Donald Trump’s dangerous endgame

Anti-Trump protesters in Dallas, Texas

Anti-Trump protesters in Dallas, Texas

Not long ago, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had a well-organized, unifying end to their Democratic Party primary battle. Both sides acted like adults, sat down and negotiated over the party platform and the Democratic National Convention. The result was a hugely successful convention and a more unified Democratic Party, after which Clinton took the general election lead from Donald Trump. As new revelations about Trump’s sexually predatory behavior pile up, Clinton’s lead has extended to the point where nearly no one, including Republicans, says that Trump can win. The question now becomes, how will Trump lose, and what will he do afterward? Unfortunately, the signs thus far point to an ugly and dangerous electoral withdrawal from Donald Trump.

First, Trump’s response to the allegations against him has been to raise allegations of infidelity and sexual aggression against former president Bill Clinton. There are several problems with this strategy: (1) Bill Clinton isn’t running for president; (2) Clinton faced justice in many forms at the time, including bad publicity that initially hurt him during the 1992 Democratic Party primaries, impeachment, court proceedings and the court of public opinion; (3) Trump is the worst possible messenger to level attacks at Bill Clinton’s behavior; and (4) even Republican analysts say that trying to turn the election into a contest of sexual assault allegations won’t grow Trump’s voter base.

Which leads to the idea that Trump may be engaging in a scorched-earth plan of personal attacks on Bill Clinton and Trump’s own female accusers in order to lower turnout for the election which takes place in just over three weeks. The hope may be that, if Trump can turn out his narrow but passionate base, and tamp down Democratic voting by turning off Democratic voters, he can eek out a victory. Again, this seems to be an unrealistic strategy, and, given early voting and other data, there seems to be no shortage of Democrats who remain motivated to vote.

Trump is also dabbling in right wing anti-Semitism, from his unhinged speech on October 13 about a banking conspiracy to allegations that publication of his lewd comments to Billy Bush on the “Access Hollywood” bus were orchestrated by a cabal of Jews. Such conspiracy theories are bound to turn off Jewish voters and others to the Republican Party.

Additionally, Trump and his supporters are leveling attacks at the media, saying they are part of a conspiracy to “rig the election” for Hillary Clinton. Of course, this allegation ignores (1) Fox News and other right wing media outlets that are helping and cheerleading for Trump; and (2) the unprecedented amount of negative media coverage of Hillary Clinton during this election cycle. Nevertheless, a number of Trump supporters are now threatening violence if and when Clinton wins the election. Some Trump followers even plotted a terrorist attack against Muslims in Kansas.

Many people are speculating that Trump wants to launch his own right-wing media organization, perhaps a “Trump TV” channel, that will serve as an outlet for these conspiracy theories and antagonism of President Hillary Clinton. Ironically, however, the principal victim of such a media outlet could be Fox News, presumably the direct competitor that would have the most viewers to lose to Trump.

For her part, Hillary Clinton is still trying to talk about big issues such as climate change. Clinton seems to be taking the advice of First Lady Michelle Obama, who, in one of the best-reviewed speeches of the entire 2016 election, reminded her audience that “when they go low, we go high.”

Photo by Michael Hogan, used under Creative Commons license.

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