After my initial dismay at the Mexico tariffs news, a certain optimism began to creep in. The move is a disaster when seen through the cartoon lens of “Trump is a loose cannon.” But it shows a way out of the current trade/economic mess if you start from “Trump is a pretty darn good reality TV show director.”
To sketch this out;
- Trump is in a bind with the China trade war. He and the Chinese have no face-saving way to get out of the mess. In TV terms, the plot-line has hit a dead end.
- So you introduce a plot twist! Some way to blast yourself sideways out of a narrative dead alley. No matter how implausible. “It was all a dream. JR/John Snow/whoever really isn’t dead.” Whatever it takes to shift the narrative. Distract the audience, but keep them tuning in. “Trade War with Mexico!!!” fits that bill.
- Trump can get the “win” with Mexico he can’t get from China. Some sort of toothless agreement with appropriately deferential noises from the Mexican government (said through gritted teeth with fingers crossed). Because the US can’t push China around, but we can definitely push Mexico around. Mexico’s tepid reaction suggests they understand the game and are (necessarily) willing to play along.
- Conflate and confuse. A “win” with Mexico is loudly announced around the same time as the less-than-a-win with China. The halo effect keeps Trump’s faithful “tired of winning so much.“
- By August, Trump has talked tough, done little, and the economy/markets are back to business.
The timing for all this drama also comes into focus through that reality TV lens. Trump is running the show to get it renewed for another season. Putting us in act 3 of a four act play. You build dramatic tension and drama in the 3rd act (keeping viewers engaged). You use the 4th act to deliver a neat and tidy resolution – just in time for the
The above might be a little too neat and tidy. But that is the point of good reality TV. It is falsely tidy drama, not real “reality.” By all reports, Trump learned a lot from “The Apprentice.” That is arguably what got him into the White House. It is definitely how he is going to try to stay there.