Our view: GOP nominee says he’s done with turncoat party leaders and will now be himself (seriously, you can’t make this stuff up)
Donald J. Trump’s recent declaration that the “shackles have been taken off” and that he now intends to campaign without restraint sounds suspiciously like the sort of pronouncements made by black-hat professional wrestlers — fans know it’s fake and over-the-top, but they relish such moments anyway. So much of the Trump campaign has been showmanship that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s running to be president, not entertainer-in-chief.
Say what you will about unrestrained Donald Trump, but his latest shtick sounds suspiciously like that Trump fellow who has been campaigning for the last 16 months. Racist? Check. Misogynist? Check. Remarkably ill-informed on world affairs? Attention span of a gnat? Easy to anger? Egotist supreme? Check, check, check and double-check.
What’s telling is not that the billionaire reality TV celebrity whom Republicans so foolishly chose to be their party’s presidential nominee is, at heart, a self-serving opportunist who from Day One had little interest in his party’s future or well-being. It’s how other GOP candidates have jumped on and off his bandwagon like rats fleeing a sinking ship, getting back on it and then rethinking their choice a third time. Their collective excuses, claims of ignorance, lame explanations and sudden realizations that the man at the top of the ticket is singularly unfit for office will provide a generation of Americans a solid frame of historical reference for the concepts of opportunism, self-deception and moral bankruptcy.
Mr. Trump is not some sudden disaster for the Party of Lincoln, he’s the guy who blustered Archie Bunker-like about Mexicans as criminals and rapists on the day he announced his candidacy. Hello? Even the candidate’s abhorrent views on women were well-known, too, from his stints as a guest on Howard Stern’s radio show. His bankruptcies, shady financial dealings, disgraceful and racist birther movement claims — all have been part of the package from the start.
Thus, when people like House Speaker Paul Ryan fret about which kind of rat they wish to be, dry or wet, it inspires no confidence in their judgment, only in their capacity to look out for themselves above all others. Mr. Ryan obviously wishes to remain in leadership, and so he can, presumably with a straight face, stake out a position of supporting Mr. Trump for president but not campaigning for him or defending him. Does that somehow offend the fewest people in House GOP caucus meetings or back home in Wisconsin?
Polls suggest the Trump campaign is now officially off the tracks, his declining support from women threatening to put most swing states beyond his grasp. One presumes the Republican Presidential nominee has all but set off civil war in the GOP in the last few days. untethered Mr. Trump will simply double and quadruple down on his most bellicose and caustic lines of attack and go for sheer spectacle like Hulk Hogan pulling off his signature Atomic Leg Drop. The Breitbart crowd will swoon while Hillary Clinton makes plans for White House move-in day.
The only question left will be what this disaster means for the Republican majority in Congress. Democrats are beginning to sense a golden opportunity, and much of their efforts between now and Nov. 8 may be directed at creating coattails that might flip the Senate and even the House. But not so fast. As much as Mr. Trump’s tirades against disloyal Republican leaders might have proven disastrous for those facing competitive party primaries, it may not have much impact at all in the general election. And as evidence we point to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican with a deep disdain for Donald Trump but whose poll numbers have never been higher. In a recent opinion survey, three-quarters of Marylanders said they approve of Governor Hogan’s disavowal of Mr. Trump, with Republicans roughly split on the issue. That means even some of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters don’t blame Mr. Hogan for being against their guy.
What does that say exactly? Maybe Trump voters just want to send a message to Washington that they aren’t happy — but they aren’t so foolish to actually expect to elect the guy. That would be the equivalent of electing a President Hogan — Hulk, not Larry — when all you really want is to see him grind your least-favorite opponent’s face into the canvas for a moment or two.