The 2016 presidential race has gone from improbable to inevitable to tragic to plain ludicrous.
It has turned from a contest about who will be the elected the next leader of the free world into an ugly school yard brawl—a boxing match between two badly mismatched contenders that any observant referee would have stopped a long time ago.
Now it is too late. Bloodied beyond recognition yet unbowed, one of the rivals has opted to stay in the ring until there is a knockout which his corner beyond all odds apparently still thinks possible.
The compassionate thing to do to prevent further self-inflicted punishment and irreparable damage to himself, his party and the nation would be to sedate Trump before the bell sounds for the final round.
That is not possible since Trump, remaining defiant, decided to escalate his attacks by taking direct aim at the highest ranking Republican, Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump twittered, “Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty,”trump-paul-ryan-feud.
A nominee running against his own party is tantamount to treason and Trump got away with it.
On October 19, at their final debate, he will have one more opportunity to savage his opponent.
Given the latest groping allegations by a 74 year old retired businesswoman who had a frightening airplane encounter with him decades ago that sent her fleeing to a safer seat, (“He was like an octopus. His hands were everywhere),” wheeling out Bill Clinton accusers once more which sent Trump crashing in the polls may be gone from the play book.
While The Donald is contemplating his next stunt, Hillary has wisely begun turning her attentions to more productive tasks such as tying GOP candidates to his vanishing coat tails while they can only look on in horror as this spectacle winds down to an inevitable conclusion.
If she wins which is a near certainty barring a dramatic turn of events this does not portend a smooth passage back to the White House. Quite the opposite.
Incoming leaders have faced messier clean-up jobs such as the one which her predecessor inherited when he arrived in the midst of a nearly catastrophic financial meltdown. However, he had the benefit—if only briefly—of a Congress under Democratic rule that was willing and able to extend its cooperation.
If Clinton takes office lacking a majority in at least one House, she might face the same implacable opposition or worse to much of what she proposes unless a new Era of Gentility is somehow ushered in after the carnage of a bitter election.
Don’t count on that happening. What’s much more likely is a brutal reassessment by the losing party which must choose between a path that leads toward eventual political irrelevance or one that restores some elements of constructive engagement with a ruling party that will be in a much stronger bargaining position.
However, the conservative hardliners, Tea Party adherents and die-hard fans of their new champion may be in no mood to play nice emboldened by Trump’s illusory triumphs along the way.
That spells problems for Paul Ryan who will remain the titular leader of a badly divided party but unable to deliver the votes to make accommodation possible even if he desires given the entrenched resistance of the Far-Right.
Clinton will have comparable challenges if the political dynamic in Washington is not dramatically transformed.
After years of near stalemate, for her to prevail, 30 GOP House seats or a significant majority of them would have to change hands—a formidable achievement even if a Clinton landslide is no longer inconceivable.
A more do-able turnover of 4 or 5 seats in the Senate would remove Mitch McConnell as the majority leader, take away the veto power, and perhaps most significantly under a Clinton Administration change the direction of the Supreme Court for years to come. That may be the GOP’s greatest fear.
Barring a wholesale makeover of the Congress which will require a sweeping mandate, Clinton is looking at the same obstacle course that thwarted Obama at every turn.
Her best weapon for taming the independent spirits in her own party which are beginning to taste victory after encouragement from their fallen hero, Bernie Sanders, is not surprisingly Trump himself who is certainly doing everything possible to help assure her victory, mindless of what happens to his party.
With each new headline about another of Trump’s groping victims, candidates must choose between remaining loyal to their standard bearer or turning their backs on many who idolize him althoughhe is held in contempt by mainline Republicans.
According to the latest surveys, just a few dozen seats will decide who controls Congress next year. Of the 435 seats at stake only 38 are considered close contests with a majority of them favoring the GOP before the sex scandal broke and just 8 considered true toss-ups.
Non-partisan analysts in the same survey believe there are 5 seats which, if they were to turn Democrat, would signal a new House majority in the next term. They are held by Reps. Erik Paulsen, Minnesota; Ryan Zinke, Montana; Mike Bost, Illinois; and Elise Stefanik also from Illinois.
A late entry to this imperiled list is David Valdao a 3rd term member from California’s 21st District which includes Fresno that is now 74% Latino. His challenger is another Democrat, Emilio Huerta, son of United Farm Workers co-founder, Dolores Huerta.
While a majority turnover in both Houses may be within reach though very unlikely, a switch from Red to Blue in a few Congressional districts in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida would not only shift the power balance in Congress but could alter the all-important Electoral College tally which requires 270 votes to claim the presidency.
That we are a little more than four weeks away from Election Day debating whether to vote for someone who has admitted to repeated acts of criminal behavior and has forfeited all right to be taken seriously is ludicrous.
But it is an undeniable reality.
The nation’s endurance during this farcical episode, while not reflective of our more traditional discretion in choosing leaders is testament to the strength and resilience of our democracy. Trump’s defeat will help to preserve it.