The Republican Convention was a tour de farce of plagiarism, F-list celebrities, lies, and stupidity, capped off by Trump’s “This country is a hellhole, and you’re all going to stay unemployed, lose your jobs and/or die if you don’t elect me” speech. The Democratic Convention was a well-run affair, featuring speeches by actual celebrities and accomplished elected officials, none of whom seemed to be raving lunatics. There was some bad behavior from sour Sanders dead-enders, but they’re now gone and irrelevant.
Hillary Clinton gave an okay speech that accomplished one big thing: it put the Democratic Party on the offensive, seizing the mantle of what it means to be an American in 2016. This is remarkable to me, as the Democratic Party has been on the defensive my entire life when it comes to questions of which party better represents American ideals.
The conventions mark the point in an election cycle when the general American electorate begins to think seriously about the choices for president. For those of us who follow politics on a daily basis, it seems unbelievable that many Americans don’t know anything about the candidates or the parties’ platforms before the conventions, but that is actually the case. The conventions help voters focus by formally deciding on their candidates and providing them and their parties with four days of prime time opportunities to introduce themselves and their policies.
In the wake of last month’s conventions, Clinton quickly took a commanding lead in the polls and has yet to relinquish much if any of it. It turns out that Trump’s candidacy, catering to the grievances and resentments of a faction within one of the major parties, cannot gain much traction with the general electorate in 2016. I always thought/hoped that the election would look like this after the conventions. Trump may have won the votes of 50% or so of the Republican Party’s base by letting the racist freak flag fly, but it didn’t survive first contact with the general electorate. This is why polling trackers give Trump almost no chance of winning the election. FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton an 83.6% chance of winning, likely in an Electoral College landslide. Meanwhile, RealClearPolitics finds that Clinton pretty much has a lock on 272 Electoral College votes (270 are needed to win the presidency). That’s even without quadrennial swing states like Florida and Ohio that have leaned Democratic the last few presidential elections.
Trump is now desperate. He can’t abide losing. He’s an idiot. So what’s a desperate idiot who’s losing supposed to do?
It turns out that he’s reneging on his promise to deport all undocumented immigrants, flirting with the dread “amnesty” on Fox News Channel with Sean Hannity last night. This must be an effort to stop looking like a racist gleefully intent on mobilizing the forces of the federal government to hunt down 11 million people, deport them, and break up their families. Trump’s too dumb to realize that that horse has left the barn, got hit by a freight train, and then had its hooves salvaged for glue.
The Trump campaign is out of ideas and tricks. It doesn’t know what the point of itself is anymore. Like Fonzie and Happy Days in its fifth season premiere, it has jumped the shark.
When you find yourself flip flopping on the one issue that got you the nomination, it’s time to pack up and go home. Imagine Hillary Clinton securing the nomination, and then saying maybe it’s okay if we don’t have universal pre-K or paid family and medical leave after all. Or Sanders securing the nomination, and then saying big financial banks should remain large and unregulated and hey maybe the rich pay enough in taxes after all. They’d be skewered and rightfully so.
Where does Trump go from here? The election is still two and a half months away and there’s just no point to him anymore. Trump was useful in the sense that it was useful to learn for a certainty that 30 to 40% of the country’s voters are ignorant rubes, just waiting for a Trump to come along and take their dignity and/or their money. But if Trump can’t even keep the one position he’s held clearly and consistently, which enabled him to beat all the other Republican candidates – including John Kasich and Marco Rubio both of whom I think could’ve won the general election – what exactly is he doing?
Before trying to answer that question, I’d like to introduce readers to “Trump’s Razor.” This is a principle coined by John Scalzi to capture what Josh Marshall was getting at in this piece about how Trump immediately regretted and tried to reverse his decision to have Mike Pence run as his candidate for Vice President (remember that happened!?!?). As Marshall wrote in a follow up piece:
According to Trump’s Razor: “ascertain the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts” and that answer is likely correct.
Let’s take a look at some of the available facts from recent weeks:
- Trump’s campaign chair Paul Manafort resigned amidst reports that he lobbied for pro-Russian interests, possibly committing a crime.
- Manafort was replaced by two new people: Steve Bannon, the guy who’s been running Breitbart and turned it into a haven for white nationalists and misogynists; and Kellyanne Conway, presumably hired to help Trump gain ground with women. (Women, it should be noted, generally don’t care for misogynists.)
- Trump began addressing African Americans directly but speaking in front of mostly white audiences. Is he winning them over with statements like these:
“Our government has totally failed our African American friends, our Hispanic friends and the people of our country. Period,” Trump said in Akron, Ohio, straying from the prepared remarks the campaign provided to reporters. “The Democrats have failed completely in the inner cities. For those hurting the most who have been failed and failed by their politician — year after year, failure after failure, worse numbers after worse numbers. Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats. And I ask you this, I ask you this — crime, all of the problems — to the African Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people: What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I’ll straighten it out. I’ll straighten it out. What do you have to lose?”
- Trump opined that women who face sexual harassment at work should find new careers.
- As mentioned previously, Trump tried to get a do-over on Pence as V.P.
- Trump spent days defending his statement that, literally, Obama founded ISIS. Then he backtracked, accusing people of not understanding sarcasm. It wasn’t sarcasm, literally or figuratively.
We could go on. So, what’s the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts? I’m open to other suggestions, but I’d say the stupidest possible scenario is that nobody in the Trump campaign nor Trump himself has any idea what they’re doing. They make it up on a daily basis, constantly changing to meet the demands of Trump’s feel for the audience he’s talking to at that particular moment. Or, as with Trump’s flirting with doing a 180 on his immigration policy after meeting with some Hispanic leaders, constantly changing to meet the demands of whichever person he spoke to last.
I’m on the record as stating that it’s good for a politician to shift their stances on issues in response to the preferences of his or her electorate, but this is ridiculous. What use is a political campaign in a democracy if it’s not pushing anything resembling a consistent agenda? We still have 74 days of this left. How many more people have to realize they’ve been had and are holding a worthless piece of paper from Trump University before this collapses under the weight of its own asininity?
The Trump campaign, like a perpetually drunken cat, just isn’t interesting or helpful anymore.