Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at the KI Convention Center on Oct. 17, 2016 in Green Bay, Wis. 
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

Self-indulgent Trump embraces the permanent campaign

Donald Trump had been scheduled to give testimony this week in the “Trump University” fraud case, though the case was settled before the president-elect had to suffer this indignity. But a few weeks ago, the Republican’s attorneys said the whole case should be delayed – because Trump was far too busy to play any role in the proceedings.

And at first blush, that made some sense. Ordinarily, a president-elect has to maintain a rather grueling schedule, choosing a cabinet, attending security briefings, staffing his White House, speaking to international leaders, preparing a policy agenda, and even preparing for his inauguration. Every hour of every day counts.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/1/16, 9:00 PM ET

Trump reprises campaign with victory rally

Chris Hayes talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump’s first public speech since winning the presidency, the first in a series of campaign-style rallies in which Trump gloated about his victory and insulted the media.
But Trump isn’t ordinary, and he isn’t spending his time the way presidents-elect usually do. Trump, for example, is offered daily intelligence briefings from U.S. national security agencies, but he skips most of them. And instead of turning his attention to the enormous responsibilities that will soon fall on his shoulders, Trump yesterday made time for some self-indulgent celebrations of himself and his recent campaign.
[T]alking about trade and the outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing jobs, Trump broke free from his self-described “action plan to make America great again,” and began what turned into a seven-minute monologue on his viewing of the election night returns.

He scoffed, talking about the Rust Belt and Midwest states, at the suggestions that his campaign wouldn’t be able to “break the blue wall.”

“We didn’t break it!” Trump said. “We shattered that sucker.”
He talked about the “fun” of fighting Hillary Clinton; he took a few shots at Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) for not supporting his campaign; and he took time to ridicule conservative independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin. We heard “lock her up” chants, which Trump greeted with a grin; we heard repeated whining about journalists and news organizations; and we even heard mockery of a protester.

If it seemed as if Trump was returning to campaign mode yesterday, there’s a good reason. Indeed, the problem is that Trump never actually left campaign mode.

As Rachel has explained on the show this week, there’s ample precedent for presidents hitting the road and holding rallies, but there’s always a point to the outings. Woodrow Wilson held a series of public events to convince the public to support his idea for a League of Nations; George W. Bush held rallies in support of privatizing Social Security; in 2009, President Obama even held some events to tout the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. For that matter, nearly every president has hosted rallies during their re-election bids in the hopes of encouraging Americans to give them a second term.

But there doesn’t appear to be anything in the American tradition similar to what Donald Trump did yesterday: he held a public rally for the purpose of celebrating himself, his election victory, and all the amazing things he intends to do once he takes office.

A New York Times report added, “Kicking off what was billed as a ‘thank you’ tour, Mr. Trump was incendiary and prideful, hopeful and indicting, vengeful and determined. His staff said the rally was the first of several he will hold before his inauguration next month. His tour is an unusual move for a president-elect, most of whom do not return so quickly to the campaign trail, especially while key cabinet positions remain unfilled.”

But Donald J. Trump likes the campaign trail, far more than he likes doing actual work. Rallies are fun; governing is hard and tedious. As we discussed the other day, the president-elect doesn’t have time for “several” public rallies – intended solely to allow Trump to talk about how pleased he is with himself – but these events remain a priority because his focus is on being a celebrity superstar, not rolling up his sleeves and tackling unglamorous tasks.

The New Republic’s Alex Shephard put it this way: “Donald Trump, a man who has a very short attention span and requires instant gratification more or less constantly, loves campaigning because he has a very short attention span and requires instant gratification more or less constantly.”

And so, even though the campaign ended last month, it will continue, indefinitely. The concept of a “permanent campaign” has always been based on the idea that the next election cycle begins immediately after the previous cycle ends, making governing extremely difficult, but Trump is ushering in the Permanent Campaign 2.0 – in which the incoming leader remains a candidate, not because he’s worried about losing in four years, but because he simply prefers being a candidate to being a president.

It’s a bit like that friend of yours from college who could’ve graduated and moved on to getting a job, but who simply kept taking classes and seeking new degrees because he enjoyed the comforts of being a student – and feared what came next.

Stop waiting for the pivot to maturity and stature: there is no difference between pre-election Trump and post-election Trump, and by all appearances, there probably never will be.

Donald Trump

Self-indulgent Trump embraces the permanent campaign