Last night, Donald Trump strapped on a political suicide vest and pulled the trigger in front of 80 million people on television. There was no glory in Trump’s despicable acts last night. What he did was live out the fantasy of every right-wing conspiracist who has spent the last quarter century with an unremitting hatred for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Trump gave voice to every ugly rumor, innuendo, and debunked theory trafficked in the underbelly of the Internet, on conservative talk radio, and the echo chamber of Fox News. He put the human manifestations of every lurid belief about Bill Clinton in the audience and slashed Hillary Clinton as “the devil,” a woman who had “hatred in her heart” and would be in jail if he were elected (that last one elicited a lusty applause from the audience).
Trump went after Bill and Hillary Clinton viciously, personally, and often falsely, but that will matter little to people who have been fed a steady diet of Clinton conspiracies for the last 25 years. If you believe that the Clintons ran drugs in Arkansas, faked Vince Foster’s suicide, or sold cattle futures for huge profits there is a direct through line to believing Hillary deleted incriminating emails off her private server, handed out favors to Clinton Foundation donors, and would be in prison but for the good graces of an FBI Director who served as the number two official in the George W. Bush Justice Department.
Trump’s dissection was done with a butcher’s knife not a scalpel, but it mattered little. He stalked the stage ominously and audibly sucked in air as he leveled one false claim after the other, the politics of personal destruction fed to him by his top campaign officials who have made their careers smearing the Clintons and their work. What little he shared in the policy arena was non-sensical. Merely removing barriers to health insurers will magically replace Obamacare, his tax policy won’t blow a massive long-term hole in the deficit (not to mention what it will do to our debt), and beating ISIS will merely require bombing the shit out of them.
It is tired pablum uttered by someone who knows little about the issues but a lot about how to foment discontent. Trump’s actions will not win him votes but I fear it will harden opposition to Clinton if she becomes President in a way that will make the Tea Party revolt against Obama look mild in comparison. Trump is creating a lynch mob of such radicalism that no Republican will risk running afoul of it for fear of losing their precious seat in Congress. James Carville famously said that “politics ain’t beanbag,” but you would hope it is not whatever we saw on stage in St. Louis either.
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