Selecting from a choice of Fame, Fortune or Power, the real Donald Trump probably cares most about the first, Fame, and he cares about the second, Fortune, mostly to the extent it gives him the first. The third, Power, he’s smart enough not to want ultimately … but, boy, does does he get mightily tempted.
Those I have spoken to about this before know this is a view I have held on Trump from the beginning of the Presidential race. Throughout Trump’s history there is significant evidence that his ultimate motivation has been attention seeking, with other priorities there to support it. There is probably no individual role in the world more significant for achieving persistent attention (within Trump’s bounds of possibility) than in becoming the US President.
However, there is a significant problem for Trump in this, and that is the role also comes with great political power and therefore the gravest responsibilities in the world. So what outcome would achieve as much of the attention, but with as little of this responsibility as possible? That’s right, to succeed in becoming one of the Nominees with significant popular support, but to carefully manipulate the situation such that he ultimately disqualifies from being given the responsibilities at the last moment and to retain the fame while it lasted. In addition, he would also need to look to 1. minimise how incompetent he looks in this process (as he would want to retain the positive attention afterwards) and 2. avoid looking like he is in fact doing so.
This speculative template has fitted event outcome reasonably well so far, especially recently. It suggests that his campaign will run into “problems”, and that these problems are either an outcome of his disestablishment political stance (which of course he is maintaining, why would anyone think otherwise?), or they are problems that can be blamed on others and not directly on him. Events such as firing Corey Lewandowski, his campaign manager that succeeded in delivering his Republican Nomination, and the clearly detectable plagiarism in his wife’s speech are recent examples. There is almost an innumerable number of great people to pick from in order to plagiarise speeches, both past and present, with similarly powerful or moving words. Why pick the most inflammatory source possible, the ideological opposite and Democratic First Lady, if not for maximum attention and subtle disqualification?
Of course, if this template is correct, then the consequences are significant. First, the Republican Party (as they are well aware) are the first to fall victim in terms of credibility and ability to win power in the future. Second, Trump has united and given purpose to a broad segment of individuals in the US with extreme right isolationist mentalities that could grow easily without him. Third, another term for the Democrats led by Hillary Clinton as President seems to most moderates both Republican or Democrat leaning now to be a good idea. For the next year, this should be good for the US. For the longer term, it will not be good as ideological polarisation will likely continue to increase without a strong political stage on which to manage it. Increasing instability will continue to feature strongly both domestically and internationally.
It is also worth acknowledging an alternate reality, that Trump convinces himself that he is loved and wanted enough by the American public to then want to become President. I think this is unlikely, but it is worth preparing for.