The man who cannot stand criticism, the man who cannot stand to lose, is losing, and there will be hell to pay. Try to imagine what it would be like to play a game of Monopoly, or even checkers with Donald Trump … and beat him! In all likelihood, the winner would be accused of cheating, and the game would be destroyed in a fit of vile temper! Yes, as of today, the man is losing. Depending on which poll you look at, he is anywhere between 4% – 15% behind Clinton. Today, I will refrain from a discussion of why he is losing, but rather turn my thoughts to what will this mean in the coming weeks. For we all know by now that Trump does not take kindly to being anything less than numero uno.
After the Democratic National Convention, Trump said that now he could take the gloves off, and he has certainly done that, which is in part what has turned some of his would-be supporters off. But how much farther can he go? I think we have finally come to understand that there are no limits when it comes to his spite and vengefulness, even when the wrongs done to him are figments of his imagination. This is where I perceive the danger. The entire election process has gone off-track and at this point is unlikely to regain any modicum of sanity, but vengeance and retaliation seem to be the norm where Trump is concerned. It is one thing, and perfectly correct, to say that these methods are unacceptable behaviour from a presidential candidate, a man who wishes to govern from the highest level. But wringing our hands and decrying that it is “unacceptable” will not stop the madness. The only thing that will stop the madness is imposing real-world consequences for those unacceptable actions.
With few exceptions, Donald Trump has been able to say just about anything without consequence. Certainly the dip in his poll numbers is consequence for some of his more recent rhetoric. However, polls and voters are fickle and can change overnight. Next week he could just as easily have a lead over Clinton. The consequences need to be more lasting and more serious than polls, especially in light of the fact that Trump claims the polls are all rigged anyway. For example, when he made the comment earlier in the week that “Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” most everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, agreed that it was a highly inappropriate remark. However, there need to be consequences. It is reported by a Secret Service official that they have “spoken to the Trump campaign” regarding the remark. Trump denies that any such conversation took place, and speaking to the “campaign” is not quite the same thing as speaking to the man from whose mouth the comment came.
Granted, the 1st Amendment provides a broad brush with which to colour every citizen’s speech, but there are limits. Trump blew off his remark about the “2nd Amendment people”, as did his lemmings. His campaign staff tried to go behind with their broom and dustpan and clean up the mess he left, just as they always do, trying to explain “what he really meant.” They do that a lot these days.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the remark is that it shows an escalation in Trump’s demeanor, and it should be throwing up red flags to us all. It says that Trump has decided there are no limits to what he can say, and that even if there are limits, they either don’t apply to him, else his paid minions will come along behind him and clean up the mess. It also says he is confident that at the end of the day, his lemmings will still be his lemmings. His goal, therefore, becomes not to try to lure Clinton supporters or those who are as yet ‘undecided’ away by proving himself to be the better candidate, but instead to drive them away by doing whatever it takes to make Clinton appear to be a distasteful choice. If that fails, well, perhaps there is more way than one to skin a cat, such as planting a seed in the mind of some John Hinckley type that killing his opposition would be a good idea.
What I believe should have happened when he made that remark is that the Secret Service, who were there at the time for his protection, should have escorted him from the venue immediately and taken him for a talk, whereby he should have been told in no uncertain terms that if he made such a statement again he would be considered to be inciting violence and would be disciplined accordingly, just as would be any other citizen. But Trump, with his thin skin, has made it clear that he is to be handled with kid gloves, lest he turn and attack. It is reminiscent of a mad dog who cannot be captured because he will attack anyone who tries. Think Cujo.
Just like a child who will test the limits to see just how much he can get by with, and will stop only when parents step in, Trump will not police his own actions. He knows no boundaries, as he has never had any. Knowing the difference between what is appropriate and inappropriate requires the thing that Donald Trump lacks: a conscience. So what is the answer? Cause and effect, actions and consequences. Where do those consequences come from, since he will scream it is a violation of his 1st Amendment rights if any attempt is made to punish him under the law for his remarks?
The media. Thus far, the media has given Trump almost unlimited passes on the things he has said, but that needs to stop. Certainly there are journalists who have taken Trump to task during the past year, but Trump’s supporters do not read Nicholas Kristoff, George Will or Bill Press. They watch Fox News and MSNBC. If the right-wing media outlets finally decide that Trump has exceeded the limits of decency and stop making excuses, giving him free passes, and laughing off his excesses, then perhaps at least some of his supporters will finally come to realize that the man they are following is leading them to a very bad place indeed. Even among the liberal media, Ms. Clinton … indeed, any other candidate … would be reviled if she said even half of what Trump has said. Why the double standard?
The GOP. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus reportedly told Donald Trump in a phone call last week that if he doesn’t turn his flailing campaign around, the national party may shift its focus from his candidacy to down-ballot races. Priebus even went so far as to tell Trump that he “would have been better off had he spent the days since the Republican convention at his Mar-a-Lago Club,” according to GOP officials. Trump, of course, denies the conversation. Recently a number of prominent Republicans have announced that they do not support and will not vote for Trump. The officials went on to say that Priebus reminded Trump that his title is RNC chairman, not chairman of the Trump campaign, adding that he would act in the best interests of the Republican Party. It is anybody’s guess whether this conversation actually took place, though I would guess that either this or a similar conversation did, in fact, transpire. If the GOP switches its focus to the Senate and House races, the result could be more split-ticket voting than we have seen in years past, and would likely further dim any hope Trump has for the Oval Office.
If anything is to convince voters that Trump is highly unqualified for the job of president, I believe it will be a combination of the media and the Republican Party that will need to take the lead and strip him of the power his rhetoric seems to have over the masses. I once said that if we gave Trump enough rope he would hang himself, but every time he does, his supporters jump up and loosen the rope. It is going to take some skilled and conscionable people in the media and the GOP to make sure the rope stays in place between now and November. Who better than the media who helped him rise to this level to begin with and the Party who were too blind to see what was right under their very noses?