Donald Trump’s post-convention days have been spent feuding with families of fallen service members, Paul Ryan, John McCain, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Reince Priebus, his own staff, a crying baby – and, almost as an afterthought, President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
His behavior is not surprising to anyone who has watched the campaign unfold. If Trump is a counter-puncher, as he likes to say, he’s one who doesn’t know when to stop hitting.
But events of the last 72 hours have shaken confidence in his campaign at the highest levels of the Republican Party. They are now posing an existential challenge to a party that’s been riven by divisions despite the natural unity that comes in opposing the Clintons.
The perceived slight that pushed many Republicans to a breaking point was an ostensibly political one. Trump, who says he values loyalty above all, made a point of not endorsing Ryan and McCain in their primary campaigns – even though both men, somewhat reluctantly, came around to endorsing Trump.
But the concerns about Trump as a candidate are significantly deeper. His extended public feud with the family of a slain service member is no mere gaffe; it’s inexcusable to a broad swath of leaders in both parties.
The inexcusable became inexplicable when Trump refused to apologize and dug in for further battle. Combine that with a Trumpian array of other storylines this week – calling Clinton “the devil,” saying he had always wanted a Purple Heart, tone-deaf comments on how sexual harassment should be handled – and Republican leaders are at a crisis point with their candidate.
Evidently, Trump believes he doesn’t need the Republican establishment that resisted him for so long. He has bragged about channeling voters’ voices, and the voices he hears at his own rallies still shout his name with pride and glee.
But at the moment when the Republican nominee should be expanding his appeal and looking outward, the GOP is stuck looking at itself in the mirror. A growing number of party voices do not like what they see.