This blog is about “what it's really like to get old.” Almost always, you can rely on that and when the topic does go sideways, usually there is a component – however small – that involves elders.
Maybe not today. We'll see.
Earlier this week, two of the three remaining Republican candidates for president dropped out the race and Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee of that party. The “presumptive” part is a short-term formality and already I'm tired of it. Let's just call him the nominee.
At every move during the primary season, Trump has outfoxed the media who let down the country - and by that I don't mean only us voters but the founding fathers and the Constitution itself - by covering the campaign as entertainment.
The media gave Trump more face time by magnitudes than any other candidate, fawned over him like the rock star he thinks he is, never held him to account for any of his vague or frightening or insincere or changing-by-the-minute policy positions.
The most important decision a country makes, choosing its leader, has been turned into a reality show by the media and there is no indication that will change during the general election campaign between now and November 8.
The subject of Trump almost always comes up at the weekly current affairs discussion group I attend and following the Indiana primary this week, it took more than the usual amount of time.
God knows emotions run high in this election campaign, but the 25-30 attendees at the gathering are mostly careful to control our political feelings. Maybe it's because we are all old and have a lot of experience at how testy - and possibly poisonous - people can get over politics.
This week, however, one attendee proposed an act I will not repeat here that might, the person suggested, take place between the election of Donald Trump and the inauguration, and asked what the rest of us thought about that.
Everyone punted including, I am sorry to say, me as though each of us were repeating a silent mantra, "don't go there, don't go there, don't go there." Since then it has been eating at me that I did not, at minimum, ask, Are you suggesting what it sounds like you are?
Thanks to Trump alone, our public political conversation has become so course, so vulgar and so violent that it has seeped down to a polite little social forum and I doubt the one I attend is the only place it has happened.
Donald Trump is a dangerous man in a certain kind of way. Out of fear, maybe, of being tagged with Godwin's Law*, hardly anyone with a public voice says HOW he is a danger to the United States and the world.
One who just did so, however, is Andrew Sullivan, a conservative (and controversial) political pundit who stepped out of retirement this week to comment on what he calls our “dystopian election campaign.”
While invoking Godwin's Law himself in a long, fascinating and readable essay in New York magazine, he wrote about Trump:
”To call this fascism doesn’t do justice to fascism. Fascism had, in some measure, an ideology and occasional coherence that Trump utterly lacks.
“But his movement is clearly fascistic in its demonization of foreigners, its hyping of a threat by a domestic minority (Muslims and Mexicans are the new Jews), its focus on a single supreme leader of what can only be called a cult, and its deep belief in violence and coercion in a democracy that has heretofore relied on debate and persuasion.”
Generally, people's fascist and Hitler references are disproportionate to their topic but in this case, not so much. Further, Sullivan says,
”...Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others.
“In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.”
One person who has dipped her toe in those waters is the MSNBC host, Rachel Maddow. Here is a portion of what she said at the top of her program on Wednesday night following the Indiana primary this week. (My apologies for the low quality of the video; it's the best I could locate.)
She is right, we are in uncharted political waters and the pundits who almost to a person told us Trump did not have chance of attaining the nomination will undoubtedly be equally mistaken in any predictions they make between now and November 8.
It seems to me that this is the most important, most potentially earth-shaking election of our long lives and for that reason I want to give us old people a chance to weigh in here.
Or maybe I'm just trying to atone for not speaking out when I should have in that discussion group this week. Either way, I'll shut up now and it's your turn. What do you make of the Trump candidacy? How has he affected the campaign so far? The country? Can he win the presidency? Please don't guess - give us your reasons. And how do you imagine a Trump presidency at home and in U.S. relationships with the world?
Andrew Sullivan's essay in New York magazine had me riveted. You can read it here.
* GODWIN'S LAW: If an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.