To be sure, Time’s new cover story sure looks dramatic. It tracks the endless headaches for party regulars (especially Reince Priebus) who have had to clean up Trump’s messes. With new controversies boiling up every day, they are even holding out the option of abandoning the Trump ship and refocusing their resources down-ballot.
The problem with the meltdown thesis is that Trump’s behavior right now is exactly the same as it was a year ago, when he was calling Mexican immigrants rapists and mocking John McCain for getting captured in war. The only change that’s occurred is that we’ve shifted to general election mode—in contrast to the Republican primaries, when GOP voters liked all that stuff.
“The riot of recrimination was a vivid reminder that some of Trump’s worst traits as a candidate—paper-thin skin, an absence of discipline, a bottomless capacity to nurse grudges—are not going away,” the article says at one point. “Republicans waiting for the long-promised presidential pivot seemed like characters in a Beckett play, trapped in Trump’s theater of the absurd.”
That’s just the thing: There never was going to be any pivot—and the only people now “melting down” are Reince Priebus and other Republicans who thought they could control this monster, and must now live with the fact that they didn’t try to stop it earlier.