Say what you will about the insanity of the Summer of Trump, but only the most stoic of political pundits can deny just how hilarious it was.
Presidential campaigns are usually focus-grouped to within an inch of their life. The biggest rule, even for the most wild-eyed extremist, is the same as it is with any big advertising campaign: don’t offend anyone. Present as gentle and cuddling of an image as possible, even if you’re a fire-and-brimstone social con like Huckabee or Santorum. Be as uncontroversial as a McDonald’s ad, lest the Washington media declare that you are melting down like Howard Dean.
Campaign rallies wind up being equal parts slick and utterly bland.
Not with Trump, though, oh no. He violated just about every political rule in the book, and each time defied all the usual hacks tut-tutting that this time he’s crossed the line.
Calling Jeb “low energy.” Sending Rubio a box of Trump-labeled bottled water. Reading out Lindsay Graham’s real phone number, causing the latter to publicly destroy his phone. (A flip phone! A sitting U.S. Senator in 2015 had a flip phone! The jokes write themselves!)
Making outrageous statements about immigrants and never backing down. Repeated feuds with conservative FoxNews and Megyn Kelly, often leaving Roger Ailes grovelling for Trump to come back. Trolling Kelly, Chris Christie, and the GOP itself in that first debate. And this line: “We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning.”
For sheer entertainment value, Trump delivered the gold, fascist or not.
And more importantly, his blowing up the primary process was ultimately healthy for the country and the GOP. Bush was exposed as the weakling and the fraud that he is, for if it weren’t for The Donald, Bush would probably have been installed as the nominee. The chaos ensured that candidates sticking by the usual boring rules would end in failure, like Scott Walker, and the strongest remaining candidates are the ones able to think on their feet. The weak have been culled from the field, no matter how much they spent on consultants and trainers. All because of that evilly joyous and uncontrollable drive of Trump’s.
But that manic energy is gone. Confident, Bush-skewering, laughing Trump is gone. And like the Joker, he is simply a shitty villain if he isn’t making us laugh, either with him or at him. He’s gone from trollface to rageface.
The turn came with the Paris attacks. Trump had to one-up the other GOP candidates calling for an end to accepting Syrian refugees, so what did he do? Start in with that insane lie about “thousands” of Muslims in Jersey cheering 9/11. And when called out on that, in typical Trumpian fashion, he doubled, tripled, quadrupled down, calling his detractors liars, not ruling out registering Muslim citizens X-Men style, closing down mosques.
Picking on Jebbie is funny. Bullying regular people is not.
Neither is listening him going on and on about petty, personal grievances like Sarah Palin always did at the tail end of her career. Does the Joker ever go on boring, whining tirades about how mistreated he’s been by Batman? No! He’s too busy devising his latest zany scheme to escape Arkham Asylum and wreck hilarious havoc once again!
The Joker works as a villain because there’s never a point in a good Joker story where you look up and say, “You know, this guy is just an asshole.” For a while, Trump had that same magic no matter how awful he was being. Now? He’s just another asshole.
I’m not going to predict the demise of his campaign, because that is a mug’s game as countless pundits have proven over the past few months. I have no doubt he’ll still be frontrunner for the next few weeks at least. But I will say that a boring Donald is a pointless Donald. Even the best sitcoms eventually become unfunny and need to be given the hook. Perhaps even some of his supporters should realize that Trump has served his purpose.