In last night’s debate Donald Trump was a hateful, ill-informed crackpot. In other words, a fairly standard Republican in 2016:
Other than his unique fantasy that he opposed the Iraq war, Trump used the debate to vividly depict the fantasy world which most Republicans inhabit. He claimed she deleted her emails illegally and promised that, if he elected he would use the powers of his presidency to have her jailed, despite the conclusion by a Republican FBI director that doing so would not be a proper application of the law. He repeatedly attacked the debate moderators for imagined sins, including allegedly failing to bring up the email issue, which in fact they had. He spouted the usual gibberish about Obamacare driving costs out of control – in fact, healthcare inflation has fallen to historic lows – combined with promises to repeal it and replace it with the standard gibberish.
In all these ways, though, Trump remained well within the bounds of modern conservatism. Trump’s central premise was that none of his sins could compare with those of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who are criminals of a historic scale. To Republicans whose beliefs have been shaped through exposure to the Drudge Report, Breitbart, Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh, every word that escaped his lips was simple truths. Hillary Clinton cited the Republican officials who have called him unfit for office, trying to use the prestige of the Republican Party against him. Trump used his time to show that he is the Republican Party.
I only hope that his witless bullying will play worse with the public that it did with most of the paid cable commentators.