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Donald Trump and Campaign Norms

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As Rob observes below, in his not notably sane press conference today Donald Trump (inter alia) called for Russia to try to steal the former Secretary of State’s emails. In addition, the Trump campaign announced that it won’t be releasing Trump’s tax returns. Ordinarily, this would be small potatoes, but when a businessman has such an extensive history of not paying creditors that he literally can’t get loans from ordinary American banks despite owning a lot of real estate, it’s pretty safe to say that there’s some significantly damaging information in them. Which, of course, is why he’s not going to abide by the norm that presidential candidates release their tax returns.

Basically, what Trump — starting with his attacks on John McCain for getting captured in Vietnam — has been doing is the campaign equivalent of what Mitch McConnell has done in the Senate. That is, ignoring norms about how he’s supposed to behave. He’s basically made an ongoing series of what conventional wisdom would maintain are campaign ending gaffes — and yet, he has the Republican nomination for president and according to the polls has an outside but real chance of being elected to the office.

Mitch McConnell is unquestionably correct that the public doesn’t care about congressional procedure and won’t punish individual members of Congress for legislative dysfunction. With respect to Donald Trump’s approach to campaigning, the lesson is less clear right now. Maybe what worked for him in the Republican primaries will fail in the general, and he will lose by an unusually large margin. But if he loses within the Romney/McCain range — or God forbid, wins — we have to consider the possibility that norms of what makes an effective campaign aren’t actually true (although it’s also possible that what works for Trump won’t work for others.)

In conclusion, Ari Fleischer’s still got it:

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