For the longest while, half a year almost, commentators have been wondering what on earth Donald Trump could possibly say or do that would make his candidacy collapse. Nothing seemed to have any impact. He insulted a war hero, he insulted women, he insulted Mexico, he insulted the disabled, he insulted all Muslims, he insulted reporters, he proposed torture, he proposed war crimes, he suggested that protesters at his rallies deserved to be beaten up, he suggested that he wished reporters could be beaten up, he bragged about how rich he supposedly was, he bragged about how big his male organ supposed was (despite having eerily small hands), he has been charged by New York State with fraud, he said he could shoot someone and not lose support. And that last seems to have turned out to be correct. Pretty much nothing Donald Trump (R-Trump Towers) could say or do would hurt him among his Republican supporters.
I get the sense, however, that something has finally cropped up to change all that. It's occurred too late for his opponents and for the Republican Party establishment which is understandably freaking out that Donald Trump is going to be its leader. After all, Donald Trump pretty much has the GOP nomination locked up before the Republican convention. And if for some reason he doesn't get the majority of delegates needed before the convention meets, and the GOP is able to get the nomination to someone else, it will rip the guts out of the Republican Party because Donald Trump will go ballistic (and we all know that Donald Trump will go ballistic), and so too will his crazed supporters.who believe that their beloved can turn water into Trump Wine, never mind that it no longer exists.
But denying Donald Trump the GOP nomination appears a lost cause at this point. Pretty much all analysts say that the only way to stop him before the convention is if he loses Florida. But he's between 15-20 points ahead of Marco Rubio, the state's own U.S. senator, who's fading fast. And neither Ted Cruz or John Kasich are going to win Florida. So, Donald Trump is pretty much going to get the Republican nomination for president. And nothing he can say or do will likely be able to stop that.
But -- something does seem to be have made its way into the public conscience that could finally hurt him, and if it's too late to stop him in the Republican Party, then at least in national general election.
And that's the growing aura of violence surrounding Donald Trump.
It started small. The quips about protesters deserving what they get. The quips about wishing he could kill reporters. "Just kidding. No. Yeah, just kidding." The quip about how he could shoot someone in the streets of New York and not lose support.
But then it ratcheted up. Protesters being punched at his campaign rallies. A protester getting arrested for battery against a protester. A reporter (for a heavily Trump-supportive publication, no less) being grabbed by apparently a Trump campaign official manhandling her to the extent that she has filed charges. A pompous bravado of almost pride in defending the attacks, to the degree of suggesting he might pay the legal fees for the Trump supporter charged with battery for punching (sorry, sucker-punching) the protester.
And then it rose even higher. There was the boastful rant in St. Louis about how protesters at his rallies pretty much deserve what they get -- said just before a big campaign rally in Chicago, with its own racial divide, said almost knowing and intended that it would provoke violence, so that the Trump campaign would have to cancel the event and claim that it was the victim. (That Donald Trump could state in a phone conversation with Chris Matthews on MSNBC that we've gotten to the point in America where you can't hold a rally without violence was sickeningly laughable, given that every other candidate during this campaign holds rallies all the time without any violence, it only seems to happen at Trump rallies -- and that Chris Matthews didn't challenge him on the statement is an embarrassment.) Indeed, it was the Trump campaign itself that intentionally cancelled the rally that had to knowingly provoke and ratchet up the violence more -- lying that it was the Chicago police department who suggested it be cancelled, which the police emphatically deny that any such thing occurred.
And it goes on and on to an even higher level, out of control almost as a sickness. Donald Trump bizarrely suggesting that a protester has ties with ISIS. Donald Trump bizarrely almost threatening Bernie Sanders with a street fight of supporters. Trump adherents pushed more into a frenzy of support following the Chicago riot. The "Sieg heil" salute at a Trump rally.
And it seems pretty likely that it will only get worse. That tends to be the way violence works. That's most especially the way mob violence works. It feeds on itself, it takes on a life of its own. And it's the way it works when the leader of the mob brazenly promotes the violence. It only lessens when the leader defuses it -- and that isn't always effective if it comes too little, too late and can't be heard over the mindless hatred spewing out of the mob. And it is especially unlikely when it relies on Donald Trump being the one who would have to do the defusing. Donald Trump doesn't defuse violence, Donald Trump is the lit fuse. Donald Trump is a time bomb, ticking. Donald Trump clearly sees his delegate success as a result of his calls for hatred and support of violence, which is the only reasonable explanation why he continues it. Defusing that is counter-intuitive to Donald Trump.
Here's the good news.
While Donald Trump supporters might be fine with the insults and hatred, since words allow people to vent their own sense of ill-worth, violence is another matter entirely. It seems fair to think that at least a portion of Trump supporters from the "non-totally-racist wing" of his campaign will be horrified by what they're seeing, that this is not their idea of America the Beautiful, my country 'tis of thee, America being great again, and Trump will lose some of that support. But far more to the point, FAR more, is that the whole middle-of-the-road, undecided, independent voters -- the people who by their very nature are not impassioned by one side or the other -- are likely becoming horrified by the violence they see at the core of the Trump campaign. And will become more horrified as the violence increases. How can people far outside the middle of a mob riot of hate-filled violence be anything but horrified by the violence? Horrified that it will touch them if not stopped. Horrified this is not their idea of America the Beautiful.
And the violence will increase, because America has a long national tradition of dissent -- it goes back to our very founding. It's the whole point of where we came from. It's the Boston Tea Party, the American Revolution, the South seceding from the Union, the Vietnam anti-war movement, all through our history, from our foundation. And we've seen the outside dissent and protest growing as it converges at Trump events. And it's not going away, that's just not what America does. It's the point of Free Speech and the First Amendment, as well. As the Trump hate speech and Trump support of violence grows, the equal-and-opposite protest against racism, fascism, authoritarianism, and hate will grow. And there will be more conflict. And the vast majority of the nation that is not Trump supporters will be gut-torn morally, viscerally and physically outraged.
And make no mistake, that outrage against Trump-inspired violence is by far the vast portion of America. Here's the reality: Donald Trump supporters only make up about 35% of the Republican Party. But the Republican Party only makes up a mere 29% of those in America who declare a party preference. That means only about 10% of Americans support Donald Trump. And it's deeply unlikely that all of those Trump supports stand for the violence. So, we're talking only maybe 7% who do. If that.
And that is the corner that Donald Trump has finally turned. Already, the protesters and push-back has surfaced and grown. And it will only grow as the frenzied Donald Trump ratchets up his hate-filled rhetoric and provides a wider safe haven outlet for violence. It’s one thing to be seen as a false-Populist. That was always the magic trick Donald Trump pulled to fool his wide-eyed supporters. And his one, tiny hope in the general election. But when you nurture violence, that pulls the curtain away and reveals the emptiness and insecure ego trying to compensate for those small hands. The words of hate and violence is not the language of a Populist. It is the platform of a demagogue.
Donald Trump has always been his own worst enemy. And now, the inevitable has started to occur. The Trump rhetoric seems to be a drug for the speaker and is imploding. And with it, the Trump campaign will implode, as well, unless he can figure out a way to stop it, if he even wants to. And even at that, the country has probably already seen too much. And without the violent rhetoric, it's likely that the Trump hate-filled support could wither.
It's the Achilles heel and Catch-22 together that he's created for himself in the general election. And it could even come back to haunt him in the Republican race.
It's the disaster that Donald Trump caused for his own campaign. And it's huge.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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