A month ago, I wrote that “Trump will win, and Hillary will lose.” With three weeks until Election Day, I am pleased to write that I am likely wrong, as I wanted to be. Probably, pessimism tipped the scales of my judgment of a bizarre political contest at a bad moment; certainly, nothing could have prepared me for the specific triggers—sex, lies, and videotape—of Trump’s meltdown (better than the movie). But, oh, how poetic the justice of it is.
For much of the past year, I have taken the media, which Trump castigates, to task for giving him a pass as merely a narcissist and a bully. One and one make two; and narcissism plus sadism equal sociopathy. The grandiose egoism, the lack of empathy for others, the manipulation and abuse of others, the sexual promiscuity, the impulsive behavior, the unpredictability of mood, the indifference to truth, the refusal to take responsibility, the vulgar, vitriolic, or violent language when contradicted, criticized, or thwarted—these and many other features are characteristic of the type.
Trump confronts a personal crisis. Bad to lose at all, a loss making him what he most detests: a loser. Worse to lose in public, in a slowly evolving national repudiation in the biggest reality show of his life. Worst to lose to, yes, a woman, one whom he has slurred as dishonest, crooked, lacking in strength and stamina, addicted, and unattractive. His sociopathic response is evident in denial, blame-shifting, and conspiracy mongering. He attributes his loss to an overpowering conspiracy of the media, rigged elections and fraudulent voting, establishment elites of both parties, and international bankers (read: Jews). Those who have read Hitler’s biography recognize the modus operandi.
My guess, hopeful as it is, is that Trump, whatever he wills, cannot destroy a city like Washington or a country like America. Balancing his apocalyptic vision of his enemies are equally apocalyptic visions of the damage which he will wreak after he loses. More likely, when he loses, he will have some few moments of diminished attention, some rallies of distempered oratory and dispirited reception, and then a decent into ignominy and triviality. His die-hard supporters will die hard in the knowledge that they as well as their leader have been defeated, denounced, and despised. Disgust is fatal.
The real threat of damage is, once again, from Republicans. After the 2012 loss, the Republican National Committee, under Reince Priebus, did an autopsy and advocated an agenda for reforming the party to increase its chances of success in presidential elections. Then Priebus and other leading Republicans and party flunkies—Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani—became advocates of the arch-antithesis of that agenda. Now the party is torn between two factions, the coastal establishment and the interior mob. The glue of the “Southern strategy,” namely, racism (morphing to include intolerance of immigrants, Hispanics, Muslims, LGBTQs, and woman) no longer attaches the mob to the barons and mavens of capitalistic democracy. Evangelical Christians will split between the two groups depending on whether their greater allegiance is to Mammon or to Mayhem. So long as the Republican Party remains divided, its members will again try to prove their staunch commitment to Republican principles, unnamed because unknown, and the usual vacuous slogans of small government, lower taxes, and less regulation, by devoting their energies to obstructing Clinton (as they devoted them to obstructing Obama). Misogyny will replace racism as the new glue of the Republican Party. By this political strategy, they will weaken the very government which they aspire to run and, self-defeatingly, lose even more rapidly the race to replace dying white men and their families with minorities and women.
Whether a coherent and competitive political Republican Party can emerge from this election is the question. If it is to help the country recover from the damage which it has inflicted, it will have to accept defeat, return to the customary role of the minority as the “loyal opposition,” and settle its problems in its caucuses, not in the two chambers of Congress. In the Senate, as a sign of goodwill, it should support the end of the filibuster for presidential appointments. Going forward, if it to have any chance at all, it will have to change its leadership—Priebus, Ryan, and Mitchell—and sideline its temporizers or opportunists—among others, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and Jeff Sessions. Congressional elders like John McCain and Lindsey Graham should be retired to quiet offices and powerless positions. For the future, the party should look to someone like Nicky Haley, who has the grit and the sense and sensibility to lead, and not go for the mindlessness and meanness of a Susana Martinez, who, with a bad record, has only her gender and ethnicity to recommend her. If they go for stars now and do not build a team with a strong bench, they could go the way of the Cleveland Browns and win nothing.