In the aftermath of the Republican National convention, most political pundits looked on nervously at the polls. Donald Trump, a candidate many dubbed a joke at first, was gaining on Hillary Clinton. Marred by an email scandal that led many to question her judgement, and the continuing inter-party disputes with supporters of her rival Bernie Sanders, the presumptive nominee was in bad shape. Combine this with growing (if begrudging) support for unity in the Republican party, and the perfect storm arrived on the US political stage.
The RNC was remarkably devoid of scandal, and thus when Donald Trump was proclaimed the official nominee of the Republican Party his numbers saw a sharp rise. A candidate who began 15 points behind Clinton rose up, and soon it was a dead heat. Yet it wasn’t over. On June 27th, RealClearPolitics published their average of the current nationwide polls, which showed Clinton trailing Trump by 2 percent.
For the first time in the campaign, Trump was ahead of Clinton. However, this lead was to be short lived. Seemingly bored of success, Donald Trump proceeded to make some inexplicable political moves, which resulted in his lead withering away and his support diminishing to almost historic lows in this election season. At the time of writing Clinton is now leading Trump by 7 percent, an incredible turnaround from the dead heat you could observe before.
The primary reason for this drop can be put on one action. In an utterly outstanding move, Trump picked a fight with the Khan family, two Pakistani Americans whose 27-year-old son had been killed while serving in Iraq. Speaking at the Democrat convention with his wife by his side, Mr Khan railed against Trump, questioning whether he had read the constitution. The speech was heartfelt, passionate and utterly savaged the Republican Nominee. It is likely he was put up as bait to the notoriously thin-skinned Trump, yet it was bait the property tycoon gladly took.
In an interview post speech Trump took aim at the family, implying that Mrs Khan had not spoken due to being a Muslim. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, Mrs Khan was just as eloquent as her husband. She retaliated, saying she had not spoken for the simple reason that she was standing beneath a giant portrait of her dead son. Trump refused to apologise for his statement, and in fact many of his surrogates doubled down against Mr Khan, claiming that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The row drew almost universal condemnation for Trump from both sides of the political spectrum. Republican leaders, veteran groups and pundits all voices their disgust at the attack, yet it was not purely due to this that the polls began to drop. The attack on the Khan was bigger than one family, and it was bigger than one servicemen. It can be argued that Donald trump has said far more inflammatory statements about Muslims in the campaign, from his proposed ban to claiming areas on London to be ‘Sharia-No-Go-Zones’. What was unique about the attack on the Khan was that it gave a face to Trump’s hate.
The “Islamic menace” that Trump had held up was no longer an unidentifiable group, but a family just like any other. By giving a face to the victims of his rhetoric, and by making that face one of patriotism and sacrifice, the Democrats were able to reveal the true nature of Trump. When America saw this, they rightfully turned away from the Republican Nominee. One can only hope Americans do not forget this in the next few months.