Can the Monster Be Elected?

Ever since Trump secured the Republican nomination and Hillary Clinton essentially nailed down the Democratic one and began to turn her attention away from Bernie Sanders and toward Trump, we’ve seen the outlines of what we’re in for. Clinton’s most notable thrust was her rollicking speech—and “rollicking Hillary Clinton speech” is not a phrase that has been frequently deployed during her career—delivered on June 2 in San Diego, when she attacked Trump on national security matters.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump; drawing by James Ferguson

Trump parried that with a June 13 speech, the day after the horror of the largest mass shooting in American history in Orlando, with a lacerating attack charging that Clinton supports various policies, mostly relating to immigration, that are handing the country to terrorists on a platter. Indeed, he said that “if we don’t get tough, and we don’t get smart—and fast—we’re not going to have a country anymore. There will be nothing left.” Trump didn’t merely repeat his call to ban Muslims. He expanded it—now, you don’t have to be Muslim to be banned, you just have to be from an “area” of the world where there is “a proven history” of threats against the United States. As I write we’ve seen no post-Orlando polls to tell us whether this cocktail of anger and paranoia will help him. If it will—and who knows, with Trump, maybe even if it won’t—we can of course expect much more of it.

Meanwhile, after the primary voting ended, both parties set about the business of trying to unify for the battle ahead. That process is in flux as I write, but in its early innings, this phase took some surprising turns. The Democrats’ unifying process was supposed to be nasty, but Sanders seemed to accept the reality of defeat after Clinton beat him in California, and he struck a more conciliatory tone after meeting with Barack Obama on June 9, vowing to do his part to keep Trump out of the White House. There will be fights in the Democrats’ near future over the platform—perhaps over how many of Sanders’s domestic policy positions the party adopts, perhaps over the language pertaining to Israel. Sanders’s decision to elevate to the platform committee Cornel West, who has expressed repeated contempt for both the Democratic Party and the incumbent Democratic president (“a Rockefeller Republican in blackface,” West said in 2012), has left some mainstream Democrats upset and nervous. But there don’t appear to be any especially divisive issues looming, and even intense platform fights tend to be forgotten after the convention.

For their part, the Republicans were until recently coalescing behind their candidate. House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Trump on June 2, through the odd and telling vehicle not of a press conference or a television appearance standing at Trump’s side but via an Op-Ed he wrote for his hometown newspaper in Janesville, Wisconsin. Polls indicated that Republican support was solidifying behind Trump,…

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