In sports the preseason has always been an opportunity for coaches and players to ease into the game as they try new plays and learn new positions. Utilizing scouting reports and analysis of preseason games, coaches develop strategies and make final roster decisions. While this time seems to be relatively stress-free and relaxed, it is, in fact, critical to the upcoming season. The months before Labor Day in a Presidential election year have typically been similar to a team’s preseason. It has been a time for testing positions and stump speeches, a time to romance donors and a time to assess the competition. But this preseason has been quite different.
I guess nobody told Trump about the rules of the preseason. He came out and caught everyone flat-footed. While he has put little meat on the bones of his vociferous pronouncements, he has captivated the attention of the GOP electorate and the media. In fact, he has left his competition in the dust racking up impressive poll numbers while they spin their wheels seeking media attention as they languish. Trump has not only taken an impressive lead, he has also dictated the agenda. He has forced his competitors to deal with issues they hadn’t planned to touch until the actual season began. Most importantly, he has brought into focus the tremendous rifts within the party over issues that will play a vital role in the upcoming election.
The pundits have been wrong all along. First they didn’t expect Trump to run. Then each time he committed a verbal blunder they wrote him off into oblivion. But he is still here. Now they figure that he will be around until after the Florida primary and then say goodbye. But his nearest competitor is in single digits and Trump seems to be gaining ground. In a political climate that regards politicians with disdain, he is the anti-politician. In a political world that requires candidates to sell their souls for financial support, he needs no outside financial support. In an environment that has seen detailed political promises ignored and reversed at the drop of a poll point, Trump doesn’t provide details, only the promise of the same success that he has achieved in business. It appears that the political world has changed and Trump is perceptive enough to profit from it. Finally, it is important to remember that Trump is not only a product of the business world, but the media world as well. He is familiar with it and comfortable using it. The pundits seem to have fallen behind and now find themselves playing catchup every time a new poll comes out.
What the preseason has taught us about the upcoming political season is that it is a new world and the landscape of today’s electorate is very different from that of yesterday. The rules have changed and those who can adapt will stand a chance of success, however those who remain stubbornly in the politics of yesterday will fail. What is the most important rule at play? It is seemingly simple. Don’t bore us with your multi-point plans that you will forget about once you are in office. Give us a reason to trust you and believe that you are your own man and that you have the ability to achieve what you promise. The electorate is cynical and untrusting. The fact that they are attracted to the likes of Trump tells us just how desperate they are to trust someone. For the sake of the country and all of us, we need to provide the electorate with a viable alternative to this bellicose bullhorn of plentiful platitudes.