It is not entirely certain just how we ought to take James Oliphant’s headline for Reuters, “Trump may have stopped the bleeding, but not the worrying”. The lede is one of those double-takes, not because it is unbelievable but because it seems worth checking to make certain you read it correctly:
Donald Trump may have done just enough in Sunday’s presidential debate to keep his leaky presidential campaign afloat―and that may have put Republicans considering abandoning him in an even tougher position.
It is, in fact, a reasonable thesis but not exactly reflective of the headline. Indeed, the most curious thing about bleeding is just how the Trump campaign is bleeding, or not, might well be the section header, “Red Meat for the Base”, describing the last third of the article, and here Oliphant brings the point home:
Against this backdrop of panic and condemnation, Trump on Sunday sought to rally the party’s base with a fresh barrage of provocative attacks on Clinton that will give the media something other than the tape to talk about.
He offered a blistering critique of her handling of foreign policy while the country’s chief diplomat and brought his rally cry for her to be jailed to the debate stage. He also carried out a threat to make an issue of her husband’s sexual history.
In doing so, Trump may have stopped the bleeding, but he did nothing to stop the worrying.
The base. Donald Trump stopped the bleeding, but not the worrying, among his base? Suddenly the lede, with Mr. Trump having “done just enough” to “keep his leaky presidential campaign afloat”, seems nearly an overstatement. That is to say: What counts as afloat?
Okay, how about this? Ben Collins’ report for the Daily Beast, after the first debate, offered an interesting suggestion: “Donald Trump’s Online Trolls”, reads the headline, “Turn on Their ‘God Emperor'”. Yeah, it’s one of those, including discussion of a suicidal Pepe and what passed for an alt-right refrain, “Just for the record I never actually supported Trump. I just did it for the memes”. And, you know, the bitter resignation was actually kind of impressive. Brendan Gauthier of Salon picked up another iteration:
“If you vote for either candidate,” one 4chan user declared, “you are a traitor cuck who deserves to have their god-given rights taken from them.”
“How does /pol/ feel now that the election is over?” a self-aware 4chan user asked for us. “I suppose you’ll have to go back to your shitty, miserable life now the Drumpf’s campaign has totally derailed.”
“The very reason we’re hearing all this post-debate discussion of biased moderators and microphones not working is spin for the Trump loss,” another 4chan conceded.
Perhaps the most noteworthy admission came from a 4chan user who openly acknowledged the big scary alt-right’s satirical (and inflammatory) edge: “CTR shills still not realising that pol is a board of satire and our only mission is to meme the retarded manchild to the white house for the lulz.”
So now we know.
When even the deplorables are jumping ship?
Yet Donald Trump, with enough red meat for the base, managed to “stop the bleeding”. Among the base. These moments in post-debate analysis seem nearly star-crossed. Stopping the bleeding among the base does not really count for keeping a leaky presidential campaign afloat. The unfortunate mix of metaphors makes for a nasty bilge, but this is the Donald Trump Show, so it suits well enough: Convincing the hands to not jump ship does not mean they aren’t still taking on water, and speaks nothing to the captain’s tendency to point the cannons at his own damn hull.
Nor shall I waste the song on that. Never mind, personal thing. Still, it seems more likely what keeps Donald Trump’s leaky presidential campaign afloat is the fact that with less than thirty days before the general election and voting already underway in some states, there is simply no way to replace him; they waited too long, and this version of Doomsday … well, there’s another song, right there, and who really wants to figure out how that metaphor works? The seas, the waves, something about an island, and Donald Trump bleeding out of his base or his … er … ah … are we really going to do that joke?
Image note: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listen to a question during the town hall debate at Washington University, 9 October 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty Images)
Collins, Ben. “Donald Trump’s Online Trolls Turn on Their ‘God Emperor'”. The Daily Beast. 26 September 2016.
Gauthier, Brendan. “Pepe’s post-debate identity crisis: Online alt-right turns on Donald Trump after his presidential debate fiasco”. Salon. 27 September 2016.
Oliphant, James. “Trump may have stopped the bleeding, but not the worrying”. Reuters. 10 October 2016.