Recently, the comedian Bill Maher skewered Donald Trump’s attempt to convince people he can act “Presidential.” When Trump displayed an understanding of basic civility on Election Night in New York, his supporters claimed it showed he could be reasonable.
Maher disagreed with that assessment and said, “They’re trying to say that the Trump, it’s all been an act, he’s really very presidential, a very reasonable guy, he’ll be different after the nomination. The last thirty years as the world’s biggest douchebag… that was just to get us ready! Oh please. This idea that this guy could ever change his stripes, that he could be presidential, yeah because on election night, Tuesday in New York, for three minutes he went onstage and acted like a normal person and didn’t urinate on the whole audience…He called Cruz “Senator,” it lasted three minutes!”
Maher’s right, of course. Three minutes of good behavior does not begin to erase 30 years’ worth of outrageous behavior or a campaign replete with crazy antics. Trump has long shown himself to be a master at grabbing and keeping the media’s attention focused on him. Their eagerness to over-analyze his every move and comment has only encouraged him.
Trump recently hired a new team to help him win the general election. He realizes that he faces the same problem many extremist candidates face: attracting voters outside of his base. The “Washington Post” and ABC conducted a poll and found that 67% percent of their respondents had an “unfavorable view” of Trump. Two-thirds of independents feel the same way, as do 81% of Hispanics, 75% of women, and 74% of voters under 40. Trump is either going to need to change the minds of some of these people – or hope that his supporters turn out in droves on Election Day.
Trump is a more extreme example of a candidate trying to change their image, and some people claim that his uber-right wing persona is simply that. Such people maintain that he’s been putting on an act for the past few months. During the primary campaign, Trump has essentially acted as if he were on a reality show like “The Apprentice.” While it has proven effective so far, it’s also dishonest.
According to the “Washington Post,” Trump’s chief campaign strategist, Paul Manafort, told some members of the RNC that Trump had indeed been playing an over-the-top character during the primary, but that he would “pivot” and start acting more “businesslike” and “Presidential” during the general election. Manafort expected the shift in personas to work and for people to accept the new image. He added, dismissively, “Crooked Hillary is still going to be Crooked Hillary.”
The problem with such a belief is that as Maher pointed out, Trump has been in the public eye for decades – and he isn’t known for sober or reflective behavior. Manafort seems to be assuming that voters will have very short memories, which may not necessarily be true.