JB: I read this morning that Trump's fundraising has skyrocketed despite the rash of seemingly purposeful gaffes of his. And more surprising is that the moolah is pouring in from small donors. I wouldn't have predicted that, would you?
BK: I wouldn't have predicted anything about Trump's campaign success. The media devote endless negative attention to him and have so far failed to destroy him, almost as though he has magic powers. His unbreakable popularity is a conundrum of immense proportions. Certainly his supporters feel alienated by the centrist/neocon establishment, and perhaps they view any assault on him as a positive. Maybe that's totally it. His negatives are campaign positives. It's not clear what he actually stands for. Some progressives see him as more liberal than conservative -- that his real values are left of center, but he's pretending to be a rightwinger to win the election. I don't believe this, but I find it fascinating that others do.
JB: What do you make of his gaffes, some of them quite egregious and outlandish? Throwing a baby out of a rally? Not knowing basic foreign policy facts? Who the heck knows what he knows? He seems to be taunting us with his popularity which isn't tied to any positive metric: trustworthiness, experience, values, etc. What an outlier he is!
BK: He's a conqueror, a dominator, an emperor. He's Mussolini. He can say anything he wants, seemingly. He speaks impulsively. I think all of these gaffes have general appeal to a certain part of the electorate because they have felt repressed for decades (since the end of Jim Crow) by political correctness. Trump brings hope to racists!
JB: Yuck. There's a raging debate going on whether Trump is trying to "throw" the election because he doesn't really want to be president. I'd already read that he's committed to turning over the executive functions to his VP. I believe that is unprecedented. Pence could become virtually an acting president without running in a single primary or receiving a single vote. What's going on here?
BK: Whatever is going on is unprecedented. Maybe only the perspective of history will tell us (fifty or a hundred years from now). Maybe Trump's agenda begins and ends with his ego. My guess is that it's more than that -- maybe every theory about him is partially correct. One thing that's clear: his values don't fit into a neat, establishment package. He's no more crazy than most Republicans (and most center-right Dems) about foreign policy, but the craziness is unavoidably apparent because he doesn't speak in PC code language. Once again, I think it's his impulsive directness, far more than any policy position or pretend policy position, that is his biggest appeal.
JB: Let's talk about the Bernie legacy for a moment. Many are disappointed that he ultimately endorsed Hillary, especially with all the betrayals along the way. What did Bernie bring to the mix in 2016 and how, if at all, will it change the way we look at politics?