Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Long Abyss (With Updates)

Get set for a long hot summer and fall, with the Sword of Trump hanging over our heads by a thread.

Though the headlines and opinion pieces continue to focus on GOP and Trump campaign disarray, the only actual news Wednesday might have halted this momentum: Trump raised enough bucks to actually finance a campaign.

It's possible that the unraveling that seemed to have spectacular momentum 24 hours ago is just in a public pause, and will resume Thursday (or before I stop typing this.)

But it feels to me likely that it's over.  If Trump deploys that money with new hires and so on, and if (as is likely) he eventually endorses Paul Ryan, the public hand-wringing will cease and things will go back to what they were going to be: Republican candidates and Trump each running separate and seldom overlapping campaigns.

For how many times can Trump insult a Gold Star family?  He can call Clinton the founder of ISIS all he wants.  The Republican party has so thoroughly and openly demonized President Obama that they'll just nod in approval.  Sure, they may know by now that Trump really is dangerously unfit for President, but they aren't going to say so.  Why would anyone expect Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and the rest of them to commit a moral act, and put country over their own jobs and future earnings?  They've shown no signs of such a capability before. Quite the opposite.

If Trump's numbers threaten those jobs and their power, then maybe they'll separate themselves publicly.  But as long as their numbers are running independently, and as long as Trump raises money for the RNC, they can ignore him.  Some of them (who truly believe he's dangerous, or who want to avenge being bullied) may silently subvert him at election time--there are lots of ways powerful politicians in their districts and states can influence how people vote.  Especially a candidate who shows no interest in staffing a ground game of his own.

This isn't to say that the past few days changed nothing.  It has probably weakened Trump a great deal, perhaps fatally.  But that won't be known for three long months.

In the meantime, it has raised the stakes for Democrats--and their temporary allies against Trump.  Trump has proven himself a cruel, vindictive liar with no conscience and no attention span.  He is the essence of a bullshit artist, and--in sum--he is (as President Obama said) dangerously unprepared and unfit to be President, and as it turns out, he is one of only two people who might be elected to that office.  If people were somewhat amused by this before, they aren't anymore.

What we also re-learned is that Trump's base, however small or large it is, has supported him enthusiastically through all this.  Their rage--as is clear from this painful NY Times video compiled from various Trump events--is deluded but paramount and irredeemable. TTrump is Hate is one of the milder signs they carry.  In other countries they would be terrorists.  TheyHate Tr are the zombie apocalypse.

Put together with their quieter enablers who rationalize the rage they deny, they constitute a political force that is almost as dangerous as Trump.  Therefore, as  Bob Cesca at Salon writes, it's not enough just to defeat them:

Donald Trump is an existential threat to American democracy, and therefore he can’t simply lose the election. He has to be electorally humiliated. Crushed. Embarrassed. The candidate who pledged “so much winning” has to be personally mortified by an unequivocal loss — an electoral massacre so severe that it leaves little room for screeching about rigged elections, and, more importantly, the loss has to be so overwhelming that it discourages any similar would-be populist tyrants from emerging in the future. Trump and anyone similar needs to be politically put-down in a way that permanently ends whatever derangement led us to this point.

Trump's recent implosion gave hope that this could really happen.  The NY Times:

Democrats, prompted by Mr. Trump’s latest antics and the string of Republicans who have spoken out against him, have, perhaps prematurely, started discussing a loftier goal than just winning in November: a wide margin of victory, driven by a record turnout among black, Latino and young voters, that could help squash Mr. Trump’s movement.

David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager, proposed the idea in June. “It is not enough to simply beat Trump,” he wrote on Twitter. “He must be destroyed thoroughly. His kind must not rise again.”

This may be a strategic intent.  The Clinton campaign--and Hillary herself--reached out to Republican Meg Whitman.  This could be part of a wider effort to create a coalition from the center-right to the left, anchored on women voters.  (More likely this year than young voters.)

But as Cesca continued: Sadly, however, the latest polls continue to indicate that the popular vote will come down to a five-point contest.  Even Plouffe suggests a close Clinton victory is the most likely (though a blowout is second, a Trump victory third.)

However, we won't know the outcome until November 8 at the earliest.  The polls will be of little comfort the closer we get.  We won't know if voters are tuning out Trump's obvious bullshit, the baldfaced lies of his campaign manager, the trolling masked as comment by his press representatives (one of whom actually blamed Captain Khan's death on President Obama, though it happened as a result of President Bush's invasion of Iraq while Bush was in office.)  Or if indeed Trump has touched a nerve that sends true believers to vote in vast numbers unknown, while apathetic others stay home.

For it's unlikely that Republicans will dump Trump or induce him to quit so they can nominate somebody else, or that electoral college electors will revolt--some of the scenarios feverishly discussed on Wednesday.  It's unlikely Trump is going to disappear this week in a cloud of suddenly patriotic Republicans.  And that's going to make for an unpleasant three months.

We won't really know until the final election night if Trump has actually tumbled into the abyss already or not.  We only know that Trump is the abyss.

Thursday Updates: Most news today supports what I said above.  Paul Ryan refused to repudiate Trump directly but clearly went his own way with a fundraising appeal for congressional Republicans that seemed to concede the presidential to Clinton.  The WPost did an article on Clinton's outreach to Republicans, while New York noted she can do it without moving to the right.  Meanwhile, the Trump campaign rattled on, with Trump insisting everything is going great, in the face of two new polls that show Hillary up 9 points and 15 points, kind of a record.  Swing state polls also went to Clinton.  In the McClatchy poll (the 15% one), the entire field of four prez candidates was surveyed, and with young voters Trump came in fourth, with 9%.  This is better than he did with black voters in a poll not long ago, when he got 0%.  He was up to 1% in one poll today.

  Trump tried to concentrate on attacking Clinton, but instead became the story once again when he insisted on describing a video that only he has seen in his own head, after his own campaign more or less said he was delusional.  His quixotic appearance in Portland, Maine (a Democratic stronghold in a non-swing state) was continually interrupted by protests (including the silent display of those best selling copies of the Constitution) while his v.p. Mike Pence's entire strategy was unmasked by an eleven year old boy.

Meanwhile President Obama talked about the real ongoing war on ISIL, mentioned that a year after the nuclear deal with Iran it is working and Iran has no breakout capacity to make a bomb--and even the Israelis admit this and are happy about it, even if it's not worthy of a news story here, and he debunked various Trumpian fantasies, including a federally rigged election and the paid debt to Iran as ransom "defies logic."

That reminds us fondly of the Obama as Spock stories of yore.  After his press conference, the President prepared to celebrate his 55th birthday with a White House bash, and then head out for a two week vacation.

Sounds good to me.  A vacation from this loooong campaign at least.

P.S.  Almost forgot--in my attempt to leave you with at least a twisted smile, the latest headline from Borowitz:


WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Borowitz Report)—A humanitarian crisis has been unfolding over the past week as Republican refugees seeking asylum have overrun the Democratic National Committee headquarters, in Washington, D.C.

D.N.C. staffers have confirmed that they were woefully unprepared for the masses of desperate Republicans who have shown up at the D.N.C.’s door, looking for safe harbor.

“These people have been brutalized for months and have decided to risk everything to save themselves and their families,” D.N.C. staffer Tracy Klugian said. “When they tell you their stories, they are absolutely heartbreaking.”

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