What did Donald Trump have left to lose Sunday night? His dignity? Please. His campaign’s theme? His Cleveland convention was a mini-Nuremberg rally for Republicans whose three-word recipe for making America great again was the shriek “Lock her up!” This presaged his banana-republican vow to imprison his opponent.
The St. Louis festival of snarls was preceded by the release of a tape that merely provided redundant evidence of what Trump is like when he is being his boisterous self. Nevertheless, the tape sent various Republicans, who until then had discovered nothing to disqualify Trump from the presidency, into paroxysms of theatrical, tactical and synthetic dismay.
George Will’s dislike for Trump isn’t surprising. He is, after all, one of those buttoned-down conservative types who finds vulgarity in places most people are just looking for a cup of coffee. Will and The Donald were never going to be besties, as the kids say.
Will does make a point or two about the Republicans who are suddenly outraged by the video released last Friday. There is no reason for them to suddenly break out their shocked faces, as Trump isn’t much of a mystery. However, he wanders into some territory that I think too many Republicans who hope for the party’s survival are dangerously flirting with this year. That is the idea that Trump is an anomaly and all will be well in Republicanland once he is gone.
Today, however, Trump should stay atop the ticket, for four reasons. First, he will give the nation the pleasure of seeing him join the one cohort, of the many cohorts he disdains, that he most despises — “losers.” Second, by continuing to campaign in the spirit of St. Louis, he can remind the nation of the useful axiom that there is no such thing as rock bottom. Third, by persevering through Nov. 8 he can simplify the GOP’s quadrennial exercise of writing its post-campaign autopsy, which this year can be published Nov. 9 in one sentence: “Perhaps it is imprudent to nominate a venomous charlatan.” Fourth, Trump is the GOP’s chemotherapy, a nauseating but, if carried through to completion, perhaps a curative experience.
The GOP was a dysfunctional mess for years before Donald Trump made good on one of his threats to run for the presidency. Remember, the party called its own assessment of the 2012 election an “autopsy.” After the party needed that autopsy, it left the same guy in charge.
There is a lot of talk this year about Trump being “the one” Republican who can’t beat Hillary Clinton. Well, in 2012 President Obama was vulnerable over the horrific launch of his signature piece of legislation and the GOP nominated “the one” candidate who really couldn’t go after Obamacare.
Trump isn’t a Republican anomaly, he’s a Republican theme.
The #NeverTrump crowd tends to think along the “it’ll be all better when he’s gone” line too, and that may do more long-term damage to the GOP than Trump ever could. All of the hyper-focus on Trump is giving the Republican Party a pass on almost everything but the stupid primary process it set up this year.
There were ingrained problems in the GOP that led to the fractured electorate that helped Trump win the nomination. I detailed some of them last May. If Trump loses, and the GOP simply lets out a collective “Whew!” and proceeds with business as usual, it’s going to need another round of chemo.