Does this surprise you? (It certainly shouldn’t!)

The conventional wisdom says that a candidate in the primaries is more extreme than that same candidate in the general election after winning the primaries. ¬†Thus, it’s been assumed for years that Democrats would jockey in the Democratic primaries over who was the best liberal, Republicans would tussle over who was the best conservative, and¬†then the nominees of the two parties would pivot to the center to show the general electorate who was the more¬†moderate, the more¬†inclusive, the more appealing to a broad base.

With that in mind, it could be seen as understandable, up to a point, that Republican party officials and the New York Post, would expect Donald Trump to moderate his own behavior after the Republican convention, and campaign to the broadest possible electorate, try to make himself look like a candidate for all of the people.  And to a certain extent, he did pay some lip service to those expectations.  Not only that, there was a brief moment in September when he seemed to have a realistic chance of winning this election and becoming our next president.  But then the sex-tape revelations broke, followed by a series of personal accusations by women that he groped them, and as his ratings in the polls dropped (farther down than they had already after the first debate, which was already pretty low) and as Republicans started distancing themselves from them, what is he doing now?  He is in attack dog mode.  Mad dog mode.

In addition to digging up all the dirt he can find on Bill Clinton (and of course there is some–Bill Clinton is no choir boy himself, we all know that), Trump is now playing up the kind of conspiracy theories that we associate with the fringes. ¬†The pull-quote from the Politico story says it all: ¬†“Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.” ¬†This is, of course, totally contrary to what the Republican Party leaders want said, but as you’ve heard me say before, Trump cares as much about that as the cat cares about whether the mouse would like to be eaten. ¬†And Trump is pandering to a fringe of hypernationalists who regard the Democrats, and even a lot of the Republicans, as being not only misguided but sinister.

The paradox of this is that, to some extent, Americans have always framed their political opinions in the language of a struggle against all manner of sinister plots, but that’s largely rhetoric: it’s only a narrow fringe that wholeheartedly believe it. ¬†But it’s precisely that fringe that Trump is playing to. ¬†And in the process, he is encouraging paranoid perceptions of government, he is encouraging people to think that they are under siege by their own political leaders, and thus he is encouraging the most irrational, emotional behavior in American citizens.

Now, back to my heading:  Is this a surprise?

I hardly think it’s a surprise, for this reason. ¬†Back in 2012, when Trump was contemplating running for president, he was very loudly playing up the theory that President Obama has a fake birth certificate. ¬†Now, in spite of the large number of Americans who believed that nonsense, it was truly nonsense, and it was obviously nonsense, considering the amount of vetting that candidates have to go through to be elected, and considering that at the time that Obama was elected the government was run by Republicans who had absolutely no rational reason to take part in a conspiracy to make Barack Obama the nation’s president if they could help it. ¬†So Trump already has a track record of pandering to irrationality, and of doing what I, personally, call encouraging bad citizenship behavior.

So much for my words. ¬†Here’s the Politico article.

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