"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." Gore Vidal
President Obama's greatest worry for 2012 would involve an opposition candidate to the Center as well as to the Right of his own political position. All incumbent Presidents, of course, want to own the Center, America's most valuable piece of political real estate. From the Center back to their own particular political position -- whether Right or Left -- incumbent Presidents cobble together a winning coalition.
At present, though, President Obama appears to not have a worry in the world. Since December, after the shellacking President Obama took in the mid-term elections, Obama has tacked to the sensible Center from his previous position on the Pragmatic-Progressive side of the spectrum (Pragmatism, we cannot fail to note, is the first indigenous movement of philosophical thought to develop in America).
Obama is popular enough on the Left -- as Bill Maher continually reminds us weekly on his show -- that he will not get a credible Progressive primary challenge. The President may still get one, but whomever that challenger is, they will even not get one-third of the primary vote -- the tipping point established by Pat Buchanan when he ran against George Bush the Elder in 1992, revealing fissures in the then-sitting President's strength with his base. That leaves Obama to worry about the American political Center, where the bulk of the votes in the country exist. Obama already has the Progressive Left on lock.
That's why Donald Trump is theoretically good for Obama. The more of an amazing spectacle he makes of himself the more suburban moms and independent voters are spectacularly turned off. Remember that it was "No Drama Obama" that beat the various public dysfunctions of the Clintons. The President's even temperament -- perhaps gained in school in Indonesia -- is his biggest political plus in campaign mode. Plouffe and the Obama team ought to do everything they possibly can to trump up Trump's thus far alleged candidacy. In fact, that might be precisely what the Obama Camp strategy is at present doing. Today, for example, Obama's presser interrupted the cable networks coverage of Trump's rambling dissemination of half-truths in New Hampshire. Call it: Duelling Pressers. You see, not only is Donald Trump an erratic, Dickensian-named parody of a barely credible political entity, he is also the visible face of bigotry and farce. His abrupt about face on the Birther issue, changing the terms of the debate to one of Obama's college transcripts -- ! -- at Occidental College, render him a non-serious political entity. Unfortunately, vis-a-vis the Republican Party, Donald Trump is a very serious candidate indeed.
Then again, if the Obama Camp truly wanted to buoy a Trump candidacy they would have held onto the principle of privacy and never revealed his birth certificate, thus allowing the Donald to ride that issue to maximum effect.
On the Inverse Political Relationship
An inverse or negative relationship is a mathematical relationship in which one variable, say y, decreases as another, say x, increases. An inverse political relationship exists between Trump and Obama. In short: Every time Trump makes the front pages or achieves the top of the hour on the cable news broadcasts for some stupendous feat of irresponsible rhetoric, he actually makes the President more acceptable to independents, to the Center. There is, to be quite frank, an inverse political relationship between Trump and President Obama. Trump as the most visible and -- according to a very hasty poll -- the "most likely" GOP candidate in 2012. And according to a Pew Research Center survey released last week, 39 percent of Republicans named Donald Trump when asked about which potential presidential candidate they’ve heard the most about of late.
Obama is right now one fixed variable in the 2012 political and Trump, as frontrunner, can only be properly construed, at least until someone surpasses his polling numbers, as a tentative second variable. As the dissonant and mouthy Trump campaign achieves critical mass, the more the President appears to be the voice of sanity, a man firmly in the political Center with both feet grounded in reality. Trump, by contrast, appears grounded in reality television.
Why Trump is Relevant
The main problem of the Republican Party is ennui. The big guns are not running (Christie, Rubio, Daniels and even Barbour have opted out) It is simply not an exciting field (Pawlenty? Newt?); then again, nothing could be as exciting as the Hillary-versus-Obama smackdown that was the summer of 2008. From Public Policy Polling:
Trump's ridden the controversy about Barack Obama's place of birth to the highest level of support we've found for anyone in our national GOP polling so far in 2011.
Trump's broken the perpetual gridlock we've found at the top of the Republican field, getting 26% to 17% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Romney, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, and 4% for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.
Among that 23% only willing to vote for a birther Trump is cleaning up even more, getting 37% to 13% for Huckabee and Palin, and 10% for Romney and Gingrich.
Trump speaks *crazy,* the language that appeals to the wild-eyed people who tore up the Town Hall meetings during the health care debate.
Next week's GOP debate should be about as interesting as watching plants produce oxygen. Trumps oily charisma makes him a giant in a field of midgets. "A latter-day P.T. Barnum with an insatiable appetite for attention and a knack for getting it, Trump has capitalized on two defining and interrelated features of the political-media landscape in the Obama era: the symbiosis between political provocateurs and traffic-conscious news organizations and the rise of a conservative constituency that hungers for voices that will attack President Barack Obama in sharp and unapologetic terms," wrote Jonathan Martin in Politico. Truer words were never written. This populist Trump moment is, in fine, a confluence of some very baleful events.
May we live in interesting times.