A suicide has the same practical effect as an assassination. The political troubles of Donald Trump, whether self-inflicted or caused by the nonstop focus on his verbal gaffes (to the maddening exclusion of substantive administration scandals such as the bribery of Iran and the administration’s shameful alliance with Putin in the Middle East) may succeed in destroying his candidacy.
The disqualification of Trump is well under way, whether it be at his own hands, or those of the Republican establishment whose hopes have been revived by his mistakes, or by the Deep State, who are hinting at the possibility of charging Trump with a violation of the Logan Act.
Whether it succeeds or not remains to be seen. The question is what happens afterward, after Donald has performed his historic task of destruction. Trump may, by some miracle, win the presidency. Yet, that would not bring the play to the end; it would only drag it out as an extension of the campaign, completely stymied at every turn by the media, blocked by both political parties and reviled by the academy. It would be four years of deadlock.
It will bring no resolution and the next act which must hold us in suspense. The curtain will likely rise on a scene of establishment revenge. If the failed coup in Turkey taught one lesson it is that anyone who strikes at the sultan must kill him. The Turkish rebels failed to topple Erdogan and must now endure his wrath. The unavoidable aftermath of a busted challenge is purge.
In America a Hillary victory will take the form of unabashed consolidation. It may even take the case of punitive prosecution and social media bans on the most annoying critics of the establishment. There will be USSC appointments and changes to the 2nd and 1st Amendments. They will, in a word, be characterized by intense reaction from those with the most to lose. It will be full of “safe spaces” for new and invasive ideologies. What space is left for beaten traditional America will be decidedly more perilous and under siege.
But it will be the savagery of a wounded beast. The Republican Party will take decades to recover, if it ever will. The Democratic Party will have become permanent hostage to its most authoritarian elements. Collectively, the establishment party in Washington will have ceased to command the respect of half, or more than half of the population. It will emerge seemingly triumphant after Trump, yet without a future; dominated only by mediocrities, sellouts and rogues.
One of the more interesting news stories of recent weeks was that the Koch Brothers were not supporting a presidential candidate this election. They were carefully promoting key Senate candidates a sign that they are looking beyond a first round KO to winning by points in the middle rounds.
History will remember Trump for having derailed the train and hurtled politics into an uncharted path. Now it needs a second phase to get anywhere. The key to solving the destination problem is to understand what the 2016 election is about. Is it an election between two flawed candidates or is it a referendum in disguise?
Both Cruz and Rubio attempted to run conservative platforms within the two party system. The reason they failed in the primaries was because there was a significant bloc of voters who were not interested in choosing the policy content of the current system. They wanted an up or down vote on the system itself. This made conservatism a second-order issue and caused the Cruz-Rubio campaigns to fall upon deaf ears.
By contrast Trump had no discernible set of systematic beliefs. On many issues he was as far to the Left as Hillary. But his policy beliefs are not of interest to many voters: it was his willingness to take on the current system that constituted the unspoken core of his message. He understood the question. The others were missing the mark by answering the wrong one.
Cruz and Rubio failed due to the perception they were going to work within the system. Trump’s appeal is that of a bull in a china shop whose figurines you hate.
The really shocking thing about 2016 is that the public was far more radicalized than the pundits and pollsters — and politicians — anticipated. This mental state accounts for the curious reaction of Trump’s supporters to his gaffes. They ignore them and double down on their assertions. In other words they are acting just like left-wing publics have acted for years.
The system of political discourse was only stable for as long as it observed the unwritten rule that only one side was allowed to transgress while the other simply endured it. The Dems played the Globetrotters and the GOP the Washington Generals. You could book as many elections — pardon me, tournaments — in venues as long as you knew this relationship held.
What’s destabilizing the system is that a section of the public — Trump included — now dare to say things that as are outrageous as Obama’s claim that he never paid ransom to Iran; or Hillary’s assertion that her email server never held classified information.
You lie, I Iie. What difference at this point does it make? Eh Hillary? Suddenly the men on the court are actually playing basketball. Maybe not Trump, but Trump’s supporters. The left is being paid back in its own, admittedly counterfeit, coinage and “this means war.” Indeed, war can be defined as the state where both sides play by the same rules. The tacit custom for example, is that only one side can send suicide bombers to Paris. The other side can’t return the favor. The system is stable as long as the attacks are one way. When Paris starts sending suicide bombers to Saudi Arabia, you’ll know the world is at war. Until then it is merely business as usual. It’s merely pretend.
The attempts to politically liquidate Trump may be rational from a certain point of view. But they miss the mark entirely. The establishment is on trial, not Trump. Trump is already damned to reality show hell. He has nothing to lose. Donald’s opponents may in the end succeed in bringing him down. But they may find it has solved nothing. Everyone is now on the road that Hillary and Trump have set events on — and nobody is sure where it goes.
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