The train metaphor was spot-on when Trump was unstoppable. And it would be easy to call what’s happening now a train wreck. But really, there were never any rails. Rails imply planning, and an actual destination.
So I’m imagining his campaign as an ATV driven recklessly over uneven dusty hills. The Donald has eschewed brakes and seat belts, and he’s flipped the thing more times than you can count, but each time he crawled from beneath the wreckage miraculously unharmed.
Incredible! Death-defying! Unbelievable! Terrifying!
But the crash this time is different. Now the ATV has two flat tires and slow leaks in the other two. No matter. Trump’s current mechanics—a pair of despicable Steves (campaign CEO Bannon and speechwriter Miller)—slapped the wreckage back together with duct tape. The Donald is himself bungeed into the driver’s seat. He’s gassed up and roaring up and down the hills again at full throttle.
What could go wrong? Well, the Steves are jumping around while pointing at a squadron of black helicopters approaching from the distance. You know what happens when they arrive; they’re playing Ride of the Valkyres.
Staffing those helicopters are the Clinton campaign, the liberal media, Paul Ryan and the Republican Party hierarchy, and now also “a global power structure” of corporate interests allied with a secret international cabal that seems drawn straight from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. All that’s missing is a Nazi invasion from the Moon.
Oh wait, that last one would be Trump’s campaign.
On Saturday, Trump began claiming that Clinton wins debates because she’s taking performance enhancing drugs. For weeks, he’s been complaining that all the polls are rigged. That’s so when they match the rigged election results, even in a landslide, he’ll be proven right.
He’s a wounded animal backed into a corner. He calls Hillary Clinton the devil, urges his followers to “lock her up,” “hate her with all your heart,” and this past week wished that some woman in his audience would please falsely accuse President Obama of sexual assault. You know, because fair is fair.
Since no woman has done this (so far), I must grant his followers a modicum of sense.
Trump is certainly not showing any. Timothy Egan writes in the New York Times that “Day after day, he rips at the last remaining threads of decency holding this nation together. … For much of the last year, the Republican presidential nominee has been a freak show … but now, in the final days of a horrid campaign … he’s determined to cause lasting damage.”
Trump has called for poll watchers, and I read about darkly enthusiastic volunteers who plan to follow people into the polls to make sure they don’t vote multiple times. That’s not only trouble, it’s nonsense. You know how it works when you vote: you show your ID, they find your name on the list and cross it out, and then they give you a ballot. You can go through the line again, but you name will still be crossed out. And your name is not on the rolls of any other precinct.
So poll watchers, please tell me what you’ll be checking besides the color of a voter’s skin.
What happens after he loses? You know that Trump will never concede. He’ll sue. And his die-hards will riot. But how many are out there? In these last few weeks, as more women tell their stories of Trump assaults, we’ll get to see just how high—and how solid—his floor of support really is.
Or perhaps I mean how low. Conservative columnist and Never-Trumper Eric Erickson sadly observed: “The party that once impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair has defended a man who bragged about sexual assault.”
I’m with Erickson. The most disturbing thing about Donald Trump is not how many people he has alienated, but how many people still approve of him. It’s common knowledge that he’s a crude asshole who says exactly what’s on his mind. I’m actually grateful for that.
But I must ask, and I am afraid to hear the answer: exactly how much of America does he reflect? It’s a minority—if you believe those rigged polls!—but they are getting ever louder. Trump rallies now feature unbidden taunts of “press-titutes” and “CNN sucks” shouted at reporters, while Trump calls them “…cogs in a corporate, political machine.”
There is some hope. Michelle Obama went high in Manchester, New Hampshire, with what’s being called the best speech of the campaign. It’s even better than the one she gave at the Democratic Convention. The essence of it: “Strong men, men who are truly role models, don’t need to put down women for themselves to feel powerful.”
…which finally brings me to the sex. Someone in Trump’s campaign—was it Bannon?—pledged to “make Bill Clinton into Bill Cosby,” ignoring that Trump has done that to himself. He’s appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show for years, touting his peccadilloes, proclivities, and describing his sexual abuse M.O.
The New York Times responded to his threat of a lawsuit with a wonderfully snarky letter from their lawyers. Its essence: “Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.”
Now I hear that the fat mouth on Jeb Bush’s cousin may have extruded the final straw. The Washington Post’s Page Six reports that Access Hollywood staffers went looking for the now-infamous Trump video after Billy Bush bragged about it while covering the Olympics in Rio last August.
I think of political cartoons as an indicator of our national mood or viewpoint. Tell me the last time you saw Bill Clinton in a political cartoon that did not reference his womanizing. There are damn few.
That’s Donald Trump’s future now. He doesn’t have a rational defense at this point, so he’s offering surreal ones instead:
- These accusers are lying because they aren’t attractive enough to attack. Hmm, doesn’t that imply that he does attack women if they’re hot enough?
- Bill Clinton is sexual predator! (…and he was president, so it’s OK to elect another sexual predator—Donald Trump.) The sad truth in that accusation is that there will be a predator in the White House come January, no matter who gets elected. The difference is that Hillary’s husband won’t hold an official office. Just the ironic title “First Gentleman.”
- Anthony Gilberthorpe, the volunteer offering an alibi for Trump’s 1980s “airplane assault” has scandals of his own. And even if this guy has the photographic memory he claims, how does that prove that all Trump’s other accusers are lying?
But a fondness for conspiracy theories isn’t the only culprit. Carelessness has been rampant, including a rejection of requests from both previous campaign managers Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort for opposition research—traditional for any public figure—and a foolish lack of preparation for the debates. After nearly 60 hot-mic sniffles in the first debate, you’d think someone would have trained the Trumpster to not sound like a cocaine addict. But no. In the second debate, my wife tallied 92 sniffles.
And Donald is accusing Hillary of drugging!
In yet another addition to the surreality, Melania Trump threatened to sue People magazine, claiming that Natasha Stoynoff had “completely fictionalized” portions of her detailed story about Donald’s sexual assault. But she wanted People to remove only the two sentences in the story that named Melania as a friend. This despite the fact that Stoynoff attended Melania’s wedding. Maybe she came as Donald’s friend?
Each day seems to bring a new accuser. Or two. And Donald keeps dismissing them as liars because they aren’t attractive enough! No matter how often you tell him, it’s clear that he doesn’t think that what he’s done is wrong. Like the lying, it’s simply who he is.
Richard Hatch, the winner of Survivor’s first season, offered some evidence while risking a $5 million lawsuit based on the nondisclosure agreement that he signed for his appearance on The Apprentice:
“Watching [Trump] in the boardroom making sexual comments to Marlee Matlin, to all of the women on The Apprentice, it was obvious that that’s just a part of who he is,” Hatch said in People magazine. “It was obvious and it was grotesque. It was blatant and it was frequent. He did it with Lisa Rinna; he did it with Marlee Matlin. He did it with whomever happened to be there at the time… He did it in front of Ivanka. That was not just uncomfortable for me. It was weird.”
“He doesn’t engage with women normally,” Hatch said on Entertainment Tonight. “I think he thinks he’s complimenting people, when he’s practically drooling… My guess would be that he would describe it as flirting.”
Meanwhile, Republicans continue to flirt with legal election fraud: their tactic of denying the legitimate right to vote. According to ThinkProgress, “Ohio has purged nearly 2 million voters in the past five years. Many had merely failed to vote in every single election and a disproportionate number were low-income, black, Democratic voters. The state is resisting legal attempts to restore these voters to the rolls.
There have been several important court victories that undid voter ID laws designed to disenfranchise voters of color, but for far, far from all.
Feeling stressed? Take heart, the end is in sight. To help you through these final weeks, I offer a long stick and a parade of Trump piñatas:
Political Survivor #58 – Subscribe!