Donald Trump, billionaire real estate mogul, is running for president, and has been fascinating to watch. Hoping to be the standard-bearer for a Republican Party that already tilts far to the right, he has surprised everyone by out-horribling 16 rivals who already seemed on the edge of being horrible. It's one thing to oppose abortion and contraception on "moral" grounds, as most Republican candidates have done. It's quite another to call female antagonists :slobs" and "dogs" and ressurect the old canards about their menstual cycles. It's one thing to gin up support for military interventions. It's quite another to unapologetically denigrate the service a sitting senator who spent six years in a Vietnamese POW camp It's one thing to decry the supposed violence that illegal aliens commit. It's quite another to suggest that illegals and their citizen children (!) be deported en masse, regardless of the cost. It's one thing to oppose the pope's critiques of unbridled capitalism. It's another to tell an interviewer that he will "scare" the pope into backing down with tales of ISIS atrocities.
And most amazing of all, Trump's many misogynistic, xenophobic, politically-incorrect and hateful comments are resonating with the public. At the moment, he stands ahead of the large pack of Republican candidates. Journalists and commentators, who thought his lead was due to being a weak leader in a huge pack, are starting to wonder whether his lead is real, and will continue to grow.
Is it possible that Trump has put his finger on the pulse of American public opinion? And that his outrageous (not to mention impractical and unconstitutional) solutions are supported by a large bloc of voters? Does he represent the seething id of America?
It's terrifying to me that so many people are letting loose with the vicious opinions we have been hearing lately. Just this week in Boston, a homeless Hispanic man was beaten up by two Trump supporters who echoed his talking points about being sick of immigrants. ARe we at the point where white people are taking Trump's lead and loosing the chains of respectability and decency?
For decades, Americans have been encouraged to tone down the racist and misogynistic jokes that were a staple of my youth in the 1960s. We are to see people of color -- Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez -- as heroes rather than as troublemakers and instigators. We are told to respect people of all faiths, and to question the appropriateness of prayer in schools and on the football field. We are to make accommodations for the disabled. WE are to move our smoking outdoors. We have been asked to expand our view and see that America is not a white, Christian heterosexual nation, but a melange of many colors, ethnicities, sexualities and abilities. We have been asked to consider the social cost of our gender-bias in pay, our cigarette smoking and our gay- and immigrant-bashing.
Could it be we have stretched ourselves beyond our ability to cope and--with tacit permission from Donald Trump and others--are snapping back to our original length?
Whatever bad things you can call Donald Trump--bully, clown, narcissist, poser, self-promoter--he has triggered a backlash that could actually derail the march to a more progressive America. Believe it or not, I can conceive of a President Trump. Whether his clownish antics would continue in the White House is anyone's guess. But it really says something that a modern nation could conceive of being led by a man as seemingly vapid, uninformed and mean-spirited as Donald Trump.
I would hope that he would trip himself up with some appalling remark. But the wilder his statements, the more popular he becomes. Like him or not, he bears watching. As does the countrymen who find him to be a proper spokesman for their core beliefs.