WASHINGTON – Apparently we’ve reached the part where Donald Trump, not satisfied with having demolished the Republican Party, tries to bring down the rest of the political system as well. No one should be surprised.
The garbage that comes out of his mouth gets more vile and putrid by the day. On Tuesday, he suggested that fervent defenders of the right to keep and bear arms could take things into their own hands if Hillary Clinton were elected. It was a shocking incitement to political violence.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Trump told a rally in North Carolina. “Although the Second Amendment people – maybe there is, I don’t know.”
We all understood exactly what he was saying. House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that perhaps he was trying to be funny. Since Trump knows nothing, perhaps Ryan will explain to him that five of our 44 presidents have been shot while in office.
A day later, Trump was equally unhinged at a Florida rally when he went on a bizarre rant about the terrorist Islamic State, also known as ISIS. “In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama. ISIS is honoring President Obama. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. The founder. He founded ISIS. And I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”
Be honest, all you Republicans who support Trump despite knowing better. If you were walking down the sidewalk and someone coming toward you was screaming those words verbatim, you’d cross the street. This is the man you want to entrust with the nuclear codes? Seriously?
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt tried gamely to help Trump clean up the mess. “I know what you meant,” he told the candidate Thursday, “you meant that [Obama] created the vacuum, he lost the peace.”
“No, I meant that he’s the founder of ISIS, I do,” Trump said. “He was the most valuable player.”
Hewitt suggested this line of attack was a mistake. Trump’s reply: “No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it.”
So much for the idea that Trump, at some point, will undergo a metamorphosis and turn into a normal candidate, the kind who doesn’t go around encouraging political assassination or accusing the president of founding a terrorist group. If the cheering crowds at his hate-filled rallies are happy, Trump is happy.
Speaker Ryan and all you other reluctant Trump supporters, you know as well as I do that he’s not going to change. Not ever. You will recall that this was supposed to be the week when Trump turned to the economy. He even gave a teleprompter-aided speech Monday that was generally praised by conservatives, who clearly are willing to grade their candidate on an absurdly generous curve. But within a day, Trump was back to setting new lows in the history of modern presidential campaigning. If there is a trophy for Most Dishonest and Destructive, Trump is determined to retire it.
He is also determined, apparently, to rationalize his likely defeat by claiming the election was stolen from him.
The other trope he keeps returning to these days is that the election is somehow being “rigged.” He claims that the striking down of discriminatory voter ID laws in North Carolina, Wisconsin and elsewhere would make this possible. He fails to explain why Republican officials – who administer the voting process in most states – would want to steal the election from their own party.
The point isn’t logic, of course. It’s emotion. Trump strikes a chord with Republicans who cannot bring themselves to admit they were beaten fair and square by Barack Obama, not once but twice. Trump has long sought to delegitimize Obama by refusing to disown all the “birther” nonsense and insinuating that the president has some sympathy for jihadists. Now Trump seeks to delegitimize the likely next president as well by claiming the election will be rigged.
In 2000, after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Florida recount must cease, Al Gore graciously conceded to George W. Bush. Gore said he was doing so “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy.”
Can anyone imagine Trump ever giving such a speech?
Trump wants to stoke anger, resentment and victimhood. He abases our democracy – and Republican elected officials abase themselves by supporting him. History will have no mercy for Trump’s enablers.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.