Within the past two weeks, the Republicans held a dreadfully negative convention that made Donald Trump and the GOP look worse in the eyes of voters. During that convention, Trump attacked the home-state governor; the Republican National Committee strong-armed the rules committee to run over Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) and other dissenters; Melania Trump’s speech turned out to be plagiarized; and the No. 2 finisher in the primary got booed off stage for refusing to back the nominee. And that was better for Republicans than the week that followed.
The Democratic convention, which easily could have been confused with a GOP convention from the 1980s, pretty much united the party and presented it as the grown-up, inclusive, patriotic and sane party. While the Dems were meeting, Trump was inviting Russia to practice its brand of cyberwarfare on the United States and insisting Vladimir Putin could be our pal. Most important, Democrats introduced the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan to the country, thereby unhinging Trump.
Trump thereupon spent more days than he did in Cleveland attacking the Gold Star parents. (On Tuesday, he said he regretted nothing.) Over the weekend, he suggested that either Crimea isn’t part of Ukraine or he was unaware Russia is in more than Crimea. Tuesday (we’re only up to Tuesday!), he said he wished he had a Purple Heart too, told Americans not to invest in the stock market, said strong women don’t get sexually harassed and refused to back three GOP incumbent congressmen. Oh, and he says he knows the election is being rigged because he just “hears things” (the whispers of imaginary friends maybe?) and can “feel it.”
I’ve probably forgotten a few more blunders, but we may have witnessed the worst two-week stretch of any presidential candidate ever. Trump has now managed to raise the issue of his own mental stability. He has undercut the argument that he is capable of been guided or restrained by advisers or Congress. And he has demonstrated how inept a manager he is. (Clinton has about $98 million of prepaid TV ad time; Trump has about $1 million.) It is fair to say that if he is this out-of-control and unhinged in an election, he’d be a basket case in the Oval Office.
It is important to look at the totality of Trump’s actions not only in the past two weeks but over the course of these many months — his habitual lying (for one thing, about his willingness to release his tax returns), unremitting ignorance, racist comments about a federal judge and gutter-dwelling campaign designed to appeal to hate and fear. What we have seen in two weeks is not new, but rather a highly condensed excerpt of the sort of campaign he’s been running all along.
From all of this one can conclude that, barring some catastrophic event, Trump will and most definitely should lose. One can also conclude that the RNC leadership, in tying itself and the entire party to Trump, demonstrated monumentally horrible judgment, as did the vast majority of elected Republicans, who have enabled him and stuck with him. (If there is still an RNC after the election, the headquarters should be figuratively leveled so an entire new staff, new operation and new mindset can develop.) And finally, it is not so hard to imagine a great number of Republicans (beyond a few conscientious operatives) leaving the party until it returns to its senses — but maybe never if given the option of another viable party.
So that’s what’s happened over the past two weeks. We have a sneaking suspicion we’ve not yet hit bottom.