At the end of the summer I made some predictions about the general election, some of which were very specific and clearly aren't going to work out (e.g., Trump "firing" Pence as a publicity stunt now seems farcical, while Pence quitting the ticket in a desperate attempt to salvage his political future seems marginally more plausible). But we've reached a stage in this campaign that I've feared was coming since Trump became the presumptive nominee: The point at which he, a man psychologically incapable of accepting the idea of losing anything, realizes that there is not a chance in hell he is going to win. In fact, the odds are improving that he may receive a drubbing the likes of which we haven't seen since the Franklin Roosevelt years. Trump, in short, is dead in the water. It doesn't matter that everyone knows it; I'm not looking forward to what happens now that he knows it.
With one tweet, the Republican nominee for president essentially kicked off a month of what promises to be pure scorched Earth politics. If he can't win, then causing as much misery and destruction as possible on his way to the losers' podium is the next best thing. I still expect this to culminate with an insistence shortly before Election Day – timing the announcement to cause maximum damage to the GOP he now hates as much as the Democrats – that his supporters shouldn't bother voting, that he never really wanted to be president anyway, and that he's come to the conclusion that America does not deserve his genius. He's been laying the groundwork for his post-defeat narrative since the summer, creating a "Stab in the Back" legend before the ballots even had his name printed on them.
It appears that the Vagina Grabbing tape was the last straw for some of his less ardent supporters, and certainly we could have a field day talking about why that was a bridge too far when they had been willing previously to condone all the racist, xenophobic, proto-fascist things he has said. His chances of winning hover around statistical zero. People and organizations who haven't supported a Democrat for half a century or more are giving at least grudging support to Hillary Clinton. Her myriad flaws as a candidate don't even seem to matter at this point; the country is willing to settle for her strictly on the basis that she appears to be largely sane and not openly displaying most of the diagnostic criteria for sociopathy.
I do not for a moment relish the opportunity to see "unshackled" Donald Trump. If this has been him behaving, trying to appear likable, attempting to play within some kind of set of rules, then it strains the imagination to think of how much worse he can get. I feel like Sunday night's debate was a preview of the rest of the campaign; he made not the slightest effort to talk about any of the political issues where he makes some people think he sounds reasonable, instead going full Yahoo Comment Section. We're in for four weeks of Vince Foster, Benghazi, 33,000 emails, Sidney Blumenthal, and basically every idiotic right-wing conspiracy theory to enjoy any popularity on the internet at any point in the last 10 years. He's done with "We need to bring jobs back to the United States" and is casting his entire lot in with the revenge fantasies of the white underclass. Without even a passing effort to connect anything he says to reality or the truth, expect that any and every email forwarded to you by your least intelligent friends and relatives over the past few months to become a fully fledged talking point until November when this mercifully ends.
We are unaccustomed to uncompetitive presidential elections. The last real blowout took place in 1988, and 1984 before it was the last time the map was essentially one color. The Republican Party is going to come face to face with the hardest of the hard core of its base, and it's unlikely to like what it sees – a group of people whose views are medieval, inarticulate, and unmovable, and a group of people rapidly shrinking in this country. But that problem is not ours to solve. We need merely to find out a way to hold on for another month and then begin the process of purging this entire embarrassing, enraging experience from our collective unconscious.