Once the media mob has worked you over there’s not much the undertaker can do to make you look presentable for the wake. You’re well smashed up and truly dead, unless you’re Donald Trump, fortified by crude wit, relentless stamina and astonishing resources of ego, confidence and self-regard.
Deserving or not, rarely has a political candidate been so targeted by the mob of media, political establishment and even some in the church, of all places, though it is true that most of the churchmen in the mob are the preachers who preach to empty pews. The mob affects a piety that it invariably scorns in the authentically righteous.
The big organs of the media, though not as consequential as they once were but still consequential, employ “moral” arguments in trying to bring down the Donald. A columnist for The New York Times suggests assassination as the only way to get rid of him, and to quiet a brief uproar insisted that it was “only a joke." Tell a joke like that and that humorless guy at your front door will be from the Secret Service. But about Donald Trump? That’s different.
The Washington Post argues that Republicans, whom the newspaper ordinarily regards as beyond redemption and unfit for polite parlors, have a moral duty to find a polite palooka who won’t frighten the ladies. They could commission him to take a polite dive in November. A Republican sacrifice is necessary “to save democracy.”
The New York Daily News, famous for its clever tabloid headlines (“Ford to City: Drop Dead,” over a story about President Gerald Ford telling New York he wouldn’t bail out a municipal bankruptcy) says the Donald and like-minded soldiers in the U.S. Army are plotting death and mayhem on the innocent in the war on terror.
The Republican establishment, which insists there is no Republican establishment, agrees the hour is late to find another way to destroy the Trump campaign that a succession of favorite sons has failed to do. Sen. Mitch McConnell, a leader in the great Republican snipe hunt and leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, prescribes stronger condemnation of violence at Trump campaign events. He has no rebuke of those who start the violence. He appears to be upset not that modern-day storm troopers are breaking up Mr. Trump’s rallies, but that it’s the Donald to blame. “I think all the candidates for president ought to be discouraging that kind of activity because the people in the audience tend to listen to those who are speaking,” he says. (Yes, that’s usually how speakers and audiences work.) “We ought to condemn this kind of violence and encourage the American people to engage in this political debate in a respectful way.”
He won’t say whether he expects Mr. Trump to be the Republican candidate in November, nor what effect a Trump candidacy would have on the November prospects of Republican incumbents in Congress. “Senate races are statewide races,” he says. “You can craft your own message for your own people. And that’s exactly what we intend to do this fall, no matter who the nominee is.”
A succession of blowout congressional victories, largely the work of the very voters the establishment now scorns, has produced congressional majorities that are swiftly reduced to a timid, quivering mass of jelly, frightened by every media and establishment burp, cough and sneeze. But if the past is a reliable guide, the sneers and scolds of winter will become flattery and pleas for help in October.
The enduring shame of the Republican leadership is that the Trump dilemma is the work of the establishment men too craven even to admit they exist. Donald Trump’s sin is that he recognized opportunity and took it. He did not persuade millions of conservatives and independents that they had been betrayed by “leaders" who passively watch the destruction of the culture, of American institutions swamped by uncontrolled immigration, only to offer vague and sympathetic platitudes at election time. Even the platitudes are forgotten as soon as the votes are counted.
The voters flocking to the Trump banner figured that out by themselves. This taste for angry retribution is reflected in the Democratic campaign as well. Bernie Sanders, too, saw similar opportunity, and he took it. If Hillary Clinton can stay out of prison she may inherit the prize plum of American politics simply by being there. The people responsible for this sad state of affairs are easily recognized. They’re the ones crying loudest. What’s emerging out there will give them something to really cry about.