Donald Trump is set to win Republican nomination, but cracks are starting to show – Henry McLeish

The 77-year-old Donald Trump appears fragile and confused, repeatedly making mistakes that are overshadowed by his ‘authoritarian outbursts and gratuitous racism’

Facing 91 felony indictments, overwhelmed by court appearances, and beyond pleas for moderation and reason, Donald J Trump defeated Nikki Haley in New Hampshire and looks set to become the Republican presidential candidate, creating a rematch with Joe Biden in November.

But in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary, there are increasing doubts about Trump’s ability to “hold it together” as vulnerabilities are exposed and cracks appear in his previous invincibility. Underpinning this new assessment is the unmistakable evidence of his declining cognitive abilities. Put bluntly, he is losing it. His threatening and vile post-victory outbursts – insulting “bird-brain” Haley – revealed a disturbed individual who wants retribution for her continued presence in the race and threats to blacklist anyone contributing funds to her campaign.

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More worrying for Trump, however, are New Hampshire exit polls showing how his embrace of Maga fanaticism is deeply dividing his own party and forcing loyal Republicans to contemplate either staying at home in November or deserting this political psycho in favour of Biden. Thirty-five per cent of Republicans will not vote for Trump if he is convicted of any of his indictments. Haley had the edge on moderate voters by 53 per cent and college graduates by 15 per cent, with clear indications that soft Republicans and independents are weary of Trump’s antics. Unsurprisingly, the abandonment of Roe vs Wade is ensuring abortion remains a live issue with Republican voters divided on this threat to women’s reproductive rights.

Donald Trump's legal problems could prompt moderate Republicans to stay at home or vote for Democrat Joe Biden (Picture: Andrew Kelly-Pool/Getty Images)Donald Trump's legal problems could prompt moderate Republicans to stay at home or vote for Democrat Joe Biden (Picture: Andrew Kelly-Pool/Getty Images)
Donald Trump's legal problems could prompt moderate Republicans to stay at home or vote for Democrat Joe Biden (Picture: Andrew Kelly-Pool/Getty Images)

The polling suggests the political civil war now engulfing the US is exposing a deeply divided Republican party with key sections of supporters leading a backlash against Trump. As Axios AM reported, “Trump remains an incendiary and chaotic messenger”.

According to Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, “New Hampshire showed us, beyond all doubt that Donald Trump is very, very confused”. Milbank pointed out that Trump has mistakenly said that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban runs Turkey, thought Barack Obama was the current leader of the US, and confused Haley with leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi. He added that these slips by the 77-year-old Trump are “often overlooked because of his authoritarian outbursts and gratuitous racism” which steal the limelight.

The Donald Trump now on display, unlike 2016 and 2020, is more fragile. That’s why his public appearances are limited to bizarre and ranting rallies and courts across the country, avoiding live debates or taking any questions from the public.

Haley will contest the next primary in her home state, South Carolina, but what happens after that is unclear. Her tactics on Trump, after his thuggish verbal assaults, have changed and she may become less deferential and more aggressive. Trump's mental state demands that Haley exit the contest because he is now incapable of one-to-one debating, and has a problem controlling his temper. His anxiety is clear.

Trump’s desperation and anger have forced a compliant chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel, to urge Haley to surrender to Trump’s bullying and opt out of the race. This action is unprecedented. Not content with this, Trump is now trying to “blow up” a bipartisan deal in Congress offering support for more border controls and foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine, because he wants illegal immigration to continue so he can keep it to the forefront of his campaign! This is a foretaste of Trump in the White House, authoritarianism in action in his party, Congress and politics.

Biden is also keen for Haley to leave the race as he wants the battle between him and Trump to commence. A prolonged Republican race might exhaust press and media coverage to the detriment of Biden. However, a continuing meltdown of Trump’s ability to cope would surely be an asset. The dominance of Maga (‘Make America Great Again’) in Trump politics may now become a liability, winning the Republican battle, but losing the presidential war.

Red flags line the way ahead for Trump. It is worth remembering what we are dealing with. Asked whether Trump was an aberration or an abomination, his own former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, reportedly described him as just “a f****** moron”. A crude assessment, but it does cut through the fog of bogus explanations trying to justify this self-declared “stable genius”. Through the wider lens of a decaying American democracy and poisonous politics, there lurks an extraordinary and unique set of human flaws.

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Trump did not rise out of a vacuum. His influence on voters could be waning, but the former president retains remarkable levels of support within the Maga movement, although it may now be doing more harm than good to the Republican cause.

The sociopathic Trump, for the most bizarre reasons, is ideally suited to exploiting America’s weak democracy. He is fixated on factions, a transaction specialist for a diverse range of interests and aspirations. This was his successful formula in 2016.

Trump has a super-sized ego but lacks empathy, remorse, sensitivity, compassion, tolerance, respect, or guilt – ideal assets to avoid realities and remain the lightning rod for every dark and dangerous threat to US democracy. But this self-imposed immunity from grief or guilt and his uncontrollable verbal outbursts are alarming many Republicans and independents. Trump is beyond our understanding of politics. He is the “anti-politics”, the simplifier of political beliefs and outcomes.

But he does pose profound questions. Writing in the Atlantic Daily, Tom Nichols captured this nightmare as “a tragedy for the American republic not because of what it has revealed about Trump, but because of what it is revealing about us as voters and citizens". And he added: “The ghastly reality of no matter how much we learn about this crass sociopath, millions of people voted for him twice and are still hoping that he will return to power in the White House.”

This is the potential nightmare on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Henry McLeish, former First Minister of Scotland, is a University of South Florida visiting professor



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