2016 — February 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm

How ugly is this general election going to get? Brace yourself.


ZIMAGE - Donald Trump - Flickr - Gage Skidmore

If you’ve been following the Democratic primary closely, it probably seems pretty ugly to you.

Charges laced with must-Google terms like “Superpredator,” “mass incarceration” and “productivity’s relationship to GDP” touch on real divisions on policy and a reckoning on race necessary to move the progressive movement forward. While discussions about uterus ownership and “Bernie Bros” suggest to me the overblown sort of charges you have make when you’re viciously opposing someone with whom you agree with on a lot of stuff.

Let’s compare this to the GOP primary.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump called Ted Cruz “a weak little baby.”

The billion dollar baby is running an internet commenter campaign in a party that is driven by the comment section and kicking all of his opponents’ asses. Only Mitt Romney — a man scared off by Jeb Bush — has come close to getting Trump on the defensive on Trump’s tax returns.

Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi has delivered the best dissection of Trumpmania. Here’s the thesis:

Trump isn’t the first rich guy to run for office. But he is the first to realize the weakness in the system, which is that the watchdogs in the political media can’t resist a car wreck. The more he insults the press, the more they cover him: He’s pulling 33 times as much coverage on the major networks as his next-closest GOP competitor, and twice as much as Hillary.

Trump found the flaw in the American Death Star. It doesn’t know how to turn the cameras off, even when it’s filming its own demise.

Taibbi’s piece ends with a stern warning, “Brace yourselves, America. It’s really happening.”

Democrats have no excuse for fleeing the Trump blitzkrieg and expecting it to self-destruct. We’ve seen how this works now and we can anticipate what’s next.

Trump can’t be dismissed as making just empty arguments and bland appeals to nativism and racism, though he is doing that too. He’s claiming the game is rigged — which is true! And his prosperity gospel is much closer to the Christianity of most Americans than Ted Cruz’s strident messianic take.

There’s a real appeal that’s persuasive and will put Democrats on their heels, especially when it comes to trade.

For that reason, Bernie Sanders supporters say only Bernie can win:

Trump’s political dominance is highly dependent on his idiosyncratic, audacious method of campaigning. He deals almost entirely in amusing, outrageous, below-the-belt personal attacks, and is skilled at turning public discussions away from the issues and toward personalities (He/she’s a “loser,” “phony,” “nervous,” “hypocrite,” “incompetent.”)

This campaigning style makes Hillary Clinton Donald Trump’s dream opponent. She gives him an endless amount to work with. The emails, Benghazi, Whitewater, Iraq, the Lewinsky scandal, Chinagate, Travelgate, the missing law firm records, Jeffrey Epstein, Kissinger, Marc Rich, Haiti, Clinton Foundation tax errors, Clinton Foundation conflicts of interest, “We were broke when we left the White House,” Goldman Sachs… There is enough material in Hillary Clinton’s background for Donald Trump to run with six times over.

Many of these attacks are so over-trodden that the could have the effect of making Trump seem more like a typical politician.

Being mired in scandal has traditionally made the Clintons more popular. Taking on Clinton’s character glancingly was effective for Barack Obama in 2008, but he’s the greatest politician since FDR and a man whose credibility has proven to be pretty much impeccable in a decade as a household name. Essentially, he’s the exact opposite of Donald Trump.

But Trump will get ugly and vicious on Clinton — or Sanders.

How ugly or vicious? Ask Roger Stone — who is to politics what Joe Pesci is to a Scorsese mob movie, without the charm.

Stone credits himself as helping to elect three Republican presidents when he’s not busy co-writing books about about how LBJ killed JFK. Important stuff.

He was a Trump advisor until something happened involving Megyn Kelly last year that’s not worth looking into. And he was a CNN personality until the network cut him off for his commentary about commentators Anna Navarro, who he called a “diva bitch” and “borderline retarded,” and Roland Martin, who he called “stupid negro.”

Stone seems to be very close to Trump and still seems loosely involved with the campaign as he pushes a book about Bill Clinton’s “War on Women.”

We’ve already seen how Trump will get ugly on the Clintons, drawing the most disturbing accusations possible against the husband to pin them on the wife. Whether women — even Republican women — are comfortable with months of that remains to be seen.

But Trump would get ugly on Bernie too.

“And frankly, Bernie’s been on the Veteran Affairs committee, he’s a ranking member, for thirty years. How are veterans doing in this country?” Stone told the Daily Caller.

“I would pin him with that. Every where he goes, I would have him picketed by angry veterans. ‘You Bernie, you responsible.’ By the way when all those veterans died in VA hospitals and they covered all that up, and nobody was held responsible, where was Bernie? Where was Bernie?”

He’s got the voice down almost as good as Jon Favreau does.

So this is going to be ugly no matter what.

Just keep in mind Republicans can’t attack Trump for things like his scummy for-profit school because they love scummy for-profit schools.

And unlike Republicans, Democrats have been digging into Trump’s past. How much of what they’ve found hasn’t come out yet?

80 percent, they say.

[Image by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]