The response came as you might expect in a flurry of angry tweets, but it included a cynically combative ray of hope. “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”
The Trump campaign has been compared many times in the past to a kind of fire – a dumpster fire, a tire fire, perhaps even a landfill fire. But with this great “stab in the back” by Republican leaders desperate to save their own skins there is little doubt the fire will indeed spread. Call it a funeral pyre, if you want, but eventually we can see it will ignite the highly flammable Republican panoply of Gods and Heroes alike.
We’ve seen such an epic blaze before – first in the stagecraft of Wagner and later made real through Hitler. Yes, we’ll go there. It’s all going there, all going ablaze.
We are still in the early stages of the great Republican repudiation of their candidate, so it’s not entirely clear how far it can go in the three weeks remaining. It has to burn hot to make genuinely lasting damage, for one. But we have seen all of this before and we know something of how it is likely to proceed.
It starts with the “stab in the back”. There is never any worse enemy than the one-time friend who turned on you, after all. Disloyalty is much worse than opposition. What makes this decision so hot is not the cold calculation that Trump is likely to bring down the entire party, after all. It’s the effect of adrenaline which turns the orange jowls red with anger and turns up the temperature.
This will be especially true for the ego of Trump.
There are two immediate considerations as this ignites. The first is what Clinton should be doing, and that one is easy. When your opponent has a can of gasoline and a match the best thing you can do is to back away slowly. Clinton needs to be away from this inferno and should not in any way encourage it. Going positive here at the end will serve her well if for no other reason than making sure whatever comes does not turn people so thoroughly off that it suppresses voter turnout.
The second consideration is how this is almost certainly going to feed itself, like a firestorm. There are many Republican leaders who have not repudiated Trump, for sure. If they are sickened by what they seen in the next few weeks they will also turn on the ball of flaming heat, thus igniting it further. It may seem wise to also back away, but they can’t. They have to run because they are close enough to be burned badly.
This process is what will stoke Trump’s ego to exact not just revenge, but ultimate revenge. The models for this are dense but easily available. It starts with the finale of Wagner’s truly epic “Ring Cycle” of four operas, totaling about 16 hours of performance. In the finale, Götterdämerung, the hero Sigfried is literally stabbed in the back and his funeral pyre eventually catches all of Heaven and Earth on fire. That is the “Twilight of the Gods”, to translate the title, where everything is destroyed.
That may not seem quite relevant, but Wagner’s epic tragedy inspired a more horrific one. The super Wagner fan Adolf Hitler realized shortly after D-Day it was indeed all over, and felt betrayed by the German People themselves and their “lack of will”. The net result was that Hitler engineered as much destruction as possible, hoping to take all of Heaven and Earth down with him.
It was as much theatrical as it was narcissistic. Hitler was ultimately an actor.
Reality star Trump will certainly engage in the same behavior as his funeral pyre comes to light. The question remains as to how much the additional fuel will spark him and how much damage he can really do. If he does have the attention of the Republican base, and indeed if he carefully targets anyone who might be an ally of Speaker Ryan, we can be sure it puts the US House into play in one form or another.
This will all be done in the name of “fighting for America”, of course, but in reality it will be another way that Trump is a thin imitation of the most symbolic authoritarian ever, Adolph Hitler. The comparisons between the two always fail ultimately because there is so much less to Trump than the great evil of Hitler, yet the similarities are there.
Will Trump destroy the Republican Party on his way down? It is only what we can expect from a narcissist, and it’s happened before.