Donald Trump grabbed the helm of the Republican Party by spouting what many of its primary voters liked hearing about immigration, the Mideast and trade deals.
Why stop now? One rarely changes personalities or hairstyles at 70. Any outsider so nice as to offer him sincere advice could only encourage Trump to be his impetuous self.
So in his big acceptance speech Thursday, from a tactical standpoint, Trump may as well:
Keep cribbing: Melania Trump got static for lifting portions of her speech. But what’s her husband’s “Make America Great Again” slogan if not a clean lift from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign? And what’s “restore law and order” if not a winning (and hollow) Richard Nixon 1968 promise?
There seems to be no lasting political penalty for ripping off phrases, sentences or whole paragraphs from others. Ask VP Joe Biden, who once famously plagiarized a British politician’s speech.
Keep dissing: Nobody voting for Trump does so in the name of genteel manners. Part of the appeal of nicknames like “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco” and “Crooked Hillary” is the pretense of candor and boldness.
If he starts becoming polite or precise, or pandering to those he’s alienated, Trump’s fan base will shrivel and his rallies will lose their raucous zest. It would be like an MMA fighter acting sportsmanlike, which is not good for sales.
If we’ve learned anything from this election so far, it is that a common citizen’s standard of behavior doesn’t apply to politicians.
Keep bashing Clintons: Party unity is all about playing up fear of the rival. You’ll see it next week when the Democrats convene. The Clintons have earned their status as targets.
Even Republicans who don’t like Trump rationalize their support by building up a Clinton term as a threat. Trump has already raised debunked conspiracy theories about death of one-time Clinton aide Vince Foster. There’s no political gain to embracing the Ninth Commandment at this late date.
Feed the streaming beast: Trump will keep up the cliche complaints about the news media because that always gets a big cheer, even as he feeds off the coverage.
But he also may wish to break some news Thursday by revealing Cabinet picks: Maybe Chris Christie for attorney general, or Rudy Giuliani for Homeland Security secretary, or Newt Gingrich to run Health and Human Services.
This gives a sense of specifics, without the tedious task of spelling out positions.
Demonize Congress: Never mind that running-mate Mike Pence made his way to the governorship of Indiana after more than a decade in Congress. That gnarly fact, like so many, is easily glossed over.
The Congress under GOP majorities with a Democratic White House has gridlocked its way to low approval ratings, and people will applaud any words of attack against the institution. Editorial boards, civic groups and special-interest groups don’t spend a lot of time defending the honor of the legislative branch.
Trump has nothing to lose, at least before taking office, by blaming the House and Senate for dysfunction. After all, they’re unlikely to approve his border wall or his Muslim ban anyway, based on what the leadership has said.
Striking what is known as a “conciliatory tone” will only make him sound slippery.