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The world is changed: Cassandra on Zoloft

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Nine years ago I said Donald Trump had a good chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination, and eventually the presidency, at a time when this opinion was considered self-evidently ridiculous by the Wise. Now not even the Wise can see all ends, and I’m no prophet, and I don’t know nature’s way, but with those characteristically academic caveats out of the way:

I think that Donald Trump is on the verge of collapsing as a political force in America.

I’m NOT saying that his political collapse is inevitable. I’m arguing for the OPPOSITE of complacency. At this most perilous moment, the opportunity to drive a stake into the avatar of revenant fascism in America is just that.

Let me point to three signs and portents:

(1) Trump’s affect and behavior during the first of what will be multiple trials has been a disaster. He can’t stay awake; he can’t control his bodily functions in a socially acceptable way; he is increasingly coming across to all but the most unreachable zealots (admittedly these make up something like a third of the voting public, but that is still a vastly lower percentage than necessary to win or even seriously compete for the presidency) as a viscerally disgusting old man, despite the fancy suits and the drag queen-level cosmetic interventions. And disgust is an extremely powerful political emotion. Yes I realize his base is not disgusted with him, or at least very little of it is. But again, his base only makes up around half of Republican voters, let alone anyone else. For those outside the cult, what is happening in that New York courtroom is a ritual humiliation that for many of them is destroying the idea of Donald Trump as anything other than a pathetic buffoon. Contemporary American elections are won at the margin, and at the margin Trump is getting killed right now. Indeed I believe there’s a serious question of whether he’s even capable of enduring the rest of this trial without having a frank total emotional and physical breakdown. We shall see (If the trial were televised I would be even more confident about all this, but unfortunately it’s not).

(2) Trump and his minions have spent the last couple of weeks begging his supporters (I’m on his email distribution list) not just for money, but to show up in person at his current trial, as a symbolic act of solidarity and resistance. These pleas have been an almost indescribably comprehensive flop. No one — almost literally no one among the 74 million people who voted for him four years ago — has shown up. Yesterday afternoon you could count Trump’s supporters outside the courthouse on the fingers of one hand. This is not a small thing. Trump is so humiliated by this development that he’s making farcical claims about how the police are physically barring thousands of his supporters from the site of the completely non-existent protests in support of him. This massive public absence of support is obviously driving him up the wall, and may well play a key role in the potential breakdown over the course of the trial I mentioned above.

(3) Last night, Pennsylvania held a closed Republican presidential primary, seven weeks after Nikki Haley formally withdrew from the race, and the media noted accurately at the time that there was no longer even the formal semblance of a race for the Republican presidential nomination. This again is at a moment when Trump is begging his supporters for any gesture of loyalty and solidarity. Haley got nearly 17% of the vote — 157,000 out of 946,000 votes cast. These are all registered Republicans, who bothered to go to the trouble of casting an explicitly anti-Trump vote under the most purely symbolic of conditions. Yes I realize most of them will vote for Trump in the general. But a lot won’t vote at all, or will vote for RFK Jr., and a few will even vote for Biden. And again, contemporary elections are won at the margin. Trump can’t afford to lose any of these voters and be competitive in Pennsylvania, or any other swing state. All in all, it’s a terrible sign for him.

Six months is a long time. A lot can happen in the interim. The Electoral College is wildly favorable to any Republican presidential candidate at the moment. A lot of the mainstream media are prostitutes who want a close race more than they want to avoid fascism. All this is true. All this means that anti-Trump efforts should be redoubled. Far too much is on the line to take anything for granted.

Still: I think he’s done.

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