I have been saying for years since I resigned from the GOP that the party was headed toward suicide through its courting and pandering to the ugliest elements of society be they hateful Christian extremists, open racists and white supremacists, nativists, and xenophobes. Tonight's nomination of Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee is the culmination of this slow moving suicide that started decades ago. Yet many commentators on the right, while professing fear and/or loathing of Donald Trump conveniently ignore the role they themselves played acting as GOP apologists over the years. A case in point is New York Times columnist David Brooks. He's 100% on the mark that Trump is dangerous and likely mentally ill in a column today, but he fails to note how he helped give respectability to what should have been called out as abhorrent long ago. Here are highlights from his column:
Does anybody else have the sense that Donald Trump is slipping off the rails? His speeches have always had a rambling, free association quality, but a couple of the recent ones have, as the Republican political consultant Mike Murphy put it, passed from the category of rant to the category of full on “drunk wedding toast.”Trump’s verbal style has always been distinct. He doesn’t really speak in sentences or paragraphs. . . . Occasionally Trump will attempt a sentence longer than eight words, but no matter what subject he starts the sentence with, by the end he has been pulled over to the subject of himself. . . . There’s sort of a gravitational narcissistic pull that takes command whenever he attempts to utter a compound thought.
Trump has also always been a little engine fueled by wounded pride. For example, writing in BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins recalls the fusillade of abuse he received from Trump after writing an unflattering profile (he called Mar-a-Lago a “nice, if slightly dated, hotel”). Trump was so inflamed he tweeted retaliation at Coppins several times a day and at odd hours, calling him a “dishonest slob” and “true garbage with no credibility.”
Over the past few weeks these longstanding Trump patterns have gone into hyperdrive. This is a unique moment in American political history in which the mental stability of one of the major party nominees is the dominating subject of conversation.
The structure of his mental perambulations also seems to have changed. Formerly, as I said, his speeches had a random, free-form quality. But on Saturday his remarks had a distinct through line, anchored by the talking points his campaign had written down on pieces of paper. But Trump could not keep his attention focused on this through line — since the subject was someone else — so every 30 seconds or so he would shoot off on a resentment-filled bragging loop.
Donald Trump is in his moment of greatest triumph, but he seems more resentful and embattled than ever. Most political conventions are happy coronations, but this one may come to feel like the Alamo of aggrieved counterattacks.
It’s hard to know exactly what is going on in that brain, but science lends a clue. Psychologists wonder if narcissists are defined by extremely high self-esteem or by extremely low self-esteem that they are trying to mask. The current consensus seems to be that they are marked by unstable self-esteem. Their self-confidence can be both high and fragile, so they perceive ego threat all around.
Maybe as Trump has gotten more successful his estimation of what sort of adoration he deserves has increased while the outside criticism has gotten more pronounced. This combination is bound to leave his ego threat sensors permanently inflamed.
Some forms of disorder — like a financial crisis — send voters for the calm supple thinker. But other forms of disorder — blood in the streets — send them scurrying for the brutal strongman.
If the string of horrific events continues, Trump could win the presidency. And he could win it even though he has less and less control over himself.