With Labor Day, the traditional start of the sprint to November 7, the presidential nominees Hillary R. Clinton and Donald J. Trump are neck and neck. More so than any other recent election, the summer between the conventions and Labor Day have been uncharacteristically dramatic. Here’s a recap of everything you may have missed:
In July, the U.S. political scene witnessed the congregation of two great political parties during the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention. At the RNC, Melania Trump delivered a speech that contained passages verbatim from First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech. A real turning point came on Wednesday of the convention, when Texas Senator Ted Cruz refused to endorse Mr Trump’s bid for the presidency, advising Republicans to “vote your conscience.” This bit is a real gamble on the part of Cruz, who is betting that a Clinton landslide will turn him and his radically conservative ideology to the face of the Republican Party in 2020.
The following week in the City of Brotherly Love, the DNC hit off to a rocky start with a walkout of Bernie Sanders delegates, followed by heckling of Clinton and other speakers. Afterwards, President Obama, Clinton, and Carter each powerfully addressed the convention, along with notable speeches by Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Independent Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, as well as Pakistani-American lawyer Khizr Khan.
Examined side by side, the RNC was far less successful in uniting the Republicans than the DNC was for Democrats. Cruz’s speech at the convention, in which he refused to endorse Trump, proved catastrophic for Republican Party unity. From that point on, it was clear the intellectual right could never jump aboard the Trump Train. On the other hand, although hard-line Sanderistas may have jumped onto Jill Stein’s hashtag #neverhillary boat, 90 percent of Democrats support their party’s nominee, compared to 75 percent of Republicans.
While the Trump campaign was marred by many foreign policy gaffes—Trump’s appeal to Russian intelligence to hack Clinton’s private server raised great concern—the great Trump Train crash reached its trough on August 9, when Trump insinuated that if Clinton won the election, “Second Amendment people” would potentially stop Clinton and her appointed Supreme Court justices, adding, “It will be a horrible day.” In the same speech, Trump reiterated his claim that the election will be rigged against him, in what was clearly an attempt to undermine American faith in the democratic process. A threat of violence against a political rival, or a “joke” suggesting it, is behavior that belongs in Mussolini’s Italy and certainly not in a free and law-abiding republic.
Meanwhile, through August, revelations about Clinton’s email server and connections with the Clinton Foundation sparked controversy and anger among many Republicans. FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to indict Clinton was met with claims that there existed a “Clinton standard” of the law, by which Clinton supposedly utilized her political leverage to silence evidence against her. Further allegations were sparked by claims that Clinton Foundation donors received special treatment under Clinton’s State Department in a “pay-to-play” scheme, while at the same time Trump was accused of bribing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi into declining to join the lawsuit against Trump University. While the evidence of Clinton’s carelessness is discouraging, the evidence against Trump is by far the more damning.
From these chaotic past months, a few clear themes are discernible. For one, Trump has repeatedly made gaffes but refused to apologize, attempting to recast the statements as jokes or in an alternate context. If he was not joking, Trump is commending his supporters to violence and our enemies to attack us; if he was just joking, he is an extremely poor communicator. In addition, the media criticism of Clinton and Trump has been extremely disproportionate, especially recently, with news agencies exaggerating the extent of Clinton’s faults and ignoring Trump’s fundamental insanity in order to create a horse race. Trump has long raised the possibility of the election being “rigged” against him. But if this coming election is to be “rigged,” it will most certainly be by Russia, whose cyber capacity is among the world’s strongest and easily could hack into voting booths nationwide. In any case, more is surely to come, with many surprises in store for the coming month in the final act of one of America’s most divisive elections.