I don’t know how to explain or quite understand what happened on Wednesday, August 31, 2016. I can give a narrative. Trump was invited down to Mexico by the President of the Country. He appeared at a podium and seemed calm and dignified. Rudy Giuliani wore a hat to a press conference that said “Make Mexico Great Again Also.” After that, Trump gave his immigration policy speech in Phoenix, Arizona which is a state posed to tip from red to blue because of a growing Hispanic population. By all accounts, the speech was the old xenophobic and racist Trump.
What was the purpose of the last week when the news was filled with stories of Trump allegedly softening on immigration? A week where Trump allegedly betrayed Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh allegedly betrayed his fans. What was the purpose of the hat? My only guess is that the Trump campaign is in full-jester, contempt, and rebellion mode. Two weeks ago, Michelle Goldberg described the prime joy of the alt-right as an “irreverent glee in their ability to shock the bourgeoisie.”
This seems right and explains Trump’s alleged immigration actions in the last few weeks. Trump never intended to soften or change his position on immigration. The whole thing was a facade intended to trick a compliant but proper media. The speech in Arizona was basically a “psych, fooled you suckers” moment in which the media was caught with their damned pants-down.
We should not expect Trump to moderate or change his positions. This is a man whose most recent campaign manager considers women’s liberation to be a product of “bull dykes” from Seven Sisters College. (Disclaimer: The author is a proud graduate of Vassar College. As far as he knows, he is not a Bull Dyke.) Bannon allegedly did not want to send his daughters to a private school in LA because of its high Jewish population. (Disclaimer. The author is Jewish and as far as he knows is only whiny when he is tired and hungry.)
We don’t know if Trump will win the election or not Same Wang and the Upshot say almost certainly not at this point. 538 gives Trump somewhat more favorable odds. The question is what happens to the Republican Party and the Right after Trump. Trump is laying forward one of the most openly bigoted campaigns of any political candidate in recent history. We are no longer in dog whistle territory with Trump.
Even if Trump loses and loses badly, I don’t see how the genie gets put back in the bottle. The GOP can institute some super-delegate type rules to prevent future Trumps but Trump made something very clear. A person can win the GOP nomination for President by appealing to 35 percent of the Party that is very into openly bigoted appeals. I used to think the alt-right were just a bunch of anonymous nothings on the Internet. Maybe most people could not tell you what the alt-right or neo-reactionary politics are but I think they are poised to be a loud voice in American politics for the immediate future. A kind of right-wing version of the Yippies.
The Yippies might have help nominate McGovern to be Democratic candidate for President in 1972. McGovern was deeply unpopular but as far as I know, he never attempted a gotcha stunt like Trump did with Mexico. McGovern did embarrass himself over his Vice Presidential pick and dithering but that is not anywhere close to a prank action. I can’t think of a comparable action where a major party candidate appeared to change and then pulled the football like Lucy always does from Charlie Brown.
Trump remains deeply unpopular. As a liberal Democrat, this should make me very happy but I still worry about the forces he has unleashed during this Presidential election. Are we going to see more political candidates try immature pranks while running for President? Trump’s Mexican adventure seemed like it was thought up after one too many drinks.