Lessons From the Trump Surge: What We Learned

1. You cannot buy victory. Although the left insists money has corrupted politics, allowing the rich to buy elections, Jeb Bush spent over $130 million on his campaign, with nothing to show for it, while Trump spent very little and still bested all of his competitors by a large margin:

2. The pundits are (almost always) wrong. With the exception of Mike and Scott, few pundits predicted the accent of Trump. Even Nate Silver got it wrong.

3. Connecting with voters is crucial. Trump’s divorces, past ‘liberal leanings’, and bankruptcies didn’t impede his ability to connect with voters, who supported Trump on one issue above all: immigration. In 2008, Obama wooed voters on a single issue: economics, specifically promising to undo the mistakes of the Bush administration. Jeb, Rubio, and Cruz were never able to forge the necessary connection with voters, preferring instead to uphold ‘safe’ status quos instead of taking risks by tapping into the fears and frustrations of voters.

4. Never apologize. Trump received flak for his comments on Mexico, Muslims, Megyn Kelly, and John McCain, but refused to recant, knowing that doing so would show weakness to his supporters and that apologizing would not change minds of those who already didn’t support him. Also this tries into ingroup/outgroup dynamics. By making these comments, Trump is signaling to like-minded supporters (ingroup) against an outgroup (‘establishment conservatives’, feminists, SJWs, mainstream media, etc).

5. Make others play your game; don’t play someone else’s game. Trump knew he would not get a fair shake at a Fox News debate, so he didn’t show up, knowing that that the ratings would plummet in his absence; consequentially, the debate was cancelled.

6. Leverage the media. Trump would quote statistics that were possibly exaggerated, knowing that the media in ‘fact checking’ would inadvertently make the subject matter of those comments the focal issue. Trump quoting statistics about black-on-black crime got the media talking about crime, for example.

7. Trump is a one-man media empire. Although the WSJ and NYT twitter accounts have 11 million and 22 million followers, respectively, their tweets on average only get 40-100 ‘engagements’ (likes, retweets) whereas Trump’s account, which has only 8 million followers, gets between 4-10 thousand engagements per tweet. This means a single Trump tweet probably has more ‘reach’ than all of the mainstream media combined. There’s no need for Trump to waste money on ineffective, costly campaign ads when Twitter and Facebook are free and have substantially more engagement and virality.

8. Related to #7, social media is taking over traditional media. From Reddit to 4chan to the ‘alt right’, Trump is like the Ron Paul of 2016, channeling internet grassroots enthusiasm, with ‘cuckservative’ as a rallying cry for millions of those on the ‘right’ who had enough of a party indifferent to the issues really important to voters (immigration).

9. Until recently, hoaxes took time to debunk, often after the damage had already been done. However, with the collective intelligence of social media and sites like Reddit, these armies of netizens are not only influencing the news cycle but are also debunking hoaxes within hours instead of days or weeks, forcing the mainstream media to quickly retract stories and issue corrections. A recent example is the Michelle Fields assault hoax, which falsely implicated Trump staffer Corey Lewandowski. Now the left is trying to create a narrative that Trump is a womanizer, in a New York Times article that too was quickly debunked as a hoax, with many comments by women taken out of context to defame Trump.

10. Trump is like Teflon. Related to #3, because Trump is so masterful at connecting with voters, he’s impervious to everything, and the media’s only recourse if to make stuff up (#9) when facts fail.