Understandably, there’s more “is Trump losing it?” talk today than usual. I’ve seen the speculation. I agree with some of the armchair diagnosticians. (Malignant narcissism? Yeah, he’s got that.) But I don’t believe we’re seeing manifestations of dementia, and I don’t think he’s lost “control of his faculties.”
First, dementia. Yeah, I’ve seen the comparison videos. Maybe, if you watch a long-ago Trump interview on Larry King’s show, he seems calmer and a touch more polysyllabic. But he can seem that way these days in an interview that takes place in what he considers a safe space.
But what persuades me that he’s not losing his grip is the way he performs at his campaign rallies. He’s still an effective insult comic. His jokes are terrible and obnoxious, but he lands them nearly every time. That riff about wind power, with the guy who’d like to watch television, but he can’t because there’s no breeze outside? It’s ignorant, but it kills. Trump delivers it with comedy timing every time out. He doesn’t forget where he is in the joke halfway through. The deplorables love it.
I’ll go even further than Steve M and say that even if Trump was to exhibit even more outward manifestations of mental disease or defect beyond what we see whenever he stops by to chat with the press on his way to Marine One, the base will stay with him. The polling has had him within 40% of the popular vote since Day 1 and it’s not going anywhere. The Republican leadership knows this, which is why their response to these piteous outrages has been [crickets].
There’s nothing to be gained by them raising red flags or primary challenges to Trump or even expressing concern about the soaring budget deficit, his invoking anti-Semitic tropes, even his claiming his divinity (“I am the chosen one”) because they know that he can easily turn his fire — and his base — against them. Trump could win his second term by running not against Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg but by running against the mainstream GOP.