Gail Collins had a great column about the Republican field last week, worth reading in full, from which I draw just this:

Under normal conditions, if a party was confronted with a candidate who had never held any public office, whose political activism consisted mainly of trying to prove Barack Obama was born in Africa, and whose platform consisted of whatever stuff was getting good crowd response at the last rally, everybody would race to get behind the alternative.

So if Trump does win this thing, he’ll owe it all to the terribleness of Ted Cruz. . . .

Everyone I know agrees Cruz would be even worse.

And the two people I know who know Donald (“he was sitting exactly where you are now two weeks ago,” one told me, amused, as he faced me on his office couch; “we play golf pretty often,” the other told me) agree he’s basically a charming guy and fun to be with.

(Though “if he or Cruz wins,” the golfer told me, “I am moving to Canada.”)

A lot of people ascribe the Donald’s lead in the polls to his celebrity status and liken the whole circus to “reality TV.”  But the Trump Show is not “reality TV,” I think, so much as professional wrestling.

Either way, that the dignity of the Presidency should be so debased — and the gravity of this moment in history so trivialized — is someplace between dismaying and frightening.

A presidential candidate publicly mocking a disabled newspaper reporter?

Really?

So long as Trump loses — badly — it will be just one more colorful part of our history.  “Those crazy Americans,” and all that.  (You likely saw the Brits debating a ban on his entry into the UK.)

But it’s not entirely harmless, this entertainment.  It’s likely already stoked radical Islamic flames — what ISIS recruiter would fail to link to the Donald?

And he’s stoked dissatisfaction here at home.

Ever since Ronald Reagan told us government was the problem, that dissatisfaction has only built.

Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare! people would ultimately cry, after decades of being “informed” by talk radio and Fox News and Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

Can you blame them for gravitating toward Trump?  “By any standard, Barack Obama has been a disaster for our country!” says the Senate Majority leader.

Things are awful!” all 19 Republican presidential candidates tell us over and over and over and over.

Gas is $4.50 a gallon!

(Well, $2, but still.)

We’re needlessly hamstringing our oil production!

(Well, we’ve become the world’s #1 energy producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia.  But still.)

“Drill baby, drill,” advises Trump campaign partner Sarah Palin (“the best decision I ever made,” John McCain years later called her selection to lead the world should he become incapacitated) . . . even as the Republican “science committee” chairmen deny climate science.  (“The Greatest Hoax,” one titles his book.)

Unemployment is off the charts! (Seventy consecutive months of job growth with more added in the most recently reported 12 weeks than in the last 12 years of Republican rule — but still.)  The deficit is out of control!  (Down by two-thirds, with the debt finally again growing slower than the economy as a whole — but still.)  Everyone is dying from Ebola (zero fatal cases contracted on American soil).  We should have let Detroit go bankrupt (it’s booming).

And on and on.  Things are so bad that the electorate — or at least a good chunk of the Fox electorate — yearns for a strongman who can make America great again.

Who can get the boot of Mexico and China off our necks.

Yet it’s not Mexico and China who’ve shifted wealth from our working poor and struggling middle class to the top tenth of one percent — to the billionaire class.  It’s the Republicans.

Like all their candidates for the White House, Donald Trump would hold down the minimum wage — squeezing the working poor ever tighter as prices rise — yet eliminate the estate tax on billionheirs.

Hold that strongman thought.

 

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