It’s been interesting to see how the Democrats dealt with Trump this week. In a lot of ways they employed classic anti-bullying strategies. A bully is successful when they can go one-on-one and use threats, intimidation, and name-calling to humiliate and subdue their intended victims. Trump has been highly personal in his attacks on his primary opponents (“Little Marco”, “Lyin’ Ted”) and merciless with the Bushes (they were “destroyed”). A consequence of that approach is burning bridges right and left (no pun intended) which hurt him come convention time, with Cruz’s non-endorsement and Kasich’s refusal to even attend his party’s convention in his home state, along with the absence of major Republican political figures.
The Dem’s employed a classic anti-bullying strategy by pummeling him with confrontational speeches throughout the time they had command of the national spotlight. They were relentless and they will draw from all quarters throughout the general election to continue this approach. They hope to pick up disaffected Republicans who will put country over party along the way. This strategy relies on a community to confront the bully, and take away his power at going one-to-one. Trump has responded this week with comments suggesting he has been “hurt” by the attacks, again a classic bully tactic designed to elicit sympathy. The victimizer becomes the victim.
The strategy also can yield several unforced errors on the part of the bully as his anxiety rises. Thus we had Trump advocating improving ties with Russia and in fact encouraging Russian hackers to scrounge for Hillary emails, which has lead to suspicion about his refusal to disclose his tax returns. That was a terrible misstep on his part. He should have simply condemned the illegal break-in of the DNC computers and let the fallout go where it may. His calls to reevaluate the U.S. relationship with NATO can only strengthen Russia. The Putin-Trump relationship and Russian influence on his career story will not go away, and could prove to be the fatal blow to his candidacy.
We are in for a grueling 3 months on the campaign trail. The debates will be the next major public event. An ugly, fascinating election, one that will be talked about and have major ramifications for years to come.