Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is predicated on his reputation as a master deal-maker. Mexico may insist that it won’t pay for a border wall, but that’s because President Pena Nieto hasn’t yet met face-to-face with the real estate mogul who literally wrote The Art of the Deal. Same goes for basically all other foreign governments, large American companies, Congressional Democrats and resistant Republicans.
Such reasoning has, of course, led more than a few reporters to poke holes in Trump’s actual deal-making history, but there seems to be a larger problem: Trump’s own campaign is destroying the conditions that he claims are required for him to be a successful negotiator.
In several of the Republican Party debates, rivals have hammered Trump for his past contributions to Democratic Party stalwarts like Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, and (most notably) Hillary Clinton. Trump’s response has been that he also supported GOP candidates. Bipartisan donations were just the cost of doing business.
“I was a businessman, I got along with Clinton. I got along with everybody,” Trump once responded to Jeb Bush on a debate stage. “That was my job—to get along with people.”
But candidate Trump has not even tried “to get along with people.” At least not with many of those with whom a President Trump would need to negotiate. He has instead made a habit of insulting and offending.
Sometimes Trump’s rhetorical abuse is aimed at politicians, both foreign and domestic. Sometimes it’s at some of America’s largest employers. Other times it’s at entire demographic groups.
Trump’s voters might eat this up at his raucous rallies, but there will be serious consequences were he to be elected president. Remember, it’s Trump who said that getting along with people is a prerequisite for getting deals done. That was why he donated to Hillary Clinton’s last presidential campaign, not because he thought she’d actually be a strong president.
But the GOP front-runner has left all of those niceties in the rear-view mirror, while simultaneously saying that President Trump will be able to make the same “great deals” as CEO Trump. To put it in real estate developer terms, it’s like trying to erect a building after you burn down the scaffolding.
If voters don’t take the time to ponder this fundamental contradiction of Trump’s campaign, then they’ll be complicit in their own bad deal.