CLEVELAND — It takes a special kind of foolish to run for president in a way that alienates as many voters as possible.
In 2016, Donald Trump summoned every insult in his arsenal to defeat a deeply disliked Hillary Clinton, a woman who also happened to be immeasurably more talented and qualified.
Four years later, the tiny man who inhabits Donald Trump’s world seems to believe that running the same way against former Vice President Joe Biden will produce the same result.
It’s a strategy so incredibly inane it brings to mind one of the late Ohio Gov. Jim Rhodes’ classic comments. In 1968, Rhodes said watching Michigan Gov. George Romney run for president was “like watching a duck try to make love to a football.”
Now the duck is back, quacking louder than ever, dialing up chaos and craziness with words and behavior that shatter any remaining pretense Trump is the least bit normal.
Down big in the polls nationally, common sense argues for Trump to spend the next two weeks frantically trying to expand his historically small base. Instead, he has reverted to demonstrably false attacks, bizarre conspiracy theories and rallies with no social distancing and few masks, which only remind voters of his utter disregard for their health and safety.
In recent days, President Trump has railed against the two biggest sycophants in his cabinet, suggesting that Attorney General Bill Barr’s job is at risk for not indicting Trump’s political enemies, and ripping Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not yet finding and releasing Hillary Clinton’s emails.
There are hundreds of reasons why President Trump should be denied a second term. In the interest of brevity, I believe that number can be reduced to two.
First, a significant majority of Americans have figured out there is something horribly wrong with him.
Second, faced with the nation’s greatest health crisis in more than a century, Trump not only failed to protect the country, he couldn’t even protect himself and those who work for him. Truth is, he barely even tried. The president’s COVID-19 failures have been widely reported. No reason to regurgitate them here.
On issues relating to the legitimacy of Trump’s Republican credentials and his fitness for office, I’ve long believed members of the conservative intelligentsia have the most credibility.
After Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus, David Frum, speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, wrote in the Atlantic on Oct. 2, “Trump should never have been allowed anywhere near any public office. Wish him well, but recognize that his deformed spirit will never be well – and that nothing can be well for the country under his leadership.”
A day after Trump’s Sept. 29 debate with Biden in Cleveland, George F. Will wrote in The Washington Post, “A plurality of Americans have concluded that Trump has much to feel inferior about, and Tuesday probably changed neither this nor the nation’s dread about its accelerating decay.”
Writing about Trump’s “savagery” in The New York Times on Oct. 1, David Brooks promised, “What Trump did to that debate Tuesday night is what he’ll do to America in a second term.”
Then, in three sentences, Brooks obliterated arguments made by those who argue Trump’s policies and so-called accomplishments make it worth tolerating the lies, malice, corruption and incompetence.
“Some Republicans see Trump’s immorality as a sideshow they will tolerate to secure other goods. But his immorality is voracious, a widening gyre that threatens the basic stability of civic life. If he undermines the election, and his Republican enablers let him, he’ll approach what comes next with appalling ferocity.”
In Ohio, those enablers are many — namely, the entire Republican political establishment. And as Nov. 3 nears, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has emerged as one of the most culpable.
LaRose has refused to expand the number of secure ballot drop boxes – even after one of the nation’s most respected federal judges, U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland, enjoined that decision, ruling that LaRose had failed to present evidence that he lacked the authority to place those boxes in places other than boards of elections.
Reporting by the nonprofit journalism watchdog ProPublica has linked a top LaRose staff member to a Trump supporter peddling widely discredited theories of widespread fraud in mail voting.
When it comes to political independence, LaRose talks a good game. But fear of angering the Trump base consistently causes Republican officeholders to behave in ways contrary to what’s best for Ohioans.
At a time that demands a sense of moral urgency aimed at providing Ohioans with as many risk-free voting options as possible without compromising security, LaRose has failed them.
LaRose and many of Trump’s other Ohio enablers won’t have to face voters until 2022. Trump doesn’t enjoy that luxury.
If every qualified American who wants to vote is allowed to vote, Trump cannot win. He probably can’t even keep it close. Trump surely knows that. The enablers absolutely know it. Less certain is how far this desperate man might go to keep his job.
We’re about to find out.
John F. Lewis’ towering legacy
John F. Lewis was a civic treasure, a kid from Oberlin who became Cleveland office managing partner at one of the country’s most respected law firms, then Squire Sanders & Dempsey.
But Lewis, who died Oct. 11 at the age of 87, was much more than one of the city’s most influential lawyers. His involvement in a range of civic causes, including Playhouse Square, the NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland schools and Case Western Reserve University, helped make Greater Cleveland a better place.
Lewis’ civic efforts efforts were perhaps matched only by his wife of 62 years, Cathy, who survives him. The contributions they made to this community were significant and lasting.
Brent Larkin was The Plain Dealer’s editorial director from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.
To reach Brent Larkin: email@example.com
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