I've written many times on IVN on the subject of the psychology of negative campaigning in U.S. elections.
In most cases, negative campaigning does exactly one thing -- it turns voters off to the point of disengaging from the political system and not voting.
But the research is also clear, that this 'turn-off' among voters tends to affect Democrats at a greater pace than Republicans.
This has created an interesting dichotomy. For a Democrat to thrive, they must stick to issues and stay above the mudslinging. For a Republican to thrive, they need to energize their base and 'offend' or 'shout-down' the opposition, to the extent of turning off their opponents to the process.
This 'Trump unshackled' appears to be a last ditch effort to both woo voters and discredit opponents -- all wrapped up in his carnival barker style based on bluster, accusations, and threats.
While the Democrats see this as an implosion of the Trump campaign, they also see the danger for what it is. They must stay on message and energize their voters for the final weeks before voting.
Mail-in and early voting may help the Democrats avoid the final mudslinging battle, and Democrats are definitely winning the 'war' of mail-in ballots.
From an ideological standpoint, this makes sense.
The Democrats typically accuse Republicans of making voting on election day more difficult -- mail-in ballots are easy, absolutely verified by skipping electronic voting machines, and impossible to commit voter fraud because they are mailed to verified addresses.
Early voting signs are showing that Democrats are receiving more mail-in ballots in the critical states of North Carolina and Florida, with Hispanic requests for mail-in ballots up 77% in 2016.
This might be the only way to combat a two-fold problem.
First, mail-in voters can cast their ballots and then ignore the final month of bluster -- a self-protection from the last push for winning (or perhaps winning by disgusting one's opponents).
Second, the most vulnerable demographic (Hispanics), targeted all too often for not being eligible to vote, is using the ultra-safe mail-in voting system.
This reaction to the voting problems of 2012 only makes sense. Voters' lives can be made difficult at the polls with long lines, extra scrutiny, or bullying. The mail-in system, however, is the most secure voting there is, and done from the privacy of their own homes.
But in the end, regardless of how nasty the campaigning becomes, voters need to get to the polls. The choice not to vote is the worst choice of all -- because it merely rubber-stamps the outcome with their apathy.
In modern elections, every single presidential race could have been swayed by an increase in voter participation of 10%.
As independents, this is our only fighting tool. At some point we need to let the Democrats and Republicans implode and go to a new well for potential voters -- those who have already disengaged from the system.