The strategy and tone that lay behind this week’s Republican convention in Cleveland, and that have lain behind Donald Trump’s campaign from its outset, reflect a strain that has existed in the Republican Party for nearly fifty years. That is, to play on the politics of fear, hatred, and race.
The week that began with our annual national celebration ended in a cacophony of charges and misdirected attacks and the prospect of more ugliness as the two most disliked candidates in our history seek an acceptance that keeps eluding them. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both came face to face with their deepest and possibly fatal flaws.
The near-total failure of our political institutions to invest for the future, eschewing what doesn’t yield the quick payoff, political and physical, has left us with hopelessly clogged traffic, at risk of being on a bridge that collapses, or on a train that flies off defective rails, or with rusted pipes carrying our drinking water.
The Republican Congress’s failure in September to pass a resolution disapproving the nuclear agreement with Iran didn’t mean that the deal was safe.* The president won a major victory when its supporters managed to bottle up the resolution disapproving the deal in the Senate, thus protecting him from having …
The tipping point on whether to try to deny Trump the nomination could occur if his poll numbers threaten to take down members of Congress. “There’s a direct correlation between tolerance for the insane things Trump does…and good poll numbers,” Dan Senor, a confidante of House Speaker Paul Ryan, said last week. “The moment those poll numbers drop tolerance goes down.”
It’s by now clear that the presidential election of 2016 is something larger than and apart from just another quadrennial contest for the highest office; it’s a national crisis. The crisis will last as long as there’s a possibility that someone totally unsuited for that office could win it.
The agonies this country’s two major political parties are going through were foreshadowed last fall, but in both cases it’s worse than anyone expected. The rebellions by anti-establishment populists on both sides have produced two divided parties. And in the case of the all-but-official nominees, Trump and Hillary Clinton, we have the unusual situation of two imperiled candidates.
The long arc of Trump’s thinking makes it less surprising that a reality television star and wealthy businessman is a nominee for the presidency. Trump’s pasting his name on everything he can get his hands on has had a long-term political as well as economic purpose. Trump is the first brand to run for president.