As horrifying as his rise has been, from an academic perspective it's hard not to find Trump interesting. One thing I wrote about a while back is the rare opportunity to see a modern American election devoid of ideological content. We also get to watch a campaign and candidate almost literally do everything wrong. Even in situations that are difficult for a campaign to botch, Trump finds a way. He's like King Midas, if everything he touched turned into a rancid heap of excrement instead of gold.
As common as they are in our society, a spree shooting is a pretty easy, routine play for an elected official or candidate. "What a terrible tragedy. My thoughts are with the victims, families, and community. We must (proposal that will never happen but sounds good) to avoid tragedies of this kind in the future." It's very difficult to screw up. Certainly it's difficult to screw up to the extent that your terrible response as a candidate overshadows the event itself. But here we are. He went from bad – congratulating himself on his own brilliance without mentioning the victims – to incomprehensibly bad, which is to say things so stupid that even the NRA has to distance itself from the rhetoric. Ignoring the fact that an armed, on-duty Orlando PD officer was at the club during the event, Trump rambled to a salivating audience:
"If we had people, where the bullets were going in the opposite direction, right smack between the eyes of this maniac," Trump said, gesturing between his eyes. "And this son of a b—- comes out and starts shooting and one of the people in that room happened to have (a gun) and goes boom. You know what, that would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks."
Because what we really want is piss-drunk 23 year olds at "last call" time at a dance club firing a gun for any reason, ever. NRA lobbyists had to hit the Sunday shows to point out, "No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms. That defies commonsense. It also defies the law. It's not what we're talking about here," and "I don't think you should have firearms where people are drinking." That is, the Republican candidate for president could not manage to make statements about gun rights that the NRA could agree with. That's incredible, if you think about it. Almost impossible to believe. Yet here you have it.
It's also interesting to watch Trump try to use a positive affect toward LGBT people as a means of furthering anti-Muslim sentiment – which is a page straight out of Geert Wilders' playbook for modern far right politics in Europe. One author called this "pro-gay Islamophobia," which is a neat phrase. It's concern trolling about the intolerance toward gays and lesbians in Islam (and, you know, Christianity, but that part gets left out) to further the argument that the religion is somehow incompatible with Western Values. The goal is to make xenophobia and anti-immigration policies more palatable to people who instinctively avoid ultra right wing politics. It's the face of a kinder, gentler neo-Nazism.
We might as well get used to the fact now that the statement "Surely it can't get any worse than this" is bound to be false at any point in this campaign; any assertion that we've hit rock bottom inevitably will end up being retracted and revised.