Donald Trump
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Over the weekend, I asked the question, “Is Trump Even Trying to Win?” He’s not advertising in the battleground states. He’s not staffing up a legitimate presidential campaign organization. It’s so obvious that he’s not doing the bare minimum that a growing number of Republicans are beginning to convince themselves that Trump can be bought off and persuaded to pull his name from consideration at the Cleveland convention.

Even Washington Post editorial chief Fred Hiatt is getting into the act. He has a piece up today that lays out the price Trump could demand and some of the logistics for how it would play out.

A financial inducement might help. Because the candidate will not release his tax returns or other relevant documents, we don’t know to what extent his candidacy may have been motivated by business troubles — by a desire to run up the value of his brand. But surely there is room for creativity in designing some long-term contracts between the Republican Party and Trump Hotels, Trump Steaks and Trump Vodka.

I thought that, despite Trump’s protestations to the contrary, his steaks and vodka businesses were defunct. Ah, but who can tell with this charlatan?

In any case, the idea is that the GOP will buy Trump off by signing a bunch of long term contracts that will fatten his pockets.

Hiatt has some other tongue-in-cheek ideas, like making Reince Priebus the new (hopefully, less racist) butler at Mar-a-Lago. And then he gets to the real deal.

But none of that would be enough. Anyone who has watched the candidate at a rally understands that what this campaign has really brought Trump is what he craves most: an audience. Finally, after years of feeling that his wisdom and humor were not receiving their due, Trump has people listening to him hour after hour, day after day, millions upon millions.

The GOP would have to crown Trump not just the winner, but also the Greatest Winner in the Land. The Winner in Chief. The Champion to End All Champions.

And then it would have to find some way to guarantee him an audience for the next four years. Partly that might just involve showing him the ratings for the president’s Saturday morning radio address. Partly it might require giving him his own radio or television show. In fact, Rupert Murdoch might have to give him a television network.

This last bit is a riff off the latest Sarah Ellison piece in Vanity Fair that discusses Trump’s desire to leverage his campaign into some Oprah-like television network.

Trump is indeed considering creating his own media business, built on the audience that has supported him thus far in his bid to become the next president of the United States. According to several people briefed on the discussions, the presumptive Republican nominee is examining the opportunity presented by the “audience” currently supporting him. He has also discussed the possibility of launching a “mini-media conglomerate” outside of his existing TV-production business, Trump Productions LLC. He has, according to one of these people, enlisted the consultation of his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who owns the The New York Observer. Trump’s rationale, according to this person, is that, “win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.”

So, facilitating that pipe dream (and surely the fifth bankruptcy in Trump’s checkered business career) could be part of the solution, or they could just cut him a check for $150 million and structure it some kind of way to avoid prosecution.

It’s a bit surreal to even be discussing this stuff. It seems like a joke, but it’s no longer possible to tell where the joke begins and ends with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at