Magazine article The New Yorker

The Way Out

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Way Out

Article excerpt

The Way Out

It's fair to say that Donald Trump has made things difficult for the Republican Party. He has taunted its leaders, turned its debates into rap sessions about his anatomy, sabotaged its efforts to appeal to Latinos and to women, and, as he has shouted out bigoted invective, made many of its members feel shame. But, in the past two weeks, Trump has made things easier for certain Republicans: those elected officials still seeking what Senator Lindsey Graham has called an "off-ramp," by which they can justify to the most partisan of their constituents and colleagues renouncing the Party's nominee.

The first week in August was, as the title of a Wall Street Journal column by Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, summed it up, "the week they decided Donald Trump was crazy"--"they" being Republicans who finally had to admit that nothing could induce Trump to act rationally. Instead, he had insulted Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army officer who died while trying to protect his men in Iraq. Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on August 8th, cited that incident as one of many that had persuaded her that she could not vote for Trump. The same day, fifty former officials who had held national-security or foreign-policy posts in Republican Administrations released a letter saying that none of them would vote for Trump, and expressing particular alarm at his potential control of the nuclear arsenal. And those defections came before Trump told a crowd in Wilmington, North Carolina, that if Hillary Clinton won the election and "gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people--maybe there is." Suddenly, this was the week when Republicans had to decide whether they would stick by a nominee who, indirectly but unmistakably, had mooted nullifying election results at gunpoint.

The Trump team didn't see matters this way, as it explained in a "Trump Campaign Statement on Dishonest Media," issued later that night. "It's called the power of unification," the statement began, suggesting that Trump had simply been talking about the "amazing spirit" of gun-rights advocates, who would go to the polls in "record numbers." (Never mind that he had been talking about what could be done after Election Day.) The N.R.A. promptly tweeted its support, which may have helped to quiet the response from some elected Republicans. Speaker Paul Ryan said at a press conference that the remarks sounded "like just a joke gone bad," and that he hoped Trump, whom he has endorsed, would clarify them "very quickly." He went on, "I think it's very clear that the Trump-Pence ticket is going to be one that will put good judges at the Supreme Court."

On Thursday, Trump told CNBC that only the "haters" would think he wanted Hillary Clinton dead. Hate, though, is precisely what he has worked to evoke in his supporters. In Wilmington, he said that Clinton's actions as Secretary of State "cost so many lives" and that "she's so guilty, she's so guilty." He added, "If I'm ISIS, I call her up and I give her the most-valuable-player award." By the next day, he was calling President Barack Obama the "founder of ISIS" and Clinton his "co-founder." She was, further, a pawn of Wall Street and other paymasters, working to destroy America "from within"--someone who has to be stopped but perhaps can't be by normal means, because the electoral system is "rigged. …

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