It’s the nightmare scenario.
According to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Donald Trump is now collapsing: he’s down 52 percent to 38 percent to Hillary Clinton in a two-way race, and down 46 percent to 35 percent in a four-way race. In the generic Congressional ballot, Democrats now outstrip Republicans by a 49 percent to 42 percent margin. Trump is not merely losing, he’s dragging the entire Republican Party down with him, just in time to hand complete power to Hillary Clinton and her Democratic allies in the House and Senate.
This is what happens when you nominate a combination of Todd Akin and Mark Foley to the presidency.
In late August 2012, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin made comments on a local radio show about rape and abortion. The comments made him a national laughing stock. Republicans across the nation immediately cut ties, sacrificing his Senate seat in an attempt to prevent the electoral infection from spreading. In the end, Republicans lost just two seats in the Senate and eight seats in the House.
In September 2006, Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) was caught in a scandal involving sexual liaisons with Congressional pages. Republicans again attempted to distance themselves, with far less success – Republicans lost 30 seats in the House and control of the chamber to Nancy Pelosi and her radical Democrats.
Imagine if Todd Akin or Mark Foley had been the presidential candidate. And imagine if the Republicans had then insisted on tying themselves to them.
Donald Trump knows this election is over. Everybody knows this election is over, except for the demented editorialists at Breitbart News. But they’re clinging to an alternative reality anyway – a reality in which Trump could still win but only if everybody stays loyal to him. Trump’s debate performance gives just enough credibility to this fiction that Republicans will stay in line. Trump tossed red meat at Republicans, and they’re eating it up – Republican officials who continue to defect will be punished by those who think they’re doing so because they’re too weak-kneed to attack the Clintons. That’s why Paul Ryan got booed after refusing to invite Donald Trump to an event on Saturday, the day after news of the “p***y” tape broke.
Here’s Robert Costa of The Washington Post, reporting just that:
In calls this morning, many Rs privately want to defect from Trump. But they say the debate gave them pause since he roused their base.— Robert Costa (@costareports) October 10, 2016
The hemorrhaging of Republicans away from Trump has stopped for the moment, even if some like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan are gradually attempting to edge away quietly.
In theory, that’s fine. In practice, it’s the equivalent of a Viking funeral: the Viking dies, and the community insists that his widow climb on the funeral pyre with him.
Trump’s pride demands that if his candidacy is dead, everyone burn with him, like the heathen kings of old. And burn they shall. Trump informed his voters on Sunday that anyone who wouldn’t support him should be punished at the polls, raising the ugly specter of people voting for Trump at the top of the ballot and then leaving the rest blank. So Trump will go down and take the rest down with him – and chortle while doing so:
Meanwhile, Trump circle gloating. Privately mocking elected Rs who are agonizing. One laughed and said, "We don't care."— Robert Costa (@costareports) October 10, 2016
Trump isn’t a Republican or a conservative, and probably doesn’t think things will be too bad if Hillary and the Democrats are elected. That’s the sick joke of this cycle. His supporters think it’s the end of the world, and they’re close to right – but Trump is perfectly happy to watch Republicans and conservatives go down in fiery ruins just so he can feel good about the size of his hands.
And Hillary knows it. For months, she’s tried to separate Trump off from normal Republicans, thinking that she can draw them to her side by creating an option to escape Trump. Now that she knows she’s going to win big, she’s going for the kill: linking all Republicans to Trump, hoping to win the House.
Ryan is still endorsing Trump. https://t.co/L30EZvUbm0— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 10, 2016
This is a full-scale disaster. Hillary’s looking to exploit it. And Republicans are too short-sighted to stop it.
But it’s not just about losing the presidency and losing the Senate and House. Trump has done something else, too: by forcing Republicans to lash themselves to the Trumpian Titanic as it takes on water, he’s forced them to destroy their own arguments and their own cause. Republicans have spent decades fighting the leftist false narrative of a broad American war on women – and now they’re spending all their time writing off talk of sexual assault as “locker room talk.” Republicans have spent decades telling voters that character matters – and then when their candidate brags about attempting to “f***” married women, they shrug it off by citing King David in Biblically illiterate fashion. Republicans have said that they’re not racist and neither is America – and then brushed off a guy who went easy on the KKK and used "textbook racism" against a judge of Mexican descent.
They’re giving Democrats all the fodder they’ll need for decades more of false arguments about the evils of Republicans and the American people.
Now none of this means that Republicans can’t vote for Trump. They can, as I’ve said thousands of times at this point – it’s possible to condemn in the strongest terms all of Trump’s evils, and still make a lesser-of-two-evils choice. But many Republican leaders aren’t capable of the cognitive dissonance, so instead they make excuses for Trump, make light of his disgusting rhetoric and actions, and lose women, minorities, and an entire generation of young voters in the process. Not to mention their souls.
The Trump advocates wanted to see everything burn. They’re going to get their wish. But Hillary’s going to be the one holding the match and laughing hysterically while Donald Trump sits off to the side, secure in the knowledge that at least he demonstrated what a tough guy he is.