Monday, October 10, 2016

More than Trump, the Republican Party was the biggest loser in last night’s debate

Donald Trump showed during last night’s second presidential debate in St. Louis that he is willing to go down in flames, and he is happy to take down-ballot Republicans with him.

Blood is the metaphor of the morning. There is an incredible amount of talk about “bleeding” in the post-debate conversation. Literally dozens of news stories ponder whether The Donald slowed or stopped the bleeding. The emerging conventional wisdom seems to be that Trump but did not cauterize the wound.

Indeed, the GOP nominee threw just enough red meat to convince hardcore loyalists to stick with him and thwarted efforts to push him off the ticket.

With dozens of high-profile defections over the weekend, it now feels inevitable that he will lose the election. The short-term question is how badly. The long-term question is how much damage Trump does to the brand of his adopted party.

The previous chairman of the Republican National Committee tweeted this half an hour into the debate:

-- Conservative Washington Examiner columnist Byron York argues that “Trump's performance will shut down Republican defections from his struggling campaign, at least for now”: “Say you were a Republican lawmaker contemplating breaking with Trump. You didn't do it Saturday, when several GOP officials jumped, because you wanted to see how Trump would do in the debate Sunday night. Now you've seen it — a more aggressive, hard-hitting, and focused effort than Trump's losing performance in Debate One — and you're probably not going to abandon Trump now.”

Weekly Standard Executive Editor Bill Kristol concurs but describes this as a fatal mistake: “Here's the problem: Some Republican leaders could well make the mistake of thinking that because Trump wasn't destroyed at the debate, there isn't now a dire need to act. They could decide that because Trump didn't dissolve into a puddle in the center of the town hall, the situation has stabilized, and the status quo is sustainable. That would be a fatal mistake. The Declaration of Independence identified the problem: ‘All experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.’ Republicans may be disposed to suffer, rather than take bold action, contrary to the forms to which they are accustomed, to shove Trump aside. Republican leaders may think, or hope, that Trump is a sufferable evil. They will be cruelly disappointed in that judgment.” [....]

-- The result of all this is that the GOP is in a state of total paralysis: “One member of the House Republican leadership, conceding its majority was now in jeopardy, compared the situation to the 2006 scandal involving a Florida congressman’s inappropriate conduct with congressional pages. If that scandal was a house fire, this lawmaker said, Mr. Trump had brought on the political equivalent of a nuclear attack,” Alex Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman report in the New York Times. As Steven Law, a longtime confidant of Mitch McConnell who runs the main GOP super PAC focused on saving the Senate, put it: “The Republican Party is caught in a theater fire; people are just running to different exits as fast as they can."

-- Last night was proof point number 4,358: Trump cannot change. Even if he tried. Even if he wanted to. And he does not want to…

-- Wavering party leaders said they needed to see Trump show real contrition for the crude and predatory comments he made about women in 2005. Trump showed none. Instead, he went on the attack. “I’m very embarrassed by it,” Trump said in a classic non-apology (being embarrassed something appeared in the newspaper is different than being embarrassed about the substance of what was said.) “I hate it. But it’s locker-room talk. It’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse. Mine were words and his was action. What he did to women, there’s never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation who’s been so abusive to women. . . . Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously.”[...]

-- His scorched-earth tactics were the worst-case scenario that many GOP leaders had feared. Most chillingly, he promised he would try to send Clinton to jail if elected by appointing a special prosecutor to go after her. He called his opponent “the Devil.” And, as she spoke, he got in her personal space and lurked around the stage – making Rick Lazio look polite. He also repeatedly clashed with the moderators, insisting that he was not getting as much time as her (even though, by the final tally, he got more.)

Desperate, he threw the kitchen sink. He falsely accused HRC of “laughing” at a 12-year-old rape victim. He blamed her for her husband’s infidelity. “Trump even seemed to blame Clinton for the death of Capt. Humayun Khan — a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq in 2004 whose parents spoke at the Democratic convention — because as a senator she voted in favor of the Iraq War, which he himself also once supported,” Jenna Johnson notes. “He repeatedly accused Clinton of lying, being an ‘ineffective’ senator and making money off her political position. He said she had hate in her heart and didn’t care about those living in inner-city poverty.” [...]

-- Trump’s collapse has already ruined many political careers, and it will probably ruin more… The ambitious Republicans who submitted and capitulated to Trump after he personally insulted them and their families continue to be personally humiliated. Philip Rucker looks at some of the Republican leaders who stood by him and excused his behavior after attacks against women, the disabled, Latino immigrants, Muslim Americans, Syrian refugees, prisoners of war, Gold Star parents and others. Two examples from Rucker’s story:[...]

“Everything Trump touches dies,” said Republican consultant Rick Wilson, who is advising independent candidate Evan McMullin. “This is going to last forever,” he told Phil. For years now, Democrats will be able to roll out TV ads and say, ‘When John Smith says today he’s for a brighter future, remember who he stood by: Donald Trump. He stood by Donald Trump’s misogyny, racism, sexism and stupidity.’”

“The Republican Party will look like Berlin circa 1945,” added GOP operative Steve Schmidt. “The wreckage will take a substantial amount of time to pick up. There will be a restoration, but it is going to require a monumental feat of leadership by someone who has not yet revealed themselves to the American people.” [...]

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.