Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

Is Trump's Debate Boycott Secretly Genius?

comments
Photo: MediaPunch/ REX Features.
The next GOP debate is on Thursday night, but Donald Trump is already making headlines. On Tuesday night, the Trump campaign announced that the businessman would not be attending the Fox News debate due to an ongoing feud with moderator Megyn Kelly.

At a GOP debate in August, Kelly questioned the way Trump spoke to and about women. In response, Trump lashed out on social media, calling the news host a “bimbo” and insinuating that her menstrual cycle was to blame for their confrontation. Trump recently accused Kelly of being biased against him. When the network refused to replace her, Trump cancelled his appearance. Instead, he'll be holding a rally only a few miles away.

“Let’s see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me,” Trump said at a press conference on Tuesday, according to The New York Times.

This is what his decision boils down to — money and publicity. Trump has been outrageous at previous debates, exhibiting behavior that earns him no critical praise but does its job at keeping his name in the news. From his feud with Kelly to picking fights with his opponents, Trump has seemed to approach his candidacy from the position of “no publicity is bad publicity.” After six Republican debates, the only question is, what else can Trump do to shock us? The answer, clearly, is “not show up.”

The public has watched six debates of him shrugging, gesturing, and blatantly insulting his opponents. On Thursday, he may be more likely to get the audience he wants by doing his own thing. It’s a strategy that worked for Rand Paul only last week. After being relegated to the "undercard" debate, Paul boycotted the early round of debates on January 14, and instead went on an intense social media campaign that got more viewers than the actual debate. As a result, Paul saw his poll numbers rise and Thursday night he’ll be back on the main debate stage.

Trump's willingness to go there and say the unsayable earns him horrified laughter from some, but it also brings admiration from those who dislike so-called political correctness.

Trump may be right to think that his fans want his snarky, brash quips more than they want policy ideas. His supporters find his take-no-prisoners discourse to be a breath of fresh air, and even his opponents find him strangely compelling. His willingness to go there and say the unsayable earns him horrified laughter from some, but it also brings admiration from those who dislike so-called political correctness.

Many of his supporters feel that Trump has an authenticity that other politicians lack, even when his statements fuel intolerance and bigotry. Trump's infamous call to ban Muslims may have been met with outrage from the majority of Americans, but a Washington Post poll found that almost 60% of Republicans supported a temporary ban. One supporter quoted by the paper called Trump honest and trustworthy. "Nobody owns him," she said. Another voter, quoted by CNN, said that he didn't want Muslims in the country, because, "Who knows what they're going to bring in?"
His supporters' convictions mean that those who criticize Trump have a rough go of it. A study provided by the data-analysis firm Qualtrics found that Ted Cruz’s attack ads against Trump, which accused him of having “New York values,” actually worked for Trump. Blue-collar voters who saw the ad, particularly men, liked it. And since Trump’s latest showdown with Megyn Kelly, his supporters have bombarded the news anchor with abuse on social media. A Vocativ analysis found hundreds of sexist slurs in tweets aimed at Kelly in the span of only 24 hours.

Kelly herself doesn't seem terribly worried. On Wednesday, she told Extra that she doesn’t buy the Donald’s insistence he won’t be there. “I will be surprised if he doesn’t show up. Donald Trump is a showman; he’s very good at generating interest,” she said. “Whether he’s there or not there, the show will go on.” And while Trump may think the debate will be dull without him, the truth is that with or without Trump the GOP candidates are capable of some startling moments.
SHARE
TWEET
EMAIL