It's Not an Election. It's a War.
There are an awful lot of people out there who still think this is a conventional election, that we are choosing between two candidates on the basis of experience, policies, and character.
This is not a conventional election. This is, as the late, great Andrew Breitbart put it, "war!"
An all-out culture war.
It's not a war that conservatives started or have ever wanted. It is a war that has been thrust on us. But if we don't treat it as a war, if we don't take it seriously as a war, we will lose and lose miserably. We will lose not just for the next four years, but for the next 40 years, and possibly the next 400 years.
In other words, this is not a skirmish or a tiny battle, as the #NeverTrump crowd imagines. If we don't defeat the enemy in November, there may not be another chance for a long time to come.
When you're at war, your tactics change considerably. For your leader, you don't want a gentleman warrior or an intellectual who is good at articulating ideas but not very good in the trenches. Those are peacetime leaders, perhaps, but not wartime generals.
At time of war, you pick a general who is tough as nails and will lead you confidently into battle and be victorious. You choose someone who knows how important it is, as Winston Churchill said, to "Never give up! Never give up! Never, never, never-never-never-never!"
The general you pick may be foul-mouthed, crude, or brusque. He may have any number of personal failings. Those things don't matter in war. What matters is:
Is he on your side?
Is he a fighter?
Can he rally the troops?
Can he weaken the opponent?
Can he administer death blows when needed?
Can he emerge victorious?
In short, you need someone who is strong, fierce, and not easily taken down. Ironically, the Republican symbol of the elephant is the perfect metaphor – a creature who, on the one hand, is often seen as big, clumsy, and lovable, but who turns out to be of the most dangerous animals on Earth. A creature who has been known to be vindictive and can trample even a rhinoceros – so a donkey shouldn't be that hard.
Is this Donald J. Trump?
Absolutely. He has shown that no matter what dirt gets dug up and thrown at him, he will not back down. He is the first Republican candidate to come along in more than 25 years who isn't afraid to battle the Democrats – and the media – with the same firepower they bring into battle.
Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, has written extensively on the "persuasion" elements of this election and says that Trump's temperament is predictable, that "when Trump counter-attacks, he always responds with equal measure. Words are met with words and scandal mentions are met with scandal mentions. (And maybe a few words.) But always proportionate and immediate."
So what we are seeing, and what we may see for the remainder of the campaign, is Trump responding in full force to the media and the left-wing onslaught.
In short, he's bringing out the big guns.
But he's bringing out the big guns because that's what the other side already has aimed at him.
Consider the 2005 video of Trump's lewd comments. The Democrat-controlled media thought they could take Donald Trump down and end his candidacy for good by airing the video two days before the second presidential debate. But, unlike almost every other Republican you can name, Trump didn't back down. He came out swinging.
Debate moderator Anderson Cooper called Trump's 2005 comments "sexual assault," and said, "You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?"
Trump corrected him and subtly undercut the claim: "No, I didn't say that at all. I don't think you understood what was said. This was locker room talk." He then apologized to his family and the American public and masterfully switched the subject:
You know, when we have a world when you have ISIS chopping off heads and frankly drowning people in steel cages, where you have so many bad things happening … we should get onto much more important things and much bigger things.
The moderators and the Democrats were stunned that their many shots at Trump did not succeed. He outgunned them at every turn. When he said Hillary should be in jail, they were reeling. No one has ever gone after Hillary the way Trump has.
Now, having failed round one, the left has brought out even bigger guns – women who claim that Trump groped them and sexually assaulted them on numerous occasions going back to the 1980s.
But once again, Trump will not be taken down easily. At a speech in West Palm Beach, Florida, he went on offense almost immediately.
"These people are horrible people. They're horrible, horrible liars," he said of the women accusing him. "And interestingly, it happens to appear 26 days before our very important election."
He challenged the account of one woman, Jessica Leeds, who claims that Trump touched her on a first-class flight to New York more than 30 years ago and was "like an octopus."
Trump's response: "Another ridiculous tale. No witnesses. No nothing."
He cast aspersion on People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who claimed that Trump forced her against a wall and tried to kiss her in 2005, when she was interviewing Trump and his wife, Melania, in 2005. Donald Trump pointed out the "area was a public area – people all over the place."
But the media is again trying to slay the elephant. For example, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter immediately jumped into the fray, calling Trump's speech "paranoid" and "dangerous."
This is war, ladies and gentlemen. It's not a conventional election, and it's not a gentlemen's disagreement or a skirmish or a fistfight. You can't sit at home with popcorn and enjoy the show, because eventually the lights will come up, and we will be saddled with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for four years.
If it's Hillary, then you can gird yourself for what will surely be daily battles over guns, free speech, Supreme Court nominees, higher taxes, more immigration, more years of a bad economy, and a multitude of other bad decisions.
Or you can take your chances with the elephant, Donald J. Trump.
Whose side on you on?
Debbie Hallberg is a writer based in San Francisco.