Donald Trump is clearly following the path taken by a certain deplored German political figure in the 1930s. He says what his followers want to hear, even when his opponents can prove that he cannot do what he promises – at least not within the structure of law and the Constitution, and the hard constraints of finance. He utters vicious attacks on anyone who displeases him, attacks that are more often completely untrue than anywhere close to accurate. He bullies everyone who tries to point out his errors, and he attacks the entire political structure as being rigged against him. In fact, anyone who opposes him or suggests he might be in error becomes an enemy and the subject of his wrath.
As far as the political arena goes, decorum, civility, manners – they mean nothing to him, because he believes his cause is just and righteous, and no means that will achieve it can be too low or crude or vicious not to be employed.
When his opponent points out flaws in what he has said or promised, she is the liar, the “crooked” liar, although impartial observers have documented that over 70% of his promises and statements are mostly or entirely false, while only about 30% of hers are mostly or entirely false. His response to this has been to claim that those impartial observers are against him, because he doesn’t see facts as facts. He sees them as impediments to his gaining power.
Now… if the polls are correct, at this point, Trump seems likely to lose, but unhappily, no matter what occurs in November, we are all going to lose. We are going to lose because scorched earth politics, brutal name-calling, disregard of the facts, and blatant appeals to the worst in human nature will most likely result in a Congress even more polarized than the current Congress, an electorate more polarized and unwilling to trust anyone not firmly on “their side,” and an economy that is going downhill, because neither party is willing to adopt a bi-partisan economic reform package that has to include [if anything has a chance of getting better] both fiscal restraint and true tax reform, meaning, among other things, slightly higher tax rates on the top half of one percent and much lower corporate tax rates, but with absolutely no exemptions or loopholes. And that’s just the beginning of what’s necessary.
And it’s not going to happen because, no matter who wins, the other side is going to feel not only cheated, but totally disenfranchised, largely because this long and painful election campaign has been about each side portraying the other as worse than anything possible.
Trump is right about some things, such as the pain of the white male industrial worker and that, whether it’s unfounded or not, that people are worried about what they see as unrestricted illegal immigration. Clinton is also right about some things as well, such as the fact that, like it or not, the U.S. cannot bully the rest of the world, not because we’re not powerful, but because we can’t afford the military presence necessary to do that. Bullying people around doesn’t work, as we’ve discovered in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, without boots on the ground, and we don’t have enough men and women in boots, and the soldiers and sailors wearing those boots don’t have enough equipment, enough maintenance, and enough support to fight all the fights that Trump would have us fight, especially not with the huge federal deficit.
And neither one really has a decent plan to deal with that deficit, although both give it passing lip service.
That, in itself, wouldn’t be insurmountable, except that Congress is also hate-polarized, and doesn’t seem able to surmount the mutual antipathy that the parties have for each other… or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that individual members lack the courage to work out something because the hatred out there among the electorate might well result in their losing their next election if any member crosses party lines.
There’s always been a reason for manners in society, and in functioning governments. That reason is simple. Manners allow people to talk to each other, even when they don’t like each other and what they stand for. And that’s the biggest problem with Donald Trump. He’s shredded the last vestige of political manners… and we’re all going to pay for it – unless we reject that approach to politics.