoes) but when it comes to moving the needle on November 8, it’s unlikely that either Bannon’s bent for creative bullshit or Conway’s calibrated what’s-resonating-with-our-peeps stethoscope will make a difference.
Oh, it does put a millimeter or two between Trump and the adventures of Paul Manafort, empire builder. Which is likely to be somewhat important in coming months.
But it’s what happens on November 9 that will make the new crew come in really handy.
Trump has already been investing heavily in the rigged election narrative, including going so far as to proclaim he can only lose if there is a finger on the scales. His advisers are already calling on his supporters to prepare for a constitutional crisis following the election, one that includes “a bloodbath.”
Joe Biden may have delivered one helluva speech about how America “owns the finish line,” but Donald Trump doesn’t recognize the finish line. And it’s quite possible that he’s not going to stop.
That’s where Bannon’s mini media empire comes in handy. It could form the first step toward a Trump Network (a media network, not the Trump Network that was a multi-level Ponzi scheme with crappy vitamins). Previous Republican presidential candidates have settled into a position as a talking head on Fox, or plopped behind a microphone on AM radio. That won’t be enough for Trump. It’s neither enough money to match his investment in this campaign, nor enough attention to feed an ego that’s gotten used to being able to upend the news cycle on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Even a whole network devoted to Trump won’t give him that.
That’s why Trump won’t be on the Trump Network. Trump will be where he is now, traveling from site to site, rallying angry, racist, crowds. Saying outrageous things. Raising the stakes and the temperature of his speech. Positioning himself not just as an opponent of “Hillary Clinton’s government” but as an alternative. As a movement.
The purpose of the Trump Network will be to support Trumpism. The far-right isolationist, violent, racist nationalism, the just plain fascism that Trump—and Bannon—promote.
We already have candidates who start running for president two years before the election. Trump could simply make it a full-time job. If his 2016 putsch didn’t work … there’s always the future. Trump may never get the majority of Americans. But then, he doesn’t need to. Not for his bank account to benefit.
And not to utterly disrupt the orderly transition of power.