Donald Trump has supposedly pivoted to the general election, but he continues to be racially inflammatory, at a time when he's facing an electorate with a much smaller percentage of white racists than the one in the GOP primaries. Dan Balz of The Washington Post says Trump is scaring his fellow Republicans:
Over the past week, Trump has repeatedly cited the Mexican heritage of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing a lawsuit brought by former students of Trump University alleging fraud against the institution. Trump accused Curiel of a conflict of interest in hearing the case because, according to his reasoning, the judge’s Mexican heritage puts him at odds with Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border....
... House Speaker Paul D. Ryan ... said Trump’s accusations against the judge had come “completely out of left field,” adding, “It’s reasoning I don’t relate to. I completely disagree with the thinking behind that.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized Trump for an earlier attack on New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, and expressed his concern that Trump’s language and behavior could permanently alienate Hispanics from the Republican Party...
But Maureen Dowd, in her latest column, says that racist one-liners and cheap shots will actually be beneficial to Trump in the fall (emphasis added below):
[Hillary Clinton] made a really good speech in San Diego. But even if she dispatches Sanders on Tuesday, Trump isn’t going to be easy. Given the slurs and punches and eggs and salacious, hellacious stuff flying around, this could be the wildest, meanest election in modern history.
Just look at Friday alone.
Trump was on a tarmac in Redding, Calif., recounting a story about a black “great guy” who slugged a protester at a prior rally. He interrupted himself to point at a random black supporter in the crowd, saying: “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him.”
This followed an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper in which Trump was unyielding in his insistence that he was not being racist when he said that the judge presiding in a lawsuit over Trump University was biased because “he’s a Mexican” and “we’re building a wall between here and Mexico.”
Tapper gamely tried to point out, more than once, that the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, was born and raised in Indiana. But Trump held his ground: “He’s proud of his heritage. I respect him for that.”
The latest installment in a nutty attack on the judge -- coming more than a week after a nutty attack on New Mexico’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez -- forced Paul Ryan, who had finally dragged himself over to Trump a day earlier, to start skittering away again.
So even though Dowd calls some of these attacks "nutty," and even though she acknowledges that they've alienated Paul Ryan, and even though she herself seems put off by them, she thinks they're the reason "Trump isn’t going to be easy" to beat.
It would be one thing if Dowd were arguing that Americans approve of Trump's racism to a greater extent than we're comfortable acknowledging. But her point seems to be that Trump is such a savage brawler that Hillary might not be able to outfight him -- even if he's flailing blindly and doing more damage to his party than to his opponent.
But maybe I'm looking for more coherence in this column than is actually there -- after all, at the top of the column Dowd seems to imply that Trump (yes, Trump!) is a woman. Or at least I think she does:
LOS ANGELES -- THIS is a town where scripts routinely come back to writers from entertainment executives with the same scrawled command about a female character: “Make her more likable.”
As Hillary Clinton fights up and down California to fend off Bernie Sanders and clinch the nomination, Democrats watch with clenched teeth. Sure, the Republicans are engaged in a hilarious performance of “The Taming of the Shrew” with their tart-tongued presumptive nominee.
But can plodding Hillary be, as Barack Obama famously put it, likable enough?
What does that Taming of the Shrew reference mean? Is Dowd saying that the GOP is trying to tame Trump, who is Katherina in this analogy? Or is Trump the tamer and Clinton the shrew? I think it's the former, in which case it's the first time in my memory that Dowd has played gender games while writing about a Republican.
If that's what she's saying, Dowd gets the gender politics all wrong. Why would you describe a notorious dick-swinging sexist as an untamed woman?
What else does Dowd get wrong? Well, she approvingly quotes this:
Naturally, Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame provided the perfect kicker for the week in a new Rolling Stone interview, saying that this election is “no more bizarre than the election in 1800 wherein Jefferson accused Adams of being a hermaphrodite and Adams responded” by spreading rumors “that Jefferson died so that Adams would be the only viable candidate. He was counting on news to travel slow! That, weirdly, gives me hope.”
You might imagine that a veteran columnist at America's Finest Newspaper would want to quote an actual historian on this point, but this is Dowd we're talking about, so an entertainer who reads history books is the best we'll get. In fact, the "hermaphrodite" charge against Adams wasn't literal, and it didn't come directly from Jefferson:
[Jefferson's] supporters accused the incumbent president Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." In response, a leaflet by Adams' team called Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."
The Adams leaflet sounds a lot like Trump -- and the attack by Jefferson's backers sounds like a line from a Maureen Dowd column.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog