Trump: The final meltdown

October 21, 2016 Originally published on SFGate

Time is getting compressed. The country feels cramped and frantic, everything more than a little unhinged.

Have you noticed? The sound and fury increasing, a palpable sense of desperation underscoring the headlines as the weirdest, meanest, most surreal election cycle in your lifetime careens to its inevitable and blessed end? Of course you have.

What’s your prediction? Will Trump ultimately explode into a million shards of snakes and bats? Will Hillary maintain her miraculous energy, grace and composure when faced with the Orange Monster sniffing, leering and looming over her at the final debate? Will Trump’s increasingly toxic, inbred army of deplorables spontaneously combust into a fiery cloud of garbled screams and fetid oilsmoke? Of course they will.

What of the ogre himself? Will new tapes emerge to condemn Trump even further? Will he be revealed to have, I don’t know, punched some immigrant children in the face? Groped some sheep? Filmed caboosing Putin and Assad on a three-man jet-ski off the coast of Crimea?

Why not? Nothing seems implausible at this violently unprecedented moment in American history. We are at that nasty final stage, a brutal crux that seems incapable of getting any darker or more repellant, right until it does. As the ever-excellent Rebecca Solnit put it, we’re at a point “When you can’t tell if your country is going to have an election or file for a restraining order or whether those are the same thing now.”

Hillary was only half joking when she quipped “I’m the last thing between you and the apocalypse” in a recent profile of her campaign in these final weeks, even though every poll has her surging well ahead – though still not as far ahead as you’d think, given how her opponent is imploding like a psychotic nuclear warhead, essentially declaring all women to be ugly gold-digging wenches, the election is rigged, “international banks” are in secret control and every poll everywhere is wrong, even as GOP leaders (and donors) continue to flee, en masse.

His fist, the world's face

His fist, the world’s face

Even more astonishing? We’ve reached a point in the republic where the First Lady of the United States cannot help but deliver one of the most powerful, emotionally raw speeches in modern history, one decrying a presidential candidate’s abhorrent treatment of women and his frightening absence of basic human decency – and even that’s only one of this election’s most telling moments.

All told, there is only one thing Trump has done better than anyone – aside, of course, from mocking and manipulating the media (and then laughably declaring the entire industry to be on Clinton’s payroll) – and that’s to weaponize his furious, terrified base.

They are his troll army, a bucket of acid hurled in the face of thoughtfulness and compassion. In their eyes, Trump is a authoritarian mastermind beyond compare, Jim Jones crossed with Charles Manson with a Stalin chaser, coming at you in a giant, ill-fitting suit and a big shiny plane. Trump has played them brilliantly; the more vile and immoral he gets, the more they transmute it into virtue.

Trump hisses about locking up Hillary? They cheer wildly. Trump nastily counter-attacks yet another woman accusing him of groping her or grabbing her crotch? They leer and chortle. Trump bashes Muslims, Mexicans, China, Paul Ryan, Elizabeth Warren, PolitiFact, foreign leaders and SNL and climate change, declaring it all part of a vast, Hillary-controlled conspiracy to keep America’s raging white males in check? Like heroin for an army of addicts.

Here’s the essential question: Is this gnarled militia big enough to win Trump the election? Not even close.

But it’s absolutely sufficient to serve as a ready-made, built-in audience for Trump Media (or whatever he calls it) the savage conspiracy nutball venture Trump seems almost certain to launch after getting crushed in the election.

And why not? His team is already in place: He’s got former Breitbart CEO Stephen Bannon and disgraced Fox News chief/famed sexual harrasser Roger Ailes, two of the most unsavory, journalism-hating white males ever to grace an election team, as hood ornaments.

Has this been Trump’s overall strategy all along, to build a bilious, incite-’em-to-violence media empire? Hard to say. He’s not exactly one for deep intelligence or cunning foresight. Trump merely goes wherever his blathering, flatulent ego gets magnified the most – and right now, there’s only one place on the planet that does it: his own rallies.

A Trump rally, in case you haven’t read the innumerable terrifying accounts, is a most pugnacious slice of sociocultural hell. The world may be against him, leaders of all parties, companies, nations cannot distance themselves fast enough; his companies are failing and women loathe him and SNL mocks him ruthlessly; he has not a kind or genuinely thoughtful word for anyone anywhere and his humanity and heart appear to have been replaced by razor blades and turpentine – but oh, Trump still has a goddamn blast at his own rallies. They worship him. Everywhere else on the planet? Not so much.

Prediction: After the election, Trump will bind himself in his nutshell of bile and hate, and call himself the king of infinite space. Trump Media will vomit into existence, a bit of vituperative cultural cancer eager to sicken anyone who comes near.

As for the rest of us: The nation will quickly (albeit woozily) right itself, Hillary and Co. will bring intelligence, grace and clarity back to the national debate as finally, for the first time in more than a year, every other headline will not feature another outrage wrought of a venomous, morally putrefied sexual abuser with a thing for puerile, megalomaniacal tweets. Can you imagine?

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Mark Morford

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