The first television set in our home, a small black-and-white affair, was purchased in the summer of 1952, just in time to watch the political conventions which nominated Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson as their candidates.
My first memory of any visual image on a screen is of a packed auditorium filled with people waving signs and wearing straw hats.
Perhaps that early memory explains why I have been a political junkie since I was in kindergarten. My father fed this interest, bringing me to shake hands with Richard Nixon when I was still in grade school and to the offices of Senator Everett Dirksen in Washington, D.C., when I was a bit older.
Although my father was a diehard Republican who could find nothing good in the Democratic Party, my own joy was in the give-and-take of the American democratic process. I found presidential campaigns particularly exciting.
None of that background or interest prepared me, however, for this presidential race. The most astonishing feature of this election is this: I have never witnessed a candidate work so hard to be defeated in an election as has Donald Trump.
To explain what I mean, I have to begin by recalling the storyline of the movie “The Producers.” In that work of Mel Brooks, a failing producer dreams up a way to produce a play that, to bring in tons of money, must be an instant and total flop. The problem arises when the deliberately anti-Semitic play actually succeeds.
Donald Trump, for me, is that producer who, while doing everything he can to fail, nonetheless to his surprise and chagrin continues to attract followers. Trump has alienated Hispanic voters and angered our neighbor Mexico with his impossible claims of building a wall. He has denigrated American Muslims and threatened their security.
He has belittled women, both in his life and in his speeches. He has no hope of gaining the support of African-Americans by ignoring the outbreaks of racism in recent years. He has besmirched the reputation of those who were prisoners of war, such as John McCain.
His appraisal of the strongest military in the world is to call our Armed Services “weak.” He has even belittled those with disabilities in ways that resemble junior high school bullying.
Internationally, Trump has taken pot shots at our allies and has expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin. He has asked Russia to continue to spy on our government. Trump is also reported to have admired Saddam Hussein and to have a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf by his bedside. If a person is known by whom she or he admires, then Trump’s admiration is clearly for dictators.
All this leads me to conclude that at some level, consciously or unconsciously, Donald Trump wants desperately to lose this election. If so, however, he must be panicking as we near November.
What else can Trump do to throw himself under the bus? Perhaps, he will be forced to lash out at his base of support — angry white males. Maybe he will speak out against the NRA and the gun lobby. Or who knows, maybe he will announce that he will vote for Hillary Clinton.
As President Barack Obama would express it, with “the Donald,” you just never know.