As a preliminary, a little XS background, which I’ll aim not to repeat.
The take on Trump’s advantage that seems under-emphasized: He credibly signals a refusal to swerve. I’m not arguing here that it’s realistic to trust that. The point is only, the Trump candidacy looks to a substantial swathe of the electorate — at least comparatively — like the strategic choice for not losing at chicken games. As noted in the linked post, when democratic party politics becomes highly polarized, that’s the game being played.
Anyone playing chicken through an agent prioritizes certain definite virtues. Trump’s rhetoric reflects these uncannily. “Winning” — for instance — is a word to watch.
To see what it is to be a chicken game loser, there’s no better model than recent GOP presidential candidates. John McCain appeared to positively delight in the honor of being defeated by Barack Obama in 2008, and Mitt Romney followed quite faithfully in his footsteps. In both cases, which can be extended to the GOP establishment generally, respectability is defined by the sentiment: “Sure, winning would be nice, but we’re not going to be crazy about it.” If there’s a single key to winning at chicken, however, ‘crazy’ is it.
The greater the media onslaught against Trump, given only that he doesn’t flinch, the stronger the signal that he’s not a swerve kind of guy. In this respect, the specific content of the attacks is almost irrelevant. The nastier the better. Best of all, if the message gets communicated that this maniac would take us over the cliff, he’s already won. From the perspective of this analysis, there’s simply nothing else he has to get across. It translates to: With Trump we either win, or at least don’t lose. (Objection: “But ‘everyone dies’ is losing isn’t it?” — Thanks GOPe, but you’re not getting this at all.)
Cruz and (to a parodic extent) Rubio look flexible next to Trump. It’s not that people think they might swerve — it’s what they firmly expect. They seem bendy, and specifically prone to compromise, concessions to media-fabricated realities, back-downs, apologies, and pre-emptive cringe.
Never, ever, even for a moment back-down, laugh at demands for ‘disavowal’, double-down on offense, concede nothing, and never swerve. Regardless of what one thinks about this orientation, it’s the one hungered for by the Trump constituency right now. Trump’s instincts, if not perfect in this regard, are impressively sound. We’ll know within 24-hours or so how it’s working out.
ADDED: It’s chicken all the way down.
ADDED: Trump poker.