THAT post-truth worm just won’t stop chewing through Donald Trump’s brain. Yesterday I suggested that this burrowing invertebrate had gone so deep inside Trump’s head that he will probably claim he has won even after he has lost.
And in last night’s final presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, he did just that. Or something very similar. It’s hard to tell with that weird flyaway nicotine-tinged thatch Trump has, but I could have sworn I saw that worm emerge for a moment, briefly illuminated in the studio lights. Perhaps it came up for air before again disappearing and going deep undercover, possibly in search of fresh brain cells to chew.
That worm seems to have turned Trump completely. For he declared in the most striking exchange that he would keep the country “in suspense” over whether he would accept the outcome of next month’s election.
During an ill-tempered debate, Trump indicated that he might refuse to accept the outcome of an election most people now believe he will lose. “I will look at it at the time,” he said. The Fox News moderator Chris Wallace suggested that he was breaking with centuries of peaceful transitions of power, and Trump responded: “I will keep you in suspense.”
For a Republican nominee to refuse to endorse the results of an election would be unheard of in modern American political history.
An ill-tempered debate saw clashes over abortion, gun rights, immigration and foreign policy. Some commentators believe that Trump had a fairly good debate, although all people will be talking about now is his possible refusal to accept the result.
What an odd, bizarre and thin-skinned election race this has turned into: a ranting, rude and virulently insolent billionaire businessman set against a manically smiling Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s policies, such as they are, are spitting Twitter-spats of ideas tossed out at random, such as saying that women who have abortions should be punished by the law.
Political policies are usually worked on to a degree. Candidates discuss ideas with their teams and come up with something that might look good. Trump just fires them out like bullets from a machinegun stuck on the maximum destruction setting. Bam-bam-bam! Take that. And here is another splattering of thoughts grabbed from the top of my head.
Mostly he has preyed on fear – and mostly fear of otherness, which is to say foreigners. He has tapped into dissatisfaction and promised a return to greatness, but don’t go looking for a use-by date on that promise. And he has been betrayed by his own disgraceful behaviour towards women.
From this distance I can’t work up a deal of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, but she’s our only hope. But it seems there is a danger that even if she wins, she will lose. This is because Trump could rouse the rabbled millions of his supporters by feeding them conspiracy theories about how the election was fixed by the liberal establishment. And plenty of them will swallow every intemperate, stupid word. Scary stuff, really.