The Trump insurrection
Donald Trump has at last assembled a team capable of winning this election. This process began with the selection of Mike Pence as his running mate. Ivanka and Jared Kushner apparently succeeded in convincing Trump that Pence, not Christie or Gingrich, is the seasoned political pro, with unimpeachable conservative credentials, that he needed. It was Pence who convinced him to endorse Paul Ryan. And Pence is no doubt behind the appointment of his confidante Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager. The addition of Steve Bannon as campaign CEO, apparently in charge of messaging, completes the inner troika surrounding him.
This all seems familiar. Early in 1980, when Ronald Reagan realized that John Sears wasn't up to the job of running a presidential campaign, he turned to an old pro, James Baker, to right the ship. Reagan's troika was Baker, Mike Deaver, and Ed Meese. Mike Pence is the new Baker, Conway is the new Deaver, and Bannon is the new Meese. Ivanka fills the role of Nancy Reagan and is perfect for the part.
The departure of Manafort clears the deck for the new team. His presence would only be a distraction going forward. Trump runs a tight ship, and now he has everything he needs to win.
While he was forced to shake up his campaign, Reagan's message remained constant, as will Trump's. The Trump campaign is changing its tone and style. The substance is unaffected. American nationalism in every sphere, be it with respect to refugee, immigration, trade, or foreign policy. Populism, in the form of rejecting the corrupt Washington cartel, the entire media-political establishment, and political correctness.
The problem a lot of people have had with Trump is figuring out where he was really coming from. His indiscipline left constitutional conservatives perplexed. Could we really trust him to make a solid appointment to fill Scalia's seat? Does he really understand that the Washington establishment needs to be replaced by an administration dedicated to freedom, federalism, and the reduction of the power and scope of the federal government? Does he realize that spending at current levels, with its mounting national debt, represents a threat to our very existence as a free country? If you want to understand a man's policy, look at his personnel. I, for one, am reassured.
As Mike Pence stated recently in Carson City, "Trump gets it." I believe Mike Pence. When it comes to implementing the Trump agenda, he'll take the point, and we can trust him. Trump's informal council of economic advisers, the firm of Moore, Kudlow & Laffer, is further cause for optimism.
Since the addition of Conway and Bannon, everything has changed for the better. So far, this has been the best week of his campaign. He was in a hole, and he stopped digging. The regret he expressed over hurting people by speaking carelessly was extremely well received. It may go against his nature, but a little humility goes a long way in presidential politics. The Gipper proved that. He could be as tough as nails, but he never played the bully. Trump can learn a lot from Reagan. Maybe he already has.
For me, personally, the addition of Steve Bannon is very reassuring. He's a movement conservative, a type I'm familiar with. We were all in on Reagan, and the message he delivers will bring many of us on to the Trump train.
The NeverTrumpers need to take a deep breath and reanalyze their position. To what extent is it virtue signaling, an effort to display one's moral superiority? Eating a little humble pie is good for the soul. They should consider it.
The other thing about Bannon that appeals to me is his fearlessness. "Honey badger don't give a s---" is his motto, and he lives by it. He's a mover and a shaker, and based on his performance so far, he's just what the campaign needed. Clinton World is a target-rich environment, and Bannon knows how to shoot.
The most bizarre political year of my lifetime could result in an outcome we could only dream about. There is hope, and a chance for real change.
Fritz Pettyjohn was chairman, Reagan for President, Alaska, 1979-80, and blogs daily at ReaganProject.com.