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Notes on the garbage fire that is American politics

Every Republican who endorsed and normalized Trump bears part of the blame for this moment.

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Nevada Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

At 7:26 pm, barely 90 minutes before the second presidential debate, Donald Trump tweeted, “Join me on #FacebookLive as I conclude my final #debate preparations.”

The link went to a Facebook Live post, where Trump was holding a press conference with Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey, three women who have accused Bill Clinton of various forms of sexual misconduct. This, Trump thinks, is the Hail Mary that will save his presidential campaign.

This is so much crazier than anything I ever imagined I would see in presidential politics that I legitimately don’t know how to process it. A few thoughts.

  1. Every Republican who endorsed and normalized Trump while knowing there was nothing normal about him bears part of the blame for this moment. Washington is full of elected officials who privately consider Trump a lunatic but backed him anyway. They brought us to this moment, and their cowardice and cynicism should be remembered.
  2. Trump’s strategy here is even worse than it looks. Tonight’s “debate” is actually a town hall. The two candidates will be taking questions from undecided voters. This is the worst possible format from which to launch searing personal attacks.
  3. Trump seems to misunderstand the game he’s playing. The recent revelations about his past have hurt him personally, and now he wants to hurt Clinton personally in turn. But he’s solving the wrong problem. The recent revelations have made voters — and Republican elected officials — doubt that they want someone with Trump’s temperament in the White House. Trump’s bizarre counterattack will deepen those doubts when what he needed to do was find a way to lift them.
  4. Trump also misunderstands the dynamics threatening his campaign. The past 48 hours have seen a stampede of Republican officials unendorsing Trump. What he needed to do was stop the stampede — to give the Republicans who are still by his side a way to resist the pressure to abandon him. He has done the exact opposite. The next 48 hours will see yet more Republicans abandon Trump.
  5. Think of Trump’s mental and physical condition going into this debate. He’s furious and wounded. He’s been obsessing about his counterattack rather than preparing for the substantive, what-will-you-do-about-rising-tuition questions he’s about to get from voters. He’s probably not sleeping well. He’s angry at the press, and at his own party, and at Clinton. And now he has 90 minutes in a format he doesn’t know, doesn’t understand, and wasn’t able to master in his one practice session. The ingredients are here for a complete disaster.
  6. I’ve seen people say that there’s something fitting that the first female president will win office by beating one of the most misogynistic American politicians in memory, and perhaps that’s true. But it’s also gross, humiliating, and unfair. No one is accusing Hillary Clinton of sexual misconduct or infidelity. And yet she will have to stand on a stage, on national television, and answer for her husband’s sins. It is hard to believe this would happen if Trump were running against a man, and it is insane to believe that someone with Trump’s checkered marital history and history of sexist commentary would be on the stage if she were a woman, or an African American.
  7. The size of the disaster the Republican Party is facing cannot be overstated. We are watching the lengths Trump will go for revenge and dominance over his political adversaries. Right now, that adversary is Clinton. But as more Republicans flee his campaign over the next 48 hours, the Republican establishment will also find itself in Trump’s sights, and he will unleash his fury on them, tearing the party apart in the process.
  8. Republicans are now facing an outcome almost no one thought possible: Democrats retaking the House and the Senate, and Hillary Clinton getting a chance to actually make policy alongside a Democratic Congress. It is a disaster they brought upon themselves.

Watch: GOP, only now you realize Trump is sexist?

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