Like a slug in the nation’s political “garden,” Donald Trump leaves destruction in his wake, and a trail of slime that we will have to contend with long after he’s slithered off the scene.
It’s only Wednesday, but Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is already having such a lousy week that there’s speculation he’s looking for a way out, or at least a way to save face. Mired in an argument with the parents of a fallen Muslim-American war hero, and beset by troubling poll numbers, both the candidate and his party appear to be looking for an escape hatch.
Trump’s argument with Khizr and Ghazala Khan — the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004 by a suicide bomber — after Mr. Khan spoke out against him at the Democratic convention, has been disastrous for Trump’s campaign. It has earned him criticism from both parties, and led to denouncements from Republicans and conservative organizations.
- Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) became the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Hillary Cliton. In an interivew published on Syracuse.Com, Hanna said Trump is “unfit to serve our party and cannot lead this country.”
- Close Trump ally, New Jersey governor Chris Christie distanced himself from Trump, calling his criticisms of the Khans “inappropriate.”
- The Veterans of Foreign Wars slammed Trump’s attack on the Khan family as “out of bounds.” “Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression,” said VFW Commander-in-Chief Brian Duffy.
“Always get even. When you are in business, you need to get even with people who screw you.” – Think Big
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2013
Trump is now refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain in their primary races. Both Ryan and McCain stuck their necks out to endorse Trump, but both also condemned his attacks on the Khans, though neither withdrew his endorsement.
If that’s how Trump repays those who went out on a limb to endorse him, maybe Republicans are worried about how he will reward the party that gave him its nomination. Maybe that’s why Republicans are scrambling to find a replacement, out of fear Trump might quit or implode. The party can’t force Trump out, now that he’s the nominee, but if he quit the race, that would give the 168 members of the RNC until September to fill the gap. It may seem far-fetched, but a presidential candidate inviting a foreign country to launch a cyber attack on the US and picking a public fight with a Gold Star family also seemed far-fetched, until last week.
Republicans may have good reason to worry. Trump is already making noises that suggest he might not stick around until November. Last month, Trump hinted to the New York Times that he might forego the office, even if he defeated Hillary Clinton to win the presidency.
It’s just as likely Trump will quit before the election, if it looks like he’s going to lose. Trump’s narcissism would never allow him to accept defeat, least of all by a woman. It’s no coincidence that Trump began preparing to back out of the debates and suggesting the election might be “rigged,” the same week Hillary Clinton made gains in polls across the country, and extends her lead over him to eight points
Despite unwavering support from his base, Trump is extremely unpopular with just about everyone else. In June, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 70 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of Trump, and 56 percent felt “strongly” about it.
Trump is far more unpopular than Hillary Clinton. Though Clinton has problems of her own — among voters under 40, and white voters — she does far better among her key constituencies. Meanwhile, more than half of Republican voters wish Trump wasn’t their nominee. A Fox News poll early last month showed that 71 percent of Republicans thought Trump was “obnoxious,” while 44 percent said he lacks the experience to lead.
The Republican convention did little to help Trump’s popularity. Instead of giving him the expected “bounce,” the Republican convention put Trump father behind in the polls. A recent Gallup poll found that just 36 percent said they were more likely to vote for Trump after watching the GOP convention, while 51 percent said they were less likely. It was the first time since Gallup started asking in 1984 that a candidate left the convention with a net negative. Previously, conventions left candidates with a net positive of anywhere between a couple of percentage points to 45 points on average.
Like most of his campaign, up to and including his fight with the Khans, Trump’s Republican convention was tailor made to satisfy his base, which account for about 40 percent of the population. The twin themes of fear and anger appealed to white conservatives alarmed by shrinking demographics, and fading political and culture primacy.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 confirmed impending changes that many had perhaps feared. Covertly stoking those fears wasn’t enough to secure victory for Republicans, but the anger that followed gave birth to the tea party movement. The re-election of Barack Obama in 2012 spelled defeat for the restoration of primacy some white conservative voters hoped a Romney victory would bring. The anger that followed, arguably, gave us the Trump phenomenon in full, festering bloom today. Given the pattern following 2008 and 2012, what will happen if Trump loses to Hillary Clinton, or doesn’t even make it to election day?