This week has been an historic one: Michael Phelps gave the world a lesson in second chances, Usain Bolt gave Justin Gatlin a lesson in the 100m, the world attempted to give Donald Trump a lesson in constitutional law, and the Republican establishment gave itself a lesson in mouths, asses, and check-cashing.
Republicans realized that they have to separate themselves from the Donald’s behavior, which of late seems more like that of King George III post-1811 than any American political candidate since our break with monarchy. First he asked the immortal question, “Why not just use our nukes if we’ve got them laying around?” which effectively set every thinking member of the armed forces and intelligence communities against him. This was the beginning of the slump that now sees Donald hedging his bets by saying the election will be “rigged,” a claim which bears further examination here.
While Donald is coating the front row of his rallies in brimstone spittle and a Cheez Doodle-like dust consisting of dried spray tanner and the crystallized tears of New York’s working families, his party is calling once again for the introduction or upholding of voter I.D. laws. No matter what else you might hear, these are meant to disenfranchise poorer voters who are more likely to support radical social change. Conservatives advocate this under the guise of wanting to ensure fair elections, but this argument lost most of its credence in 2014, when the Washington Post published an article whose title speaks for itself: “A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast.” In the case of the Donald, I’m not sure which is more laughable: the idea that a system which produces 31 errors out of a billion could be effectively “rigged,” or the fact that he may think he’s close enough in the polls for 31 votes to matter.
The call to preemptively discredit his impending loss is the tactic of a strongman. When he loses, his fanatic supporters—his “second amendment people,” his unabashed Mosleyists and Franco fans, and his alt-right war boys—will be prepared to force America back into greatness if they have to. And at long last, the mainstream Republican party seems to be waking up to the fact that, while fire and brimstone homilies about the dangers of otherness might work during primaries and in the deep south, this is general election season. And when you ask why you can’t just nuke people, your constituents are bound to wonder if you really understand what leading a nation means.
These questions were raised by a precious few at the RNC a few weeks ago, but Trump, who learned strongarming and dishonesty from his Woodhaven, Queens slumlord father, silenced them with the tactics of the dictators he admires so much that even the National Review has taken exception. It’s too late for the Republican party, but most of us knew that already. The real question is whether this new Frankenstein’s monster Trump has created can take up their mantle. Because no matter how much of a fool Trump makes of himself, the dictatorial furor he inspires has yet to abate—and that’s what’s still scary.