“I’m not going to make a decision today based on what I know today.”
– Michael Steele, former head of the Republican National Committee and a regular commentator on MSNBC.
In recent weeks the campaign of Donald Trump has imploded. Trump won the Republican Presidential nomination by disparaging his Republican rivals (“Lyin’ Ted,” “Baby Marco,” etc.) and promoting himself as an outsized bully willing to flout all conventions, to repudiate all forms of decorum as “political correctness,” and to loudly proclaim his intention to “make America great again” by building “huge” walls to keep out Mexicans, Muslims, foreign goods, and anything else that could be seen to “contaminate” Americans. When Republican Senator John McCain — a former Republican presidential nominee and a genuine war hero who spent years being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison camp — questioned some of these ideas, he was disparaged as “a loser” because he was caught: “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said. Trump has demonstrated that he is uninformed about public policy and world affairs, and that he has no real connections with people with serious political or military experience. He is his own principal adviser, and his closest political confidants and most vocal supporters are… his thirty-something children.
In recent weeks he has declared that he might renege on American military commitments to NATO; he has invited Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin to hack the e-mails of Hillary Clinton; he has disparaged the Muslim-American “Gold Star” family of a fallen serviceman, causing the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the conservative group that only weeks ago hosted him, to denounce him. In recent days he has bickered with journalists; audience members at rallies, including a crying baby; fire marshals at events he has held; and the leaders of his own party, most recently declaring loudly that he does not support either John McCain or Paul Ryan in their reelection bids. This has led many journalists, both Democratic-leaning and Republican-leaning, to raise questions not simply about his character but about his serious anger management issues and indeed his sanity. Joe Scarborough, the conservative Republican MSNBC talk show host who for months gave Trump hours of free time on air, and has declared himself to be a personal friend, has gone so far as to state publicly that Trump has become “unhinged,” and is now a danger to his party and to the country.
Indeed, a number of important Republicans have declared that they cannot support Trump (e.g., Senator Jeff Flake [R-Arizona], Senator Ben Sasse [R-Nebraska], Mitt Romney, and many Republican Congressmen) or that they will in fact support Hillary Clinton (e.g, Re. Richard Hanna [R-NY], Meg Whitman).
And yet major Republican leaders — including Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and McCain himself — continue to offer almost daily criticisms of Trump’s pronouncements and his reckless behavior but refuse to declare that they can no longer support him.
Michael Steele speaks for these people when he basically insists that there is “still time” for Trump “to pivot,” and to give them a reason to support him.
Donald Trump has been a public figure for decades. His egocentrism and bullying style and general belief that he is better than anyone else have long been on display. He made his name politically in 2008 by obsessively promoting “birtherism” and dark conspiracy theories that he has never recanted though they have absolutely no basis in fact. For over a year he has consistently behaved like a bully and a bore, and he has consistently offended minority groups, women, and politicians Democratic and Republic alike. He says whatever he wants without regard to consequences. He spends no time educating himself about public affairs, and he spends much time on Twitter, obsessively responding to every public comment about him, at apparently all hours of the day or night.
What could he do now, at this late date, to “prove” that he is worthy of support to be the next President of the United States?
These words are so hollow, and they make otherwise respectable Republican men and women look sad and, quite honestly, cowardly.
Let’s be frank. Adults know that people don’t change overnight, even if they try to make believe that they have changed. Trump has demonstrated that he has no interest in even “looking good.” He says whatever he wants, everyone else be damned. But what if he suddenly showed more restraint, and decided to “stay on script?” Would this say anything about his qualifications for the nation’s highest office? No! All this would mean is that somehow a group of handlers were able to help him act the part of a serious politician for a few months. Act the part of one. Not be one. Anybody who is paying attention knows that Trump is a bully, a crude and mean person, and a loose cannon. He has no experience in politics, and he has no disposition to govern a self-governing people. He is a dictator in business, he is a dictator in his campaign, and dictating is the only thing he knows how to do. Nothing he can do can prove that he has the mettle to be President.
Those Republicans who still insist that what they “know today” might be changed by new information, that somehow Trump could speak and act in a way that inspires their confidence, are lying through their teeth. They are doing this out of a loyalty to their party, and perhaps out of an aversion to the Democrats and to Clinton. But they are lying nonetheless, and they are doing it through their teeth rather than loudly and explicitly because they know they are lying and they are awkward, embarrassed, and confused.
Such Republicans are in a very difficult and compromised position.
There is only one way to get right: to speak the truth and to denounce the Trump campaign as a travesty of their party and of American politics.
Enough is enough.