On Friday I overheard a passing fragment of conversation — a question, and the question repeated — and it’s sort of lodged irritatingly in my mind. You know — like a popcorn husk caught between the teeth; you keep worrying at it pointlessly with tongue. Here’s a fair approximation of the conversation fragment:
“Okay, what’s the worst thing about Trump?”
“The worst thing about Trump?”
There was a very distinct Are you fucking kidding me? vibe to the repetition of the question — as if the answer was so obvious it didn’t need a response, or that there were so many answers that it was impossible to respond. But it got me thinking. What IS the worst thing about Donald Trump?
The ease with which he tells lies? The fact that he’s completely unconcerned about getting caught telling lies? His possibly pathological need for attention? His brittle arrogance? His constant self-congratulation? His willful ignorance? His ignorance of his ignorance? Trump really DOES have so many offensive personal qualities that it’s difficult to pick which one is worst. Hell, there are so many offensive personal qualities that it’s difficult even to catalog them. You’d need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them.
But at the moment, I’m inclined to think the worst thing about Trump is that he’s so unrelentingly awful — both as a candidate and as a person — that he might immunize the Republican Party from their worst defeat in recent history. Let’s face it, the Republicans have been increasingly horrible as a political party for two or three decades. This year they put up seventeen of the most ghastly, reprehensible weasels imaginable to run for President of These United States. Seventeen candidates, each completely horrible in his or her own way — and they ended up nominating that worst of them.
Donald Trump is such a hopelessly dreadful candidate that when he loses in November he’ll likely drag down a big chunk of the Republican Party with him. If any of the other potential GOP candidates had been nominated, they almost certainly would lose in November as well — but their loss might have triggered a moment of genuine reflection among Republicans. They might have found themselves asking the questions the GOP really needs to be asking: ‘How did we allow our party to become the party of obstructionist fuckwits? How did we turn from a party of principled conservatives into a party of hateful, bigoted pus-buckets? How did we become the party of fear and anxiety? Why did we convince ourselves that it was more important to prevent the president from succeeding than to find ways to make the government work?’
For a while I honestly believed a crushing Trump defeat might be the spark Republicans need to reignite themselves as ‘the loyal opposition’. I thought his loss might create an atmosphere that would encourage Republican legislators to remember that their primary responsibility is to help sustain a functioning government while fighting for policies driven by their political ideology. But, again, it looks like a Trump defeat might allow them to avoid asking those uncomfortable questions.
That might actually be the worst thing about Donald Trump. Not any of his odious personal qualities, but the fact that he might give the GOP a Get Out of Jail Free card for four more years.
When Trump loses in November, they can tell themselves “It wasn’t the Republican Party that lost; it was that asshole Trump.”