The Slatest

Today’s Trump Apocalypse Watch: If He Wins This, Blame the Phonies

Donald Trump in Atkinson, New Hampshire, on Friday.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.

An irony that has been noted today by such keen observers as Jonathan Chait and myself is that some of Donald Trump’s top allies (Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani) are being implicated in major breaches of public trust just as Trump’s campaign to portray Crooked Hillary Clinton as the emblem of the foulest political corruption is at its most successful.

On an empirical level, Trump’s claim to represent the cause of integrity and opposition to “politics as usual” is absurd. In addition to associating with extremely typical politicians such as Christie and Giuliani, he lies constantly and engages in sleazy politics-as-usual tactics of multiple varieties. But on a stylistic level, it makes sense. Trump lies—and often does so incoherently—but he doesn’t do it via carefully pre-written paragraphs of weasel words. He changes positions whenever it benefits him, but does it without coming across as a transparently calculating tightrope walker balancing between competing interest groups. He blasts his allies as readily as his enemies. He’s spontaneous. It isn’t that hard to see why he would appeal to people who otherwise find political discourse off-putting or boring.

Thus every cautious, choreographed, chickenshit politician who’s gone before Trump is in some way responsible for his success—Republicans and Democrats alike. (Self-serving, deceptive spin is not something the GOP has a trademark on, although every Republican who’s tied themselves in hair-splitting semantic knots trying to decide whether Trump has their “endorsement” has become a good object lesson in how not to develop a reputation for frankness and candor.) We can and no doubt will debate for years how much of Trump’s electoral appeal is attributable to factors like racial animus, economic inequality, cultural alienation, and partisan polarization. But he wouldn’t have been relevant in this race to begin with if he wasn’t so different from everyone else in it—the proverbial moving object in the Tyrannosaurus’ field of vision, a fast-galloping nightmare heading straight for us across a static field of the same old bullshit.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons