What Would it Take?
Sunday night’s episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight made an interesting argument for how Trump has gotten so far in this election: the Bed of Nails theory.
Simply put, if someone steps on a single nail (or a damn LEGO brick), it hurts alot. However, with more nails spread out, the shock is spread out to the point that one can lay down on a bed of nails and feel no significant pain.
And so it goes with Trump. A random pick of any single controversial comment he has made would be enough to derail lesser, or more mainstream, candidates. However, as the “did he really just say that” comments pile up, the electorate and media have become more numb to the overall outrage factor. Even the latest ones made against Khizr and Ghazala Khan, while shocking, will inevitably fade away as the election hurtles towards its final three months.
As the comments have piled up, eager Democrats have rushed breathlessly to say that their Republican counterparts should denounce Trump. Short of Speaker Paul Ryan noting that some previous comments Trump made have been categorically racist (and yet, still not enough to denounce him) and a handful of lesser known Republicans saying they will not vote for him, or refraining to endorse him, not much has really happened.
No one of significance has yet to step up and flatout say, “ I am not voting for Donald Trump, and neither should you. Because he does not represent me, my party, or my country.”
Any Democrats wishing that somehow the Republican Party will abandon Trump prior to the election by denouncing him, are living in the same fantasy land where Trump can say three years straight he knew Vladimir Putin and then say he doesn’t know the guy, and expect people to believe him.
The GOP, or Democratic Party in any alternate reality, would never completely reject and abandon their presidential candidate. The stakes would be too high and they’d rather grimace and bear the day to day disasters in hopes of salvaging the race come November, rather than concede defeat and grant an automatic 4 years to the opposing party. It would simpy never happen.
…or would it?
More importantly, what would it take?
What would it take, in the remaining 99 days until Election Day, for Trump to get the full repudiation and condemnation of his party, or a significant enough portion of it? Would it be one completely over-the-top comment that would seal the deal? Or would it be a final straw breaking that camel’s back that does him in?
Trump just violated one of the most untenable principles of American politics: never insult or attacked veterans & their families (especially Gold Star families — those who have lost family members in combat), and as of yet, nothing has really happened.
If you Google “People Donald Trump has insulted,” the results are staggering. Among the first page highlights:
CNN’s 10 Times Donald Trump Offended Since Launching His Campaign (Note, this was from Nov. 2015)
Huffington Post just shrugged its shoulders and asked Have You Been Insulted by Donald Trump? (spoiler alert: if you are Latino, Black, Jewish, Muslim, a woman, a football player or former player, Jed Bush, or the friggin’ Pope, then yes. You’ve been insulted.)
And for his supporters, it’s not a matter of insults. It’s a matter of straight-talk. Calling it like it is. Honest opinion, and not poll-tested comments. People need to stop whining and be politically correct.
But when you take a step back and see the list in its entirety, two things come to mind:
- When the list includes, among others: George W. Bush, European leaders, Amazon, debates, CNN, Macy’s, Britain, voters, Republicans, Democrats, and baseball, you really wonder who hasn’t he insulted?
- This list is going to keeping growing.
So again, what would it take? What could he say that even those on the borders of his base would finally throw their hands up, that Republican leadership would facepalm so hard, or that even the media would flat-out just say this is wrong?
Racist one-liner about President Obama?
Nah, a follow-up Tweet will clarify what he really meant to say was…
More xenophobic comments about Muslims?
No, people were saying. A lot of people. People kept coming up to him and telling him this. Lots of people. And you know, he didn’t say it originally, but he saw people talking about it. Heard them. So you know, maybe you should ask them what they meant.
Derogatory comment about a foreign political leader?
No, the lamestream media was twisting his words about Angela Merkel. He really meant to say The, Angela, The.
Twitter tantrum about Michael Obama?
“It wasn’t me, okay? Okay? It was the Chinese with their ching chang chon--look, they hacked my account, alright?! They have no respect, none at all. But when I come into the White House, it’ll be more than fortune cookies we’ll be breaking open.”
Telling a female reporter to get back in the kitchen?
“Well look,” said Paul Manafort, “what Mr. Trump was commenting on was that surely before she was the Chief Political Correspondent for her news outlet, she was a reporter for another category, like ‘food’ or ‘home & kitchen.’ All he meant was that she should go report on another topic.”
Some quip about Bill Clinton’s affairs?
Trump didn’t say it originally. He heard it from a friend who heard it from David Duke. He was just repeating the joke. And it’s just a joke. Jeez, people get so politically correct these days.
No. So not in formation, Donald…Don’t even go there.
Ultimately, when previously-held red lines have already been crossed about an entire religion, people from another country, or military veterans and their families, it’s hard to imagine what could actually be said that would be finally “too much.”
I think, just like a bed of nails, a bed of comments, while not painful, is not comfortable. No one wants to lay down on one forever, and definitely not for 99 days more. Ultimately, it will be the sustained total weight of these comments, from a man who refuses to ever acknowledge he is wrong or apologise, that will be his undoing.
Besides those strongest stalwart supporters of his, and his immediate family, people will begin to pull away quietly. It will take the vocal opposition of leading members of the Republican Party who finally will stand up and say “Donald Trump does not support me, my values, or the Republican Party” for others to have the political cover to finally walk away.
Anyone else have any guesses for what would it take?