…or at least that’s the way it started, according to the former communications director for Donald Trump’s now-disbanded Super PAC. In a recent blog post, Stephanie Cegielski claims that Trump never initially intended to win the Republican nomination:

Even Trump’s most trusted advisors didn’t expect him to fare this well.

Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it.

The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%. His candidacy was a protest candidacy…

What was once Trump’s desire to rank second place to send a message to America and to increase his power as a businessman has nightmarishly morphed into a charade that is poised to do irreparable damage to this country if we do not stop this campaign in its tracks…

A GRAIN OF SALT?

Now, there are potential reasons to take Cegielski’s take on Trump with a grain of salt. She never quotes The Donald. It took her nearly a year to realize or reveal her dissatisfaction with him.

In addition, perhaps she naively gives him too much credit for being a “protest candidate” with a cause bigger than himself. In her own words, after all, “Trump only cares about Trump.”

IT’S ABOUT THE BRAND

But that just buttresses her claim that he was originally out to build his business. And Trump’s business is his brand. So we have a presidential campaigning as a business branding exercise, up there with Trump Tower and The Donald’s television show, The Apprentice.

If Cegielski is to be believed, then, Trump was at first just pursuing a faux campaign. But what began as an egotistical business-bolstering act has mutated into the real thing…as surreal as it sometimes seems.

You can’t make this stuff up.

LIFE’S A STAGE

On the international stage, Trump is not unprecedented in blending his business interests, buffoonery and expert media manipulation in running for national office. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi comes to mind, for instance – though from the start he was serious about winning.

Perhaps, then, we have to move to a more literal stage to begin to grasp the Trump campaign’s evolution. Check out this recent TV skit adapted from the Broadway show, The Producers. To my mind, it’s all too gentle to be all that funny. But it still makes a powerful point: “Trumped” from Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Based in Oakland, California, Stephen Golub writes, consults and teaches about international development, with a particular focus on justice, democracy, human rights and governance issues. Currently teaching part-time at Central European University in Budapest and previously at the University of California at Berkeley, he has worked in over 40 countries and with such organizations as Amnesty International, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ford and Open Society Foundations, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank

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