In my years as a political consultant I always had one thing I told every candidate. It was to know when you are in the minority, even when you think you are right. I have found over the years that people assume if they strongly believe something and their friends strongly believe it, everyone must believe it. The echo chamber effect, however, can get people into trouble.
We saw it with Barack Obama and the IRS handling of tea party groups. The left found there was nothing wrong. They all agreed. But the public at large had a real problem with the administration using the IRS to harass political opponents. The public may not have liked tea party groups as a whole, but the public did not want the IRS going after them without cause.
In the same way, I chuckled at Donald Trump’s line last night that he’d jail Hillary Clinton if he got elected President. And I could feel the excitement in the force among Republicans nationwide that Trump had given her the business. It was cathartic for Republicans who think Clinton has been given a pass and that the present administration has ensured no trouble will come to her.
Donald Trump saying he would open up the investigation and have his administration review what happened was fair game and I suspect most Americans would be perfectly fine with that. But I think he crossed a line when he flat out said he would throw her in jail.
We all may think it hyperbole or funny, but I don’t think the American people as a whole do. I think this is a situation where we have to know we are in the minority even if we think we are right. Americans tend to have a deep revulsion to abuses of power and heavy handedness by government. They also intrinsically know that when a President can throw his political opponents in jail, democracy has come to an end.
That may have been a great line for the base and a funny line for a political rally, but I suspect it was not a helpful line for Trump to use in a general election Presidential debate.