Despite the immense entertainment value of watching last night's Republican debates, the reality of the sheer idiocy of one half of the country's political establishment is no laughing matter. The fact that a clown like Donald Trump was able to bully and dominate the rest of the field with relative ease should send shockwaves through the GOP establishment, and more importantly, the rest of the nation. As Paul Krugman noted:
Leading Republicans have generally tried to preserve a facade of respectability, helping the news media to maintain the pretense that it was dealing with a normal political party. What distinguishes Mr. Trump is not so much his positions as it is his lack of interest in maintaining appearances. And it turns out that the party’s base, which demands extremist positions, also prefers those positions delivered straight. Why is anyone surprised?
We've seen this effect before, with the alarming rise of Sarah Palin in 2008, a politician able to connect with vast swathes of the American public through a mixture of nastiness and ignorance. While watching Palin embarrass herself over and over again was a gift to comedy and political punditry everywhere, the truth is she came far, far too close to the White House. The fact that someone like Palin could be an actual Vice Presidential candidate in the most powerful nation in human history was akin to giving a child access to nuclear weapons - a truly frightening proposition that could send human civilization to the brink of destruction. Could anyone imagine Palin negotiating complex nuclear disarmament deals with the Russians and Chinese?
Trump isn't as intellectually challenged as Sarah Palin, but he isn't far off. While he has shown immense talent in acquiring lots of money, his interpersonal skills outside of the feces throwing monkey-fest of GOP politics are appalling. Could you really imagine Trump, a man who has called women “fat pigs”, “dogs”, “slobs” and “disgusting animals” becoming President of the United States? This is the same Trump who spent a considerable amount of money trying to prove that President Obama was not born in America, believes the Mexican government is deliberately sending rapists and criminals over the border, and thinks his ability to organize air conditioning implementation qualifies him to defeat ISIS.
And lest you think there is no danger of a Trump presidency, think again. Trump is still surging in the polls, with a double digit lead over his closest rival, Jeb Bush. Just take a look at the average poll trend (via the Huff Post):
Trump's consistent ridiculing of his opposition is refreshing, particularly when telling the truth about what politicians will do for money (he has bought many, many favors over the years). This exchange is fascinating:
Trump doesn't care what he says, who he offends or what the consequences of his actions are. As it relates to ruining the other GOP candidates, this is hilarious and in a very narrow way, worthy of applause. But Trump's egomaniacal bombast would not be so amusing when dealing with complex geopolitical crises, as he would do should the unthinkable happen.
The problem is, Trump could actually win this thing for the sole reason that he specializes in being himself. Whether you like him or not, Trump is an authentic character, and while he may be a boorish pig, Americans don't seem to mind as long as he 'shoots from the hip'.
It is highly likely that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, and we could see an unbelievably nasty campaign between one of the biggest political dynasties in America and one of the biggest business dynasties in America. As clever as Hillary Clinton is, she suffers from the same syndrome most politicians do - she is inauthentic and has a history of saying (or doing) pretty much anything to get elected. She is obviously an infinitely better choice than Donald Trump, but given Trump's ability to prove the naysayers wrong over and over again, it isn't a given that she would beat him in a general election.
So now is the time to genuinely start worrying about a Trump Presidency - an unthinkable nightmare that is fast becoming a reality.