All he has left is trash talk

Michael Gerson says the Republicans deserve their fate. True. They spent the night in the dog’s bed and now they’re full of fleas.

What Trump actually did was ensure that hardcore conservatives stay with him until the end of his political journey, when Republicans begin the search for survivors and examine the charred black box. Trump’s performance was perfectly tuned to make a loyal Rush Limbaugh listener burst out in “Hell, yeah!” Put Juanita Broaddrick in the audience? Threaten to jail your opponent? Throw WikiLeaks in her face? Blame her for the death of Capt. Humayun Khan in Iraq? Dismiss all the fuss about sexual predation as locker-room talk? Hell, yeah!

This kind of thing has been normalized in far-right discourse for decades. To the most partisan and polarized portion of the right, these excuses and accusations were familiar and appropriate.

To many people outside the talk-radio hothouse, I can attest, Trump’s debate performance was appalling, contemptible, shameful, squalid, vile.

Exactly so. He makes mediocrities like Bush and Reagan seem stellar.

Trump and his advisers must know that the conservative talk-radio audience, and the Republican primary electorate, is different from a national electorate, which actually includes minorities, young people and women who don’t like disgusting boors. Perhaps Trump’s strategy was a recognition that even his strongest supporters were on the verge of bolting and needed to be appeased. Perhaps Trump’s knowledge of policy is so thin that it fills three or four minutes of a 90-minute debate and all he has left is trash talk. Or perhaps he is captive to his impulses, incapable of shame and nasty to the core.

Those last two. It was those. Trash talk is all he’s got, because he is trashy.

This sad Republican fate is deserved. It is the culmination, the fruition, of an absurdly simplistic anti-establishment attitude. The Trump campaign is what happens when you choose a presidential candidate without the taint of electoral experience — and all the past vetting that comes with it. It is what happens when you pick a candidate who has not engaged in serious public argument over a period in which his or her views and consistency can be tested. It is what happens when you embrace a candidate only on the basis of an outsider persona, who lacks actual political skills — like making a policy argument, empathizing with a voter or avoiding a constant stream of distracting gaffes.

The same can be said of Bush and Reagan, to name two. But compared to Trump, they’re Burke reincarnated.

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