Okay….Yesterday was the last day of the Republican convention. It was without a doubt the weirdest national conclave in my lifetime.
If Trump did not pose such a threat to national security and American values, the spectacle might have been entertaining; as it is, I can’t help worrying that there might be enough anti-Other, angry, civicly-illiterate voters to put this dangerous ignoramus in office.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has one of the better summaries of the spectacle. (Marshall has also memorably defined what he calls Trump’s Razor: “Ascertain the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts.”) The entire article is well worth reading, but here are a few of his most trenchant observations.
The Republican party nominated a man because of his ability to dominate and denigrate opponents and summon up a plethora of demons already rumbling under the seas of Republican revanchism. The man was and is a charlatan and a grifter, the master of a Potemkin Village world rooted in narcissism and aggression which creaks and staggers under even the most measured scrutiny….
Indeed, while this conflagration was erupting in Cleveland another bomb, which Trump himself had lit earlier in the day, was going off on the pages of The New York Times. One can debate whether it is wise or sensible for the United States to guarantee the independence of small states on the periphery of Russia which had for centuries been either within the Russian domain or inside its sphere of influence. But we have. In his comments to the Times, Trump treated the matter like a real estate goon shaking down a distressed landlord to make an easy buck.
Trump’s mix of cocky ambiguity and predation could scarcely be better primed to trigger the kind of great power confrontation that could push the world from smoldering to fire. It is no exaggeration to say that were it not for the relative confidence that Trump will be defeated in November that interview alone could trigger a genuine international crisis….
On his own Trump is simply a bracing case study in abnormal psychology. But he didn’t shoot to within reach of the most powerful office in the world by happenstance. He is the product of a political and cultural breakdown on the American right, a swaggering reductio ad absurdum of every breach and breakdown and violation of extra-statutory norms we’ve seen over the last two or three decades.
Even more chilling–if possible– is the response of the Trump campaign to a supporter’s call to murder Hillary Clinton. It has gone beyond the rabid chants to “lock her up,” as staggering a deviation from democratic norms as that sentiment represents; a Trump advisor who said Clinton should be “shot for treason” is now being investigated by the Secret Service for threatening the former First Lady and Secretary of State’s life.
Any responsible campaign would immediately disavow a person making such a statement. Not this one.
In response to Baldasaro’s attack, Trump Campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said: “We’re incredibly grateful for his support, but we don’t agree with his comments.”
Again, Josh Marshall summarizes the import and context of that “wink wink” statement:
Do I think people on the Trump campaign really want to see Clinton injured or killed? No, I do not. But I do think they believe that exciting a climate of agitated grievance, militant anger and aggression helps them galvanize, gain and intensify support. On one and three they’re likely right. Just as importantly, they clearly believe that any clear denunciation of the growing chorus of angry and occasionally violent threats would demoralize and dishearten a key part of their base. Trump’s brand is dominance and submission. Provocation is his calling card. Calling a pause on their more febrile supporters would simply be off brand and would be hard to clearly differentiate in kind from the campaign-endorsed demand for her incarceration.
Just this week, David Duke reaffirmed his strong support for Trump, and once again, there has been no disavowal of that support from the campaign. Meanwhile, the ghostwriter of “Art of the Deal” described Trump as a nine-year-old with ADHD, and predicted disaster should he be elected.
My ulcer has been acting up ever since this Presidential campaign began, and I think I know why.