It has been one of the few graces common to American politics that presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, have been graceful in defeat. John Kerry, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Al Gore are all deservedly known for their concession speeches.
Then there’s Donald Trump.
The communications director for Jeb Bush, Tim Miller, writes that the signs that the Trump camp is ending the campaign in Death March mode are everywhere.
Donald Trump is going to lose this election. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is going to lose this election. Even if they would never admit it, they know Donald Trump will never be president. Trump and Conway are on the political death march. (This, to be clear for the Trump fans, is a political metaphor, not an actual death wish.)
This is the part of a losing campaign that exposes the true character of all those involved. So it should come as no shock that Donald Trump and his staff are failing this test in the most shameful and divisive manner imaginable.
…The death march is why Conway has begun to resurrect a time-honored practice: duplicitous political operatives throwing their boss under the bus to try to save face. In an attempt to preserve a lucrative fee on the public speaking circuit after the campaign, Conway has sent a series of tweets over the past week trying to position herself as both in on the joke with Saturday Night Live and the conscience on Trump’s shoulder trying to get him to behave. As a fellow anti-Trump conservative pointed out, Conway is officially playing the role of “punch clock villain.”
To a casual observer, this behavior might seem counterproductive to the goal Trump and Conway share: winning the election. But the reality is the only goal either has in mind now is self-preservation.
Miller has no doubt that Trump won’t be a graceful loser. He breaks down Trump’s Death March into three sections labelled, Shameful, Despicable, and Pathetic.
In today’s Sidney Morning Herald, Nick O’Malley explores the ashes and embers of the final days of Donald Trump, would-be president of the USA.
Speaking with Fairfax Media [former Romney advisor, Avik] Roy notes that Trump is not in any real sense a Republican. He conducted a hostile takeover of the party by identifying and catering to an under-served section of the GOP vote – resentful older whites. It was marketing genius.
As an outsider he had no Republican staff to help build his campaign, and instead hired a crew of mercenaries. They have little loyalty to Trump, and none to the party. So as the death march begins they have little capacity or inclination to curb Trump’s excesses, to force him to observe the basic traditions of American presidential politics, such as the gracious acceptance of defeat rather than the dangerous indulgence of claiming a rigged election while exciting racial animosities.
…As the death march goes on the Republican establishment has already started letting blood.
A sign of it was a spat on the MSNBC program Morning Joe on Thursday morning. The guest was Bill Kristol, the leading neoconservative editor of The Weekly Standard, the host was the former Republican Congressman, Joe Scarborough.
Kristol, one of the earliest and staunchest of the Republican’s “Never Trump” faction, asserted that Trump was a “fluke candidate” who should be ignored come election night.
Scarborough and his co-host Mika Brzezinski scoffed at the suggestion that Trump was a fluke and declared the Republican Party needed to “come clean” about his candidacy. Kristol, angry, accused Scarborough and Brzezinski of going soft on Trump and giving him free uncritical and very high-rating airtime during the primaries, in effect helping him win. The segment deteriorated into an angry, ugly slanging match, each blaming the other for the rise of Donald Trump.
Back in North Carolina, the young Republicans were divided on who to blame for a candidacy one group’s office-holder called “a joke”. Some pointed the finger at Paul Ryan, the House Speaker who the establishment hopes will lead them out of the wilderness, some at Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-er who railed for years against the party hierarchy. None had any real idea at what would come next.
…The most optimistic Republicans view the death march as a necessary ordeal.
When other Republicans were calling for Trump to somehow be forced from the Republican ticket earlier this month, the Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist George Will wrote that he must remain in place.
He argued the nation needed the pleasure of seeing Trump being made the thing he most disdains, “a loser,” and that his presence would serve as a reminder to the party that “perhaps it is imprudent to nominate a venomous charlatan”.
Trump was the GOP’s chemotherapy, he said.
If so, Roy is not sure that the death march will be curative.
Still a staunch Republican, he believes that over a period of years his party has lost its way, turning from the tenets of classical liberalism towards a dark nationalism.
Weighed down by the angry old white men that dominate its constituency, he says, the party has no interest in governing a large diverse nation, and therefore has no moral right to.
According to Roy, the Republican Party must first tackle its moral problem before it does its political one.