Hillary's in the danger zone: Rocky start to DNC combined with Trump bounce puts her in fragile position

As insane as the RNC and Trump's speech was — Hillary is not close to being on solid footing

Published July 26, 2016 9:58AM (EDT)

Hillary Clinton; Donald Trump   (AP/Matt Rourke/Chris Carlson/Photo montage by Salon)
Hillary Clinton; Donald Trump (AP/Matt Rourke/Chris Carlson/Photo montage by Salon)

Last week, the world observed in shocked dismay a televised speech by America's freshly nominated tyrant who spent 74 minutes yelling at the world. To any objective viewer, Donald Trump's mendacious, sweaty, over-modulated acceptance speech ranged from terrifying to completely -- well, here was conservative Naval War College professor Tom Nichols' immediate reaction via Twitter: "To use the precise political science terminology, that will go down as one of the most deeply fucked up speeches in US history."

Trump's apocalyptic address, shouted at the top of his lungs as if yelling would make his lies feel less ridiculous, was the culmination of what would've otherwise been a nightmare for the GOP. In any other election year, Trump would've been driven off the national stage with torches and pitchforks long ago, if not late last week. This year, however, all of the nincompoopery and tyrannical cosplay is being mostly and inexplicably brushed off by the cable news media as politics-as-usual.

Perhaps you’re old enough to remember when Howard Dean was laughed out of the 2004 race because he made a single, peculiar yalping noise on stage. Trump and his campaign, on the other hand, can seemingly do no wrong, even though they're doing horrendously wrong things every hour on-the-hour. Last week alone, the would-be next First Lady plagiarized key passages of her address, stealing them from one of the GOP's most demonized villains, Michelle Obama. Delegates stormed out of the arena in disgust at the idea of a Trump nomination. Ted Cruz, the second place candidate, refused to endorse Trump, even as Trump awkwardly entered the convention hall to presumably intimidate Cruz.

Meanwhile, Trump surrogates and RNC speakers alike substituted the anecdotal feelings of angry white people for objective mathematical facts. Throughout the week, we heard that violent crime is way up, that the economy is collapsing and that unemployment is on the rise. Exactly the opposite is true. Violent crime, nationally, has been falling since the 1990s. The economy has been growing steadily. And unemployment has been cut in half, from around 10 percent to just below five percent. Yet the Republicans carefully noted that people "feel" differently, and therefore the numbers are irrelevant. On CNN, Newt Gingrich admitted the deception: "The current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics that theoretically may be right, but it’s not where human beings are." In other words, as long as Americans feel a certain way, reality is irrelevant and wrong. This is where we are right now.

And then there was that speech Thursday night.

It's not difficult to fully underscore how off-the-rails it was. In tone, volume and content, it was unlike anything we've seen, perhaps since the invention of electronic amplification, and that's not meant as a compliment by any stretch. Trump's performance was, at best, inadvertent political satire -- it was the denouement in a film about a clown who's propelled by inchoate populism to become a third-world-style tyrant. Set aside all of his Twitter-troll blurtings; set aside the reality that he's a feckless policy dilettante surrounded by incompetent advisers; set aside his ever growing roster of unforced gaffes, and his RNC speech alone would normally have been received with universal bewilderment, unmitigated disgust and a precipitous drop in the polls. But it wasn't.

The kicker, on top of everything else, is news that Trump might be in the pocket of Russian president Vladimir Putin and an array of Russian oligarchs who are actively meddling in the American presidential election.

How, in any universe, is this Trump train-wreck considered a passable campaign, much less a winning one?

Enter the Democrats.

It turns out, despite the hellscape in Cleveland, the Clown Dictator is now leading by five points in the latest CNN poll, 44-39. The news comes in the same cycle as the Wikileaks document dump involving tens of thousands of private emails by various DNC officials, five of which illustrate an internal disdain for former Democratic challenger, Bernie Sanders. Rumors, by the way, are suggesting Putin's hand in the Wikileaks dump, given how the emails were acquired by a Russian hacker.

Elsewhere, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton selected a former civil rights lawyer, Tim Kaine, as her running mate, and despite the horror show in Cleveland, the irresponsible Bernie-or-Bust left hasn't really lost any steam in its plan to undermine Hillary's campaign, thus engaging in a de-facto effort to elect Donald Trump by way of refusing to vote for Hillary. At a time when the entire world should be unified in devising ways to stop Trump, the left continues to beat the "rigged" drum, and the party is doing nothing to convince them otherwise. (Incidentally, party bosses choosing the nominee happens to be the historic rule, not the exception.) As the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia ramps up, we can expect to hear from this crowd more than once, be it outside the venue or on the convention floor. Along those lines, it's worth pointing out that this election will likely be decided by just a few percentage points, and that the left's new Pied Piper, Jill Stein, is polling at around three percent -- enough to strip victory from Hillary if Election Night ends up being tight.

Of course, we're still months away from that night, and political fortunes can turn on a dime. Hillary might get a sizable bump out of her convention, and Trump could continue to flail and scream, turning off undecided voters everywhere it matters. And this Putin story has only begun to grow legs. Plus, Hillary has a well-established infrastructure in place, down to the precinct level, so there shouldn't be too much panic. Yet. But from what we've observed so far, it's well within the Democrats' power -- and especially the progressive left's power -- to shoot itself in the foot and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory despite the hamfisted Trump campaign

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


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2016 Donald Trump 2016 Hillary Clinton Cleveland Dnc 16 Elections 2016 Rnc