Excerpt from: Opinion Page, New York Times
Demagogue For President
Charles M. Blow Charles M. Blow MARCH 3, 2016
Sometimes you have to simply step back from the hubbub and take stock, with cleareyed sobriety, at a moment in history to fully appreciate its epochal import. Now is such a time.
A nativist, sexist, arguably fascist and racist demagogue who twists the truth is the front-runner in the race to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, over the protestations of the party’s establishment, who rightly view his ascendance as an existential threat to an already tattered brand.
He is odd and entertaining, vacuous and vain, disarming and terrifyingly dangerous.
And, according to The New York Times, he “could lock up the nomination in May” if he “keeps winning by the same margins.” Furthermore, the Republican Party is seeing record turnout on its way to this end. There is a political revolution in this country but, so far at least, it appears to be one driven in large part by the Republicans.
Let this sink in, America.
Stop thinking that it’s all a joke, a hoax, a game. It’s not. Maybe he began this quest as a branding exercise, but it has morphed into something quite real: a challenge to the collective moral character of the republic. The success of his candidacy so far calls into question the very definition and direction of America.
Later we can condemn the media for its complicity in his rise, the way we and the candidate operated in a symbiotic relationship, exchanging cheap ratings for free publicity, but it can’t be undone now. The candidate has now risen.
This is a guy who began his presidential bid by branding Mexican immigrants as drug mules, criminals and rapists.
This is a guy at whose rallies minorities have been shouted down and even manhandled — like the University of Louisville student Shiya Nwanguma — with little or no condemnation from the candidate.
This is a man who refused to immediately and unequivocally denounce and disavow the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who said on his radio program that voting against the turgid real estate developer was tantamount to “treason to your heritage.” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we can safely assume that Mr. Grand Wizard emeritus meant white heritage.
Again, America, let that sink in: America’s white heritage candidate, according to the illustrious David Duke, is the person so far winning a plurality of votes in the Republican contests and collecting a large share of that party’s delegates.
Indeed, his candidacy is providing a refuge for, and giving voice to, white fear and anger over the inevitable changing demography of the country, the erosion of the center and the rewarding of whiteness as a commodity.
Anger, not policy, is in fact the cornerstone of his candidacy. His policies are carpaccio-thin. He feeds his followers vague, morning-mirror affirmations like “make America great again” and endless “winning,” while largely avoiding particulars and parrying fact-checkers and his own history of inconsistencies.
And yet, the people who support him, angry at the establishment, their own party, America itself, don’t really care. He has touched their frustration and they feel reflected in his brutishness.
But even beyond the troubling racial realities of his candidacy is the misogyny of it.
This is a man who has called various women “disgusting,” “a slob,” “grotesque,” “a dog.” And he says that he cherishes women.
His candidacy also promotes what would surely be characterized as war crimes — interrogation tactics “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” and killing the families of terrorism suspects.
Not only does he want to build a wall on the border, he wants to round up and deport those undocumented in this country, stop Muslims from entering and send back Syrian refugees.
One last time, America: Pause and let all that sink in.
I don’t want anyone to say, when we look back at this moment, that they didn’t see the signs. I don’t want anyone to feign surprise. I don’t want people to say that they didn’t take it all seriously because they had faith that their fellow citizens would somehow see the light and not allow this candidate to rise.
No. You don’t get that option. He has risen and continues to rise. Most smart money is on him becoming the Republican nominee, unless party leaders can devise some last-minute plan to blunt him.
And, it is not at all clear to me that, whoever the Democratic nominee is, she or he would have a cakewalk to an easy victory in the general election.
Say this out loud: The leading candidate for president on the Republican side is a demagogue. He is on track to be that party’s nominee. He is attracting record numbers of voters to the polls. If he wins the nomination, he could also win the presidency.
Scared yet? Good! Stop laughing this off. It’s not a joke. It’s quite real. And you need to remember the moment that you woke up and realized just how real it was.