Donald Trump, only a few hours ago seen as a master manipulator in the run-up to the midterm elections, has lost the narrative, at least for now. ‘This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear and sacred as Americans,’ he said today. ‘I just want to tell you that in these times we have to unify, we have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.’ When Trump is reduced to issuing such emollient statements, he is decidedly on the backfoot.
Tonight Trump is scheduled to attend a rally in Wisconsin. Media scrutiny will be more intense than ever. What might have seemed flippant will now come across as reckless, childish as menacing. Trump, a master of objurgation, will need to stress the dangers posed by domestic terrorism. His bête noires — CNN, the Clintons, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, George Soros and so on — have literally been targeted for destruction, presumably, by a, or a number of, far-right cranks, unless you buy the theory that this is a false flag operation designed to boost the fortunes of the Democratic party in November. If so, the purchase price is at a steep discount right now.
It’s hardly a stretch to draw a line from Trump’s incendiary rhetoric to the mailing of the bombs. According to Alexander Soros, the son of George, ‘We must find our way to a new political discourse that shuns the demonisation of all political opponents. A first step would be to cast our ballots to reject those politicians cynically responsible for undermining the institutions of our democracy. And we must do it now, before it is too late.’ Trump himself can try to pivot by appearing presidential as he decries political violence in the US. It would be a volte-face, one that he is ill-equipped to performed. His instinct is to decry his opponents as the true mob. What’s good for Trump could be bad for the Republican party in the midterms.
The blunt fact is that Trump’s entire election strategy is now in deep jeopardy. Trump has sought to lure Americans into accepting, step by step, his strident stands. His language, however virulent, could be seen as a species of political gamesmanship. The media could tut-tut over his nasty words even as it reveled in the clicks and viewership that they provided. The bombs, however, disrupt that strategy. It’s too much, too soon, too fast. If the purveyor of these bombs is revealed to be a Trump apprentice, so to speak, then the political fallout may well be lethal.
Strange things are happening in America. The Los Angeles Times reports that federal authorities have arrested several members of a white-power group called Rise Above Group with trying to incite riots. The president brags that he is a ‘nationalist.’ Meanwhile, the Dow, once the pride of Trump, has almost given up all its gains for 2018. No matter what occurs in the midterm elections, the next two years — the antechamber to the 2020 presidential election — are likely to make the past two look like an age of equipoise by comparison.