Trump’s shakeup fur­ther im­per­ils the GOP

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Eugene Robin­son

— Shaken by the fact that he’s los­ing, Donald Trump has fled into the par­al­lel uni­verse of the ex­treme right — and ap­par­ently plans to stay there for the re­main­der of the cam­paign. Let’s see if the rest of the Repub­li­can Party is dumb enough to fol­low him.

Trump has re­port­edly been feel­ing “boxed in” and “con­trolled” by the few peo­ple around him who ac­tu­ally know some­thing about pol­i­tics. Ad­vice from these pro­fes­sion­als to tone it down must be re­spon­si­ble for his slide in the polls, he seems to be­lieve. So he has hired as chief ex­ec­u­tive of his cam­paign a man named Stephen Ban­non,

WASH­ING­TON

who will not only let Trump be Trump, but en­cour­age him to be even Trumpier.

Ban­non runs Bre­it­bart News, a web­site that cre­ates its own ul­tra­na­tion­al­ist far- right re­al­ity — one that of­ten bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to the world as it re­ally is. As I write, the site is claim­ing that Hil­lary Clin­ton has some se­ri­ous undis­closed health prob­lem (her doc­tor says she is just fine), that one of Clin­ton’s aides has “very clear ties” to radical Is­lam ( which is to­tally un­true) and that Clin­ton her­self has “clear ties” to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin ( when in fact it is Trump who of­ten re­veals his man­crush on the Rus­sian leader).

The site’s late founder, An­drew Bre­it­bart, once “de­scribed Ban­non, with sin­cere ad­mi­ra­tion, as the Leni Riefen­stahl of the tea party move­ment,” ac­cord- ing to a Bloomberg News pro­file. Riefen­stahl was the bril­liant film­maker who be­came one of Hitler’s most ef­fec­tive pro­pa­gan­dists. I think the com­par­i­son is wrong; Ban­non is not nearly as tal­ented.

He is a prac­ticed provo­ca­teur, how­ever, with a gift for re­in­forc­ing the world­view of far-right true be­liev­ers. Ban­non gives read­ers the im­pres­sion that the na­tion is in grave and im­mi­nent peril, that Mus­lims are con­spir­ing to im­pose Shariah law through­out the land, that Mex­i­can im­mi­grants are run­ning rampant in a wild crime spree, that only Trump can save us — and that polls show­ing him far be­hind Clin­ton are some­how skewed, in­com­pe­tent or ir­rel­e­vant.

None of this is true, not a word. It’s all a para­noid fan­tasy, de­signed to ex­ploit anx­i­eties about de­mo­graphic and eco­nomic change. And Trump has de­cided that his best chance of win­ning is to ped­dle this garbage, some of which he may ac­tu­ally be­lieve.

So if any­one was won­der­ing if this elec­tion cy­cle could get any worse for the GOP, it just did.

The fact is that there hasn’t been a sin­gle na­tional poll since July 24 show­ing Trump in the lead, ac­cord­ing to the tally kept by RealClearPol­i­tics. Clin­ton has also pulled ahead in all the bat­tle­ground states and has be­come com­pet­i­tive in tra­di­tional Repub­li­can strongholds such as Ge­or­gia and Ari­zona.

It now ap­pears to be a good bet that Repub­li­cans will lose con­trol of the Se­nate. It is far too early to pre­dict a “wave” elec­tion that might threaten the GOP’s big ma­jor­ity in the House, but Democrats are al­low­ing them­selves to dream. For Repub­li­cans, the two most likely out­comes of the elec­tion are bad and worse.

Trump’s de­ci­sion to throw in with the likes of Ban­non can only in­crease the prob­a­bil­ity of a GOP de­ba­cle. Does it have to be spelled out for you in neon lights, Repub­li­cans? Trump could not care less about the party, and he would hap­pily de­stroy it to feed his own ego.

Ban­non, like­wise, ap­pears to view the Party of Lin­coln as merely a ve­hi­cle for his own am­bi­tion, which is to nur­ture and grow a na­tion­al­ist-right move­ment. His web­site is as crit­i­cal of the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment as it is of the Democrats. He has no in­ter­est in mak­ing Trump more palat­able to the gen­eral elec­torate. Like all would-be rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, he first wants to heighten the con­tra­dic­tions within the sys­tem he ul­ti­mately seeks to de­stroy.

It was per­haps fool­ish of me to hope that very many Repub­li­can elected of­fi­cials would re­ject Trump on prin­ci­ple. But now, per­haps, more will do so for rea­sons of self-preser­va­tion.

Trump has made his de­ci­sion. In a town hall meet­ing this week mod­er­ated by Sean Han­nity of Fox News, Trump ig­nored op­por­tu­ni­ties to em­brace tra­di­tional Amer­i­can val­ues and in­stead re­in­forced a mes­sage of na­tion­al­ism, xeno­pho­bia and fear. He of­fered him­self as the only so­lu­tion, promis­ing, like any tin­horn strong­man, that “I have as big a heart as any­body.”

But there is no room in that heart for the GOP. Trump won’t save you, Repub­li­cans. You had bet­ter save your­selves.

Eugene Robin­son is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at eu­gen­er­obin­son@ wash­post.com.

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