Donald Trump has a pathological need to respond to every slight he receives, even when doing so damages his chances of becoming president. His behavior after the scathing indictment leveled on him during the Democratic convention by Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a fallen US marine officer, has been horrifying. The proper response to Mr. Khan’s convention speech would have been to express sympathy for the couple’s loss, and then thank them for their sacrifice. Had he been able to express that small amount of empathy, then Trump’s campaign would not be flailing. But this ongoing incident, one Trump refuses to let rest, shows that he has nowhere near the temperament to be president.
Imagine a Trump presidency where every slight he receives, from the media, the opposition party, other world leaders, to protestors, is met with this type of rhetorical escalation. Simply, it would be a disaster for this country. Rather than a president who is measured and responsible with the power of the Oval Office, we would have a man always in danger of becoming unhinged and doing something that cannot be taken back.
And that’s if he wins. If Trump loses, he has a plan, one that he started tossing around this past week. Before a crowd in Ohio, Trump said, “I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest.” This is a major party candidate, hedging a potential loss by preemptively calling the result illegitimate. This behavior carries its own dangers. The Republican Party has been seized by ideological extremists who have been exercising power far beyond their numbers. These are the people who would take the false idea of a stolen election and run with it. I doubt Trump has enough knowledge about democracy or politics to realize that American democracy is just as tenuous as that anywhere else. One of the contributing factors to our continued stability has been the willingness of losing candidates to go gently into the night after the votes are tallied. Trump, by his very words, could be ushering in a new era where the losing side refuses to accept its losses. This could foster the type of chaos we see in countries that merely pay lip service to democracy, but in reality are ruled by juntas in constant, real, conflict with each other.
The United States has never seen a candidate with the potential to wreak so much havoc on democracy as Trump. Check that. We are past the time when the damage is only potential. The damage is real and happening. It is of vital importance to not just us, but to the world, that this man loses before he has a chance to become one of history’s monsters.