The world is watching Donald Trump, unhinged.
Not to suggest he’s been particularly level-headed up until now. From his entry into the primaries last year to the Republican National Convention two weeks ago, Trump has walked a fine line between humour, sarcasm, and challenges to the politically-correct status quo and, every once in a while, blatant sexism and xenophobia. It is these last two that turned many people – including me – completely off the idea of a Trump presidency.
But many others looked past this, arguing that Trump was driven by strategy rather than any instinctive dislike for minority groups. Not only did he experience a bump in the polls after some of his more outrageous interventions (including his calls to “build a wall” on the border between the US and Mexico and to temporarily suspend Muslim immigration), but he has managed to make national and international headlines at an unprecedented rate for almost a year, amounting to billions of dollars worth of free media coverage.
Rude, offensive, ambitious, marketing genius – according to some, it was all the same thing.
But Trump’s campaign has been further warped these past two weeks. Since the convention, Trump has (seemingly voluntarily) thrown himself into the hottest water. His criticisms of the mother and father of Captain Khan – a Muslim-American soldier who lost his life protecting others in Iraq – are utterly unfathomable; if any person were single-handedly trying to destroy their bid for the US presidency, attacking the family of a fallen soldier, even if they did criticise him at the Democratic convention last week, would be exactly how to go about it.
It’s not simply his pillorying of the Khans that has disturbed so many people watching Trump from afar, but his inability to let their criticisms go. The sitting US President, whoever he or she is, is never going to get an easy ride. It’s the humility and empathy that they show in the face of complaints that earns them our respect. Trump’s ugly words for the Khan family – who are powerless by comparison – have him looking childish and cruel, characteristics incompatible with the office he is seeking.
Speaking of childish, Trump’s strange flip-flop from “loving babies” to kicking one out of his rally a few days ago has also sparked deep concern. A man who is willing to get into a feud with a baby – a literal baby – doesn’t seem best positioned to be dealing with other adults, let alone the world’s leaders.
His off-the-rails behaviour has turned high-profile representatives in the Republican party – who had resigned themselves to gritting their teeth and supporting Trump’s presidential bid – to condemning his character and obliterating his remarks. Any chance for the party to mend ties between the establishment and its fractured base seems long gone, as major Republican donors have started to back Hillary Clinton, while other Republican strategists have launched a campaign for Republicans supporting Libertarian third-party candidate Gary Johnson.
Trump is in disarray, and traditional party lines on the right have all but disappeared.
Meanwhile, in large part thanks to his erratic behaviour, the Democratic nominee has started to emerge as the likely winner come November. A nominee who, in her own words, “voted numerous times when [she] was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in”.
As we turn our eyes to one disaster, another disaster – with very similar policy ideas – quietly creeps closer to the White House.