Donald Trump, the political offspring of Mayor McCheese and Benito Mussolini, isn’t so singular among Republican politicians for the things he thinks but for saying them in such a brazen manner. The Gingrich-Atwater-Rove soft, coded language of bigotry helped GOP politicians to victory in a whiter America, but it never returned the nation to a mythical past as it had promised. The party leaders never intended to. Family values and the other hokum they were selling wasn’t important to the power brokers. It was just a useful means to fire up the base and gain control for the financial good of a sliver of the country.
Tired of being disappointed, the bedrock of the party has turned to a vulgar clown reluctant to disavow the KKK. But Trump stands on the shoulders of many of those very conservatives who express shock and disbelief at his rise. They were the ones who’ve spent decades cultivating anti-government attitudes and racial divisiveness and obstructionism and conspiracy theories. The question now is whether the hideous hotelier’s rise will be the party’s comeuppance or all of America’s.
What is one to make of the rise of Donald Trump? It is natural to think of comparisons with populist demagogues past and present. It is natural, too, to ask why the Republican party might choose a narcissistic bully as its candidate for president. But this is not just about a party, but about a great country. The US is the greatest republic since Rome, the bastion of democracy, the guarantor of the liberal global order. It would be a global disaster if Mr Trump were to become president. Even if he fails, he has rendered the unthinkable sayable.
Mr Trump is a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe and an ignoramus. His business consists of the erection of ugly monuments to his own vanity. He has no experience of political office. Some compare him to Latin American populists. He might also be considered an American Silvio Berlusconi, albeit without the charm or business acumen. But Mr Berlusconi, unlike Mr Trump, never threatened to round up and expel millions of people. Mr Trump is grossly unqualified for the world’s most important political office.
Yet, as Robert Kagan, a neoconservative intellectual, argues in a powerful column in The Washington Post, Mr Trump is also “the GOP’s Frankenstein monster.” He is, says Mr Kagan, the monstrous result of the party’s “wild obstructionism,” its demonisation of political institutions, its flirtation with bigotry and its “racially tinged derangement syndrome” over President Barack Obama. He continues: “We are supposed to believe that Trump’s legion of ‘angry’ people are angry about wage stagnation. No, they are angry about all the things Republicans have told them to be angry about these past seven-and-a-half years”.
Mr Kagan is right, but does not go far enough.•