One of the great useful fictions of the current election cycle is that the “Never Trumpers” are sore losers who are sacrificing reality on the altar of their quaint purity tests. The hard-headed realists — whose sober realpolitik gave us Presidents McCain and Romney — assert that we must get behind Trump because a Hillary presidency would be an extinction level event for the Republic.
Leaving aside the very real possibility that Trump would be every bit as bad as, if not worse than, Hillary, this argument ignores the now obvious fact that Trump is not going to win, irrespective of what conservatives do. The recent Khizr Khan fiasco — a trap laid by the Democrats with the relative sophistication of a Wile E. Coyote orange crate on a stick — should convince all but the truly delusional that if the Trump train hasn’t already derailed, it’s careening back and forth on tracks the Dems are pulling up unopposed.
Trump’s latest reaction, perhaps better thought of as an abreaction, is the latest in a long series of imbecile responses to minor and manageable provocations. To be clear, there is obviously nothing minor about losing a son in battle, but as a political matter the towel boy in the RNC pool would know enough to acknowledge and honor the sacrifice while refocusing the conversation on the real issue of radical Islam. The utter folly of trying to seal-club Gold Star parents would be self-evident to the towel.
The upshot is yet another series of news cycles where the Eye of Sauron — better known as media focus — will pass over Hillary and settle on Trump’s latest crash test dummy impression. Trump loyalists who maintain his pivot to becoming presidential is imminent are probably also waiting for cold fusion and the paperless office.
At the risk of giving away the ending let me suggest how this is going to play out.
The Democrats have Trump’s number — not that it has ever been a particularly difficult number to read. They know there is no trap they can set, however obvious and easily diffused, that he won’t blunder into. His ego will permit nothing else. They have correctly determined that he is unteachable, short-sighted, predictable and deeply insecure. He doesn’t learn from mistakes, he doubles down on them. Accordingly, to win this election it is only necessary they provide a series of small fires for Trump to pour gasoline on.
The added benefit of this approach is massive collateral damage to those GOP politicians and pundits — not canny enough to sever ties with Trump — who will leap onto the pyre and sacrifice what is left of their credibility and integrity defending his manifestly indefensible outbursts. (Listening to the talk-shows this morning I can report that this exercise in self-immolation is well-advanced.) This is the part that will cost Republicans down-ballot seats in 2016 and elections for many cycles to come.
In the face of all this the “realists” are suggesting we pour all our resources into defending this overrun outpost whose occupants appear to be killing themselves faster than the enemy can. My alternative advice is to leave the outpost to its well-deserved fate, concentrate on the down-ballot battles we can win, and regroup for a future campaign with much better generals.