The issues and the mood of the electorate were on his side and still he blew it.
At the beginning of the presidential campaign, things looked grim for the Democrats. The vast majority of the electorate believed that, after eight years of Barack Obama’s “leadership,” the country was headed in the wrong direction. The economy was lethargic, Obamacare had wrecked the health care system, and social unrest was at its highest level in decades. Even worse, their presumptive presidential nominee was a congenital liar whose tenure as Secretary of State was characterized by a series of foreign policy pratfalls. Any articulate Republican could have won the election with a reasonably competent campaign. Then the GOP nominated Donald Trump.
Many conservatives, having seen that Trump had little knowledge of the issues and less desire to learn about them, watched the primary process that produced this result with alarm. We were not merely worried about his general ignorance, however. His verbal abuse of anyone who dared to question one of his ill-informed assertions or absurd promises was a clear danger sign, particularly when it became obvious that a disproportionate amount of this boorish behavior was directed toward women. He seemed to be deliberately emulating the cartoon Republican so often evoked by the Democrats — a rich, white, misogynist male with a big mouth and a small brain.
Hillary Clinton has long since signaled that she was running on the only qualification to which she can honestly lay claim, her gender, and she accuses Trump of sexism in every speech she makes. Thus, when her creatures began offering cash for dirt on him and promising lots of juicy revelations, it was hard to escape the gnawing fear that this effort would produce charming little snippets of Trump’s tawdry world like the video and audio tapes that surfaced Friday and Saturday. So, here we are, four weeks from Election Day and the undecided voters who will pick our next President are hearing nothing about the Donald except that he is — at best — a cretin.
To grasp how disastrous this is, one has to look at it in the context of the propaganda campaign concerning the “war on women.” Forget that the GOP is the party of women’s suffrage. The Democrats and their media accomplices have convinced large numbers of voters that Republicans are anti-woman. Thus, the party already had a lot of work to do in order to recover from Mitt Romney’s poor showing among women in 2012. Trump, long since underwater with women in all of the polls, was the worst nominee for this project. This latest disaster will take him straight down to Davey Jones’ locker and take a lot of other Republicans with him.
To avoid going down with the ship, many Republicans have withdrawn their support from Trump. The Financial Times reports, “By Sunday lunchtime, more than 150 Republican politicians had split with their nominee.” Even his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, issued the following statement: “As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the… video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.” Among the prominent Republicans calling for Trump to step aside is former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, and she is by no means alone.
Trump himself, after issuing a half-hearted apology Friday, remained defiant as last night’s presidential debate approached. Early in the day he tweeted: “So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers — and elections — go down!” Trump doubled down on this in-your-face nonsense by bringing some of Bill Clinton’s victims (Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones) with him to the debate. Predictably, moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz decided early in the day to open proceedings by queuing up Clinton for a smarmy sermon on civility. So, when no audience member raised the issue, Cooper raised it himself.
Cooper failed to get much traction with the issue after badgering Trump, however, so Martha Raddatz dutifully brought it up again. And, despite the relatively small role the tapes played in the event, they dominated the post-debate “analysis” by the NBC panel of experts. These people and her fellow “journalists” will continue to bring them up and play them over and over again until Election Day. They will also pounce on two additional “oppo drops” that are reported to be on their way soon. Trump had a better debate last night than he had last time, but it wasn’t nearly good enough to make this go away. In other words, he will remain a liability to the GOP.
In August of 2015, social critic Camille Paglia said, “Trump is a Trojan Horse sent by the crafty Clinton machine. He has a bellyful of swords aimed at GOP hearts.” I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but Trump could hardly have done more damage to the Republican Party had he deliberately set out to destroy it. Even worse, he has virtually guaranteed the elevation of a truly dangerous individual to the most powerful office on the planet. Yet just a little over a year ago, 2016 looked like a reasonably easy win for the Republicans and the country. The opportunity cost of the Trump catastrophe may be far higher than the most cynical of us can imagine.