Let’s be clear- the debate was Trump’s best performance and it didn’t matter because he is still Donald Trump. This means that of course he said something horrific- something appalling- something so unacceptable that it alone should disqualify him to run for the office of the presidency.
I am of course referring to his refusal to state that he would accept the results of the election. I am referring to his willingness to keep us in suspense- as if the election were a cliffhanger at the end of a television season.
He is an arsonist, willing to burn down American democracy because he is not getting his way. Only ever interested in the media attention, he will continue to hijack our political process long after November 8th.
Republicans also expressed shock. Even Fox news felt this was too much (though they framed it in more strategic terms). “Responsible” Republicans asserted that Trump is simply beyond the pale. “Who could ever have imagined such a thing?” they said.
But there is a problem with this whole narrative that Trump is so radically different. In style and temperament he clearly is, but in terms of his rhetoric he is often just the logical and honest extension of the Fox news/talk radio Republican party line.
That’s why his message resonates. His supporters have been groomed for his candidacy for 20+ years. Fox commentators have scare mongered about voter fraud, fawned over the strength of Putin, and sought to delegitimate Obama’s presidency. They have told us not to believe facts and figures. They have told us to deny science. They have argued that facts don’t matter- that somehow they could live in a fact free reality wherein they could make the “truth” anything they wanted it to be.
Why should anyone be surprised that Trump will not accept the results of the election when Republicans have spent the last 8 years doing the same thing to Obama? They just said it in code.
Yes, clearly Trump is different. But he is merely the pure distillation of the hate and rot that has festered in the Republican party.