The 2016 Republican National Convention started today. So did the latest round of stories about what the GOP must do to make Donald J. Trump, its expected presidential nominee, more electable.
Richard Hatch (far right, front row), winner of the first "Survivor" show in 2000, makes his case as a contestant in 2011 on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice." Hatch was fired by The Donald, but some suggest Hatch's "Survivor" strategy could help Trump win the presidency.
There's the typical approach of moving toward the political center. That the path that's been taken over the years by both Democratic and Republican candidates who nabbed nominations by appealing in primaries to the their Parties' more radical segment.
But Trump, as is well documented, is not the typical candidate.
That's why an election path suggested today by Vanity Fair writer T.A. Frank intrigues me.
Proving that Trump is sane: The RNC convention, writes Frank, must convince viewing voters that Trump is worth the risk. That process includes assuring voters that:
- the Republican Party is united,
- its nominee is not crazy,
- the future will be great, and
- all Americans will be able to enjoy it.
That second point, showing that Trump can competently carry out the duties of U.S. president, will depend largely on how the presumptive candidate comports himself during these next four days. Or, as Franks bluntly writes, Trump must come across as sane.
The most ardent anti-Trumpeters don't believe this is attainable. Frank, however, thinks there's a way. He writes:
"This won’t be easy. I don't say this sneeringly, despite Trump's soft spot for conspiracy mongering, but I do think that Trump's impulse control showed shockingly few signs of life even after it became critical to demonstrate its very existence. It won't suffice to deliver a speech in which he keeps it together for 30 minutes. Trump will have to tell a story that accounts for past wildness and persuades listeners that it was 90 percent controlled and intentional — that there's now a new Trump, the real one, the presidential one."
'Survivor' path to White House: One way to do that, suggests Frank, is to follow the example set by another wild man of reality television, Richard Hatch.
It's been 16 years, but fans of the "Survivor" series on CBS still remember Hatch. He was the fat, naked guy that everyone, on the island and in TV viewer land, hated. And despite, or maybe because of, that loathing, Hatch was the show's first winner.
How in the heck did that happen? Again, I'll let Frank explain:
"Everyone hated the winner, Richard Hatch, because he had lied and betrayed his way to the top. But then Hatch reframed things, reminding everyone that it was a game, not real life, and that he'd used all tools in his arsenal to play it well. This worked. People came around to him."
Can Trump do that? Maybe.
He'd have to point out that much of what he's said and done so far has been part of a carefully calculated strategy to trounce his primary competitors. It's no secret that primary candidates tend to say what they think will get them the most votes to get them to the next level.
Then when they face a larger, less polarized electorate, they step back from their earlier more extreme pronouncements.
The Donald's 'Survivor' obstacles: Trump, however, faces two big hurdles.
The first is that his core supporters might fire him if he walks back some of his more extreme political posturing. The out-there aspect of "telling it like it is" is what has energized them.
The second is Trump himself. He is the scorpion in the fable about the deadly insect that ended up killing the turtle giving it a ride across a stream. Both the scorpion and turtle died, but the scorpion did so acknowledging he just couldn't help being what he was.
Enthusiastic Trumpsters say let Trump be Trump. That's an easy entreaty. I don't think he can be anything other than his off-the-cuff self.
Hatch, Trump and tax troubles: Finally, there's one other Trump-Hatch connection I love. You got it. Taxes.
We're still waiting for Trump to make his personal tax returns public. He says he'll do so when the Internal Revenue Service finishes its audit of his taxes.
I doubt that. Trump doesn't want to show us his filings, with or without IRS examination, for whatever reasons. He's not as rich as he says. He uses tax havens. He's not a very charitable guy. Whatever.
The speculation on Trump's tax reticence makes for a very long list. And one or more of the reasons is why I believe that he won't let us see what he puts on his 1040s. Ever.
Taxes also were a problem for Hatch. He won $1 million as the first "Survivor" champ and then went to federal prison for not paying taxes on the winnings.
He made an appearance in 2011 on Trump's show "Celebrity Apprentice," but was fired on the series fifth episode. During that run of the Trump TV aide-de-camp competition, Hatch also was sent back to jail in connection with the tax conviction on his original reality show winnings.
So ultimately, despite his brief flirtations with celebrity and short-term victories, Hatch ended up a loser because of his taxes.
Will taxes be Trump's ultimate downfall, too?
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