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by Marc Jampole
LATELY I’ve been wondering if Donald Trump is trying to lose the election.
Maybe he started running as a way to burnish his brand, similar to what Ben Carson evidently was doing. What he wanted to do was raise his awareness, especially among the uneducated, so he could continue to place his name on dubious ventures and sell them to his public at inflated prices.
But then things got out of hand and he found himself alone in what pundits called the “establishment lane,” with every other candidate tacking to the extreme right on social issues, tax and spending policies, Social Security, healthcare, and foreign affairs. While Trump jumped to the right of them when it comes to immigration, and articulated with extreme explicitness the racism which GOP regulars have whispered in code for forty years, on many issues he was much more centrist than any of the candidates to whom the news media affixed the “establishment” label. No one said he was in the establishment lane, but take a look at who has won the last two Republican nominations — the most centrist-looking candidates of their election cycle, although both McCain and Romney, just like Trump, advocated lowering taxes even more on the wealthy. No one called Trump establishment, but the relative centrality of many of his positions appealed to Republican voters as much as his outrageous statements and ultra-nationalist and isolationist trade and immigration proposals.
Trump now finds himself as the presumptive candidate, and maybe he doesn’t want the daily stress and hassles of the presidency. Maybe he realizes he bit off more than he could chew. Or maybe, like Rubio, Cruz and many other candidates from both sides of the aisle, Trump likes running a lot more than he likes governing.
Whatever the reason, his recent actions have me thinking that he’s throwing the race to Hillary. And thank goodness for that, since the choice is between a sociopathic narcissist who has failed at many business ventures and perhaps the most qualified candidate in the history of the country.
HOW ELSE do you explain him accusing American soldiers as a group of stealing millions of dollars from the army that they were supposed to distribute in Iraq? In one fell swoop, he has alienated active military and veterans alike, groups that should inherently favor the Republican, no matter who he (or hypothetically “she”) may be. It may be the first time ever in history that a candidate for office on any level in any country has maligned soldiers. Not generals, not war leaders, but dogfaces in the field!
And how else can you explain his terrible 2-ish temper tantrum against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, which lasted a week? Or his pulling the media credentials from media outlets that piss him off, thereby establishing himself as an opponent of free speech? Or his insults of other Republicans who have not fallen in line behind his candidacy?
How else do you explain Trump intimating that Obama is surreptitiously helping the terrorists? Remember that eight years ago, when an audience member made a scurrilous accusation about candidate Obama, John McCain immediately corrected the benighted fellow and said that Obama was a patriotic American with whom the senator happened to disagree. It’s the kind of irresponsible accusation that upsets a lot of right-looking independents and centrist-looking Republicans.
And how else do you explain Trump’s lunatic and racist statement that if we had not let the father of the Orlando killer into the country, the killer would not have been in Florida to shoot up a gay night club? This kind of logic would lead to the deportation not just of a generation of new Americans, but of virtually everyone whose ancestors immigrated here. Can’t be too safe!
These recent comments and the strong responses by Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and President Obama have sent Trump’s negatives higher than any candidate of any major party has had in U.S. history. The latest polls show Hillary’s lead growing on him. Meanwhile, more Republicans are distancing themselves from the Donald. Some like Kasich have reiterated their lack of support. Others like Senator Mark Kirk and Representative Bob Dold have rescinded prior endorsements. Bernie Sanders has brought a tremendous number of new voters into the Democratic Party, and Hillary shows every signs of doing what it takes to make them happy. I’m the only one saying it now, but I think it’s shaping up to be a Democratic sweep — presidency, Senate and the gerrymandered House.
THE ORLANDO TRAGEDY has fortuitously provided Trump with an opportunity to make a tremendous grandstand play that could convince the unsophisticated that he can engineer deals to grow the economy and protect us from terrorism.
As you may know, Republicans have repeatedly blocked legislation that would prevent people on the “no-fly” list of those suspected of having terrorist connections from buying or owning guns. It looks as if a “no fly, no gun” law would have prevented the Orlando killer from buying the weapon he used to assassinate forty-nine people and injure scores of others. “No fly, no gun” legislation was one of the two bills for which Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and other Democrats filibustered this week, the other being extending background checks and waiting periods to guns purchased at shows and on the Internet. Not up for consideration is a reinstatement of the ban on assault rifles such as the ones used by the Orlando nightclub and Newtown elementary school massacres.
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess whether these basic, common sense gun safety measures will pass the Senate, let alone the House. It depends upon how many Republicans dare to cross the National Rifle Association (NRA).
And Trump has come out in favor of a “no fly, no gun” law. He is scheduled to meet with the NRA in a few days, and he says he is going to talk to them about a “no fly, no gun” proposal. What if, after the meeting, the NRA announces that it has dropped its opposition to “no fly, no gun,” and Trump takes credit for negotiating a deal that passes legislation which 90 percent of all Americans, including most gun owners, want? Wouldn’t Trump say that it proves that his master negotiation skills can solve the country’s problems?
With Republican candidates already weakened by the Trump candidacy, many GOP incumbents, especially in blue and purple states, must be feeling the heat for their recalcitrant positions regarding gun legislation that most of their constituents back. Perhaps the NRA will feel it must evolve its position on maintaining the rights of people suspected of terrorism or risk losing the Republican majorities that will keep every other type of gun safety legislation from passing.
But the public may not consider the internal machinations of the gun lobby and Congress when evaluating the success of a “no fly, no gun” law, if the NRA support comes after a meeting with Trump. They may see Trump as the all-conquering hero who got the NRA to compromise and thereby kept guns out of the hands of terrorists. The Trump script for his presidency will be coming true, or at least many voters could see it that way.
It is possible, then, that by compromising on the most absurdly extremist position it holds, the NRA could give the presidency to Donald Trump, or at the very least get him back on a positive track?
Of course, even if the NRA does give the Donald an early Christmas present, he will still be the same narcissistic sociopath who never censors his thoughts, tends to authoritarian solutions, lies a lot, and is ignorant of the basic mechanics of government and the pressing issues facing the country. There will be lots of time between now and November for Trump to insult, lie, get personal and generally demonstrate his inadequacies as a head of state.
Marc Jampole, a member of our editorial board, is a poet and writer who runs Jampole Communications, a public relations and communications firm in Pittsburgh. He blogs several times a week at OpEdge.