On October 9th, at the second Presidential Debate, Donald Trump threw away what had been a genuine chance of his becoming President.
As several people remarked in the period leading up to that town-hall debate, Trump had the perfect chance to convince all the people who usually vote Republican that he was willing to meet them halfway. There would be a huge audience for that debate. Many who had repudiated Trump could have been won back by some slight concession on his part to the reality that the October 7th release of the Access Hollywood/Billy Bush tape had critically wounded his candidacy.
As our own RickJay wrote (in the “Clinton v Trump” thread):
All Trump had to do was give the dismayed GOP voters a justification, no matter how tiny, for voting for him.
But he chose not to do so. And the reason he chose not to do so is critical for understanding what he’s doing now and what he will do in coming weeks to endanger the public safety:
Donald Trump’s first priority is to make sure there will go on being rallies and crowds at those rallies who will cheer and adore him.
Being President–with all the loot and prestige and continuing power that implies–is important to his conscious mind (and certainly to his children). But at the fork in the road marked “This way leads to the presidency but means upsetting your Rally Cheerers” and “This way leads to the Rally Cheerers cheering even harder, but will lose you the presidency”…Donald Trump is helpless to choose the presidential path. Utterly, completely helpless.
He cannot give up the cheers. It is the only thing in his seventy years that has felt to him like “love.”
This is why John Kasich was told that if he accepted the vice presidency, he’d be in charge of both domestic and foreign policy, while Trump would be in charge of Making America Great Again. We know now that what this meant is that Trump fully expected to go on appearing before rallies of tens of thousands of cheering fans on a regular basis.
(An unrealistic expectation, of course: once he’d have become President, those fans would have started focusing on the results they expected Trump to provide–and since he would have been unlikely to come through, any cheers he’d inspire would have been meager. To get them excited again he’d have had to keep coming up with new enemies to keep the outrage going. And we know how that turns out.)
This is why Trump, bizarrely, has invited Obama’s half-brother to sit in the audience of tonight’s debate. Obama’s half-brother won’t rattle Hillary; the choice makes no conceivable sense in terms of ‘tactics that would provide an advantage in the debate.’ It makes sense only in terms of pleasing the fans at the next Trump rally. Trump is, no doubt, eagerly anticipating their pleasure at the way he “stuck it to” Obama.
And most importantly, this is why Trump is hitting the “rigged election” theme hard.
Sure, he’d like an excuse handy for when he loses. But that’s not why he’s talking about election-rigging; he’s talking about election-rigging because it’s a crowd-pleaser.
It’s dangerous to assume that Trump is making these choices–to focus on supposed Election Fraud; to double down on open hostility to Hillary Clinton and to Barack Obama; to heap contempt on the women accusing him of groping them against their will; to fail to win over the doubtful Republicans by apologizing–out of anything approaching rational thought.
It’s dangerous because it lends legitimacy to all he’s doing–including the ginning up of his fans to violence in the name of ‘protecting the integrity of the election.’ Bending over backwards to attribute logical reasons for Trump’s choices (such as the ridiculous theory that he’s carefully, intelligently putting in the planning needed to put Fox News out of business with his own network) is having the alarming unintended consequence of making Trump’s message look lawful, justifiable, and “normal.”
It is not normal. It is not rooted in reason. It is the product of a mentally ill man who will do anything–anything at all–to keep those crowds cheering.