Sunday, September 4, 2016

Exploiting a broken system: Trump’s within striking distance of Hillary — and that’s mind-boggling

In case you hadn’t noticed, the polling gap between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is slowly narrowing, according to Nate Silver’s where Trump has gone from a 12 percent chance of winning to a 27 percent chance in four short weeks. By itself, it doesn’t seem all that scary for Democrats, but when we look at the trendlines, the race is clearly narrowing, with no signs of slowing. The latest IBD/TIPP poll shows a national dead-heat, 39-to-39. The Los Angeles Times shows Trump leading by a point, as does the Republican-leaning Rasmussen. Talking Points Memo’s Polltracker average has Hillary up by just one.

Should Democrats and, indeed, all reasonable human beings panic now? Maybe.

And the GOP nominee hasn’t really done anything specific to warrant such a change in fortunes. In fact, he’s done almost everything wrong by a factor of thousands. This speaks volumes about the malfunctioning condition of American politics and the news media, and I’m afraid that all of the garment rending over Trump’s individual hourly trespasses is serving to avoid the big picture crisis: Trump shouldn’t even be in the race, much less nearly tied with a far more qualified opponent. He’s marched through a super-colossal loophole in the system, bobby-pins and border walls in tow, while doing everything wrong.

After watching Donald Trump yelling at the world about immigration Wednesday night, I’m more discouraged than ever about the current state of the American political process. How could this have possibly gone so far? Are we really this vulnerable to the whimsy of necrotic populism? Sadly, we are, and there are scant firewalls to prevent it from happening again and again.

In case you missed it, Trump’s whiplash posture — one minute “softening,” the next minute going full Hulk Smash! — was on unavoidable display Wednesday, beginning with his awkward meeting with Mexican President Peña Nieto and concluding with what was supposed to be a major policy address, but which ended up being one of the most horrifying presidential-level speeches ever recorded. In addition to the apocalyptic hatred and loudness of Trump’s rant, it was, of course, loaded with terrible speechwriting, joined by outright fiction.

For example, Trump went off-prompter to declare that no one knows how many undocumented immigrants are in the United States, saying, “Our government has no idea. It could be three million. It could be 30 million. They have no idea what the number is. . . . But whatever the number, that’s never really been the central issue. It will never be a central issue. It doesn’t matter from that standpoint.”

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