Part 2—It didn't start with Trump: Could Republican candidate Donald J. Trump win November's election?
Yes, we think he plainly could. He could also lose badly, of course. But yes, we think he could win.
Last night, on CNN, former Obama aide Van Jones begged Democrats and liberals to understand the troubling fact that Donald J. Trump could win. We think Jones' assessment is correct. In part, here's why we say that:
Candidate Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee. She's also badly damaged. It's amazing how badly she is damaged, compared to the way she was perceived when she ran for the White House eight years ago.
She has been badly damaged by the email matter. She has been badly damaged by the speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. Before that, she was damaged by the deal the New York Times struck with conservative hackster Peter Schweizer. Therein lies a tale:
The fruit of that collaboration was the Times' ludicrous, ginormous report about the scary uranium deal—the scary deal with the Russkies, or with someone like that. It was a thoroughly ludicrous piece of journalism, the dumbest report of 2015; it also ran 4400 words. On his TV program, Chris Hayes hailed the hapless report as "a bombshell." But this is the way our hapless tribe now plays on the corporate end.
Candidate Clinton is badly damaged. Just for the record, this damage extends inside the tents of the Obama coalition. Within those tents, Candidate Clinton is being damaged by discussions of the 1994 crime bill, and by discussions of the 1990s in general. In other ways, she is being badly damaged by elements of the Sanders campaign.
For the record, she could be damaged much more badly by future events in the email probe. She could be damaged by a single speech, comment or leak from FBI head James Comey, who fits the description for such a possibility—he's a stiff-necked Republican nominee with a reputation for probity.
Comey's judgment could come in good or bad faith. Either way, it could produce major damage.
(During the 2000 campaign, Candidate Gore was being investigated by other figures who fit that description. Very few liberals remember this fact; our tribe has agreed that the basic events of Campaign 2000 must never be discussed, largely because so many of our tribal leaders played such horrible roles within them. We restrict our small helpless minds to the events of the Florida recount, concerning which we tell ourselves the types of tales we love to hear. As a a result, we wander toward this year's general election clueless about what might come.)
Candidate Clinton is badly damaged. Like Van Jones, we know of no reason to feel sure that Donald J. Trump couldn't beat her. As you know, he was prescient about the war in Iraq! Why wouldn't people decide to vote for someone like that?
Meanwhile, what could happen if Candidate Sanders gets nominated? Concerning that question, Michelle Goldberg has provided a service at Slate.
Goldberg's headline imagines the future: "This Is What a Republican Attack on Bernie Sanders Would Look Like." In her report, Goldberg describes the kinds of attack a Trump campaign would direct at a Candidate Sanders.
Below, we offer you a small taste. By the way, have you ever heard of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party? According to Goldberg, if Candidate Sanders is nominated, you and your neighbors will:
GOLDBERG (5/2/16): [Sanders] has never been asked to account for his relationship with the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, for which he served as a presidential elector in 1980. At the time, the party’s platform called for abolishing the U.S. military budget and proclaimed “solidarity” with revolutionary Iran. (This was in the middle of the Iranian hostage crisis.) There’s been little cable news chatter about Sanders’ 1985 trip to Nicaragua, where he reportedly joined a Sandinista rally with a crowd chanting, “Here, there, everywhere/ The Yankee will die.” It would be nice if this were due to a national consensus on the criminal nature of America’s support for the Contras. More likely, the media’s attention has simply been elsewhere.For ourselves, we've always worried about potential GOP treatment of the honeymoon to the Soviet Union and the spoken folk music album. The Trotskyist Part isn't likely to help. Other parts of Goldberg's roll call of political horribles may be even worse.
By traditional norms of American politics, Candidate Trump can't get elected. Of course, by those same traditional norms, neither can Candidate Sanders—and Candidate Clinton is damaged goods and a gaffe machine who is loathed in wide swaths of the press.
In last Sunday's column, George Will urged his fellow conservatives to defeat Trump in all fifty states. Theoretically, that could happen. But Trump could also win.
These possibilities all take form within a new moment in American politics—within a moment in which insanity, or near-insanity, is becoming an established norm.
Yesterday afternoon, Candidate Trump almost sort of told the world that his opponent's father was the gunman on the grassy knoll, the man who shot JFK. By the time we reach the general election, he may be saying that his opponent probably killed J. R.
There is no sign that craziness of that general type would keep Trump from the White House. Yesterday's crazy statement about Lee Harvey Oswald has largely passed without notice.
Of course, even as Trump is making such statements, the nation's most famous and smartest newspaper keeps saying that the brilliant fellow was prescient concerning Iraq. The claim is false, but the New York Times said it three times in eight days, with barely a peep of rejoinder from the silly, self-impressed hustlers so prevalent within our own tents.
Trump wrote a book called The Art of the Deal. His invention of that fact about Iraq helps display the art of the con. This particular con about Iraq may help him win the White House this fall. That said, let's return to his craziness, which is tied to the art of the con:
Trump's claim about Cruz and JFK helps define an emerging insanity-laced political style. We'll only note two point:
Donald J. Trump didn't invent that style; within our media elites, it has been in development for decades now. Meanwhile, grabbers and climbers like Maddow and Hayes don't intend to use their skills to teach you how to defeat it. Such things simply aren't done.
The insanity style has been spreading for years; so has the art of the con. The cons have been coming from outside our tents, but also from deep within them.
Tomorrow: Who's zoomin' who?