If a soap opera scriptwriter were to pen the drama of this political season as afternoon fare, it would be laughed out of the writer’s room. Nobody would believe it. As a nation, we are dragging ourselves to the finish line, exhausted and full of mud, and we are counting down each day until we arrive at November 8th. We want to be put out of our misery.
Just when you think that this race cannot get any crazier, it continues to surprise and descend further. After last Friday’s episode of Donald Trump as “Uncle Creepy,” along with the soon unemployed Billy Bush as wingman, they engaged in what was called “Locker Room Talk.”
Days later, the nation staggered through a debate where pundits and commentators competed to outdo themselves with disgust. Donald Trump, we now know was trying to sneak four women who were critical of both Clintons into the family section in order to create a confrontation between them and the former President. Trump skulked around and appeared to stalk Secretary Clinton throughout most of the debate.
While Trump denied that he had sexually abused anybody, more and more women are coming out of the woodwork to say that they have been abused by Donald Trump. What is a trickle should build into a tsunami by Election Day.
The Trump candidacy died like roadkill on the interstate. This is something that will bedevil political science professors until the end of time, but somehow a “B list” celebrity with a bottomless ego and a greatly inflated balance sheet threatened to wreck the American experiment. As a nation, we are in the process of dragging ourselves to a conclusion, even though no long hot shower can fully remove the mud and grime of this political season.
This week, Donald Trump has decided to go after the very people who would help him win the race and potentially even govern as political leaders like Paul Ryan released House members to run for their political lives. Trump also remains livid that people like Lindsay Graham, John McCain and nearly 25% of GOP officeholders (at the Senate Congressional and Gubernatorial level) have chosen to repudiate him as their nominee. This is simply astonishing from a political party that prided itself on lock step discipline.
The overall Trump Brand is dead too—as dead as his candidacy. All of those buildings that bare the words “Trump” at the penthouse level are essentially licensing deals, where others construct the building and use his name to fill vacancies. Before the campaign began, Trump—even with his perceived flaws—had a silhouette of success for those who viewed him from a distance.
The scrutiny of a national political campaign has reduced his name and brand to shambles. Once Trump owned a bankable last name but now that brand is tarnished. Since allegation after allegation fell out of the Trump campaign, his brand is now a tarnished mess, aligned with Russian oligarchs, alt-right hackers, white supremacists, and sexual perverts. Who is going to build the next Trump Tower in the United States when his last name is a “bat signal” for everything that is wrong in our democracy? Perhaps the future of Trump is elsewhere, like Russia and some of its former satellites that are ruled by strongmen, where the embrace of such character defects is seen as a good thing.
However there is one silver lining in this political train wreck. We realized that our democracy was under attack and a number of people put our nation ahead of their normal political affiliations. Newspapers that had normally endorsed Republicans jumped the broom and realized that while Secretary Clinton might not be their cup of tea, she was certainly better than a glass of strychnine which symbolized the Trump candidacy.
There also is a personal element to this. I know what it’s like to be the only “girl in the boardroom,” the person who is diminished because of my gender or judged by my exterior as opposed to what’s in my brain. I’ve had a number of slurs thrown my way over the years. The entertainment industry is also full of stories of bad behavior, tales which are often recounted by a variety of my friends after a glass or two of wine. However, we fought so that the next generation might have it easier. I am heartened to see that the next generation is working even harder to be seen and heard on equal footing.
However, it’s not just a matter of teaching young women what not to tolerate; it is also a longer explanation to our young sons—as they grow into young men—that “Locker Room Talk” espoused by Donald Trump should be padlocked forever.
The campaign is essentially over but it’s not. Watching Donald Trump these days reminds me of the final scene from Doctor Strangelove where Slim Pickens rides the nuclear weapon to begin nuclear Armageddon. What started out as a 50-50 race quickly descended into chaos never seen in our lifetimes. The bottom fell out of the Trump campaign and states that once were “sure things” for Trump have moved away. Even places Utah, which gave President Obama only 24% is now listed as a toss-up thanks to a fourth party candidate. However, the sad thing is this: While Trump is toast; Trumpism will be around for a long time to come.
Trumpism will reappear under new management in 2020 and somebody will be the NextTrump. It may not have the rogue’s gallery of people like Steve Bannion, David Bossie or Roger Stone, but somebody will figure out how to press the buttons Trump pushed as he obliterated a generation of GOP leadership and won the nomination. They will figure out how to whip up resentment and class “dog whistles” without Trump’s anger, erratic behavior, a closet full of skeletons—and do it with a folksy demeanor.
The NextTrump won’t have the baggage and the tawdry sexual resume. He or she will come along in a smiling face and they might be harder to stop.
In finale, Donald Trump wanted to be the president in the very worst way—and has reaped his just rewards. However, it is the future, the season of the NextTrump, which should cause for many more sleepless nights.