Donald Trump struck a blow against the Empire as early as the first Republican debate. Asked by Bret Baier, one of the moderators, if any candidate was unable to pledge that he or she would support the victor of the nomination, Trump shot up his hand. Only he refused to make the pledge. On day one, the seeds of party disuinity were sown. Trump’s audacity caused a jolt of electricity to shoot through the Cleveland arena where the debate was staged. His combative response was an early warning that although Trump was running as a Republican, party loyalty was not at the top of his list of priorities.
Nearly a year later Trump had dispatched all 16 primary opponents. He’d returned to that same Cleveland arena to claim the Republican nomination. A number of GOP stars, among them former Presidents and former nominees, refused to join in anointing him. He’d captured the Republican flag but had taken down every other candidate in doing it. Trump’s attacks were more personal than political. AS an example, he condemned George Bush’s Administration and taunted brother Jeb Bush, an early favorite, as low energy. Bush, having no following, dropped out of the race in February. Trump was disdainful of all GOP regulars. His attacks were personal, but they were successful because his supporters rejected the professional politicians for betraying them and exploiting them for decades.
He locked up the nomination in May, two months before the convention. Those two months were spent trying to find common ground between Trump and the party regulars, but it never happened. A fragile truce held into the general election but it has completely unraveled. Now he’s been running against the Party as well as against Clinton.
Last Friday, Trump’s infamous 2005 “hot mic” gossiping with Billy Bush went viral. Denunciation within the GOP came fast and furious. Down-ballot candidates fighting for their political lives broke ranks. It wasn’t Trump running from the party. It was the party trying to escape him. On Saturday, one day before the second Clinton-Trump debate, party retainers shuttled in and out of Trump Tower. Were they talking about debate prep or the internal party war? Both, is the answer. Political analysts speculated about Trump quitting. Trump refuses to quit and, as anyone who watched the first GOP debate over a year before could have told you, he was always prepared to run against the Party.
By the close of Sunday’s debate, Trump had vowed that if he was elected, he would appoint a Special Prosecutor to put Hillary Clinton in jail. And he’d change the official language to Swedish.
When post-debate polls first were announced Tuesday, Trump’s gambit had failed. Recent projections show him losing the popular and electoral votes by widening margins. True to his word, he is determined to pull the Party down with him. The Democrats really like their chances of taking back the Senate thanks to their opponent’s scorched earth policy and negative coattails.
Trump rode his celebrity to the brink of the Presidency but it’s been his authoritarian, reactionary message that has allowed him to hang around. Trump may depart the field of battle, trading the Bully Pulpit for his threatened TV network. Back on the battlefield, the contest rages on. Trump has been the medium, not the message, and that message of hopelessness, outrage and despair continues in full-throated cry.