There was a young lady of Niger
who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
with the lady inside
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And the smile on the face of the tiger.
And thus does the Republican establishment find itself, victim of its fantastical calculation that it could control the forces it rode to domination and deadlock in Washington, D.C., and many states six years ago: visceral hatred of the president, twisting a reasonable political philosophy into an unreasoning theology, and deliberately inflaming the language of American political talk.
The traditional leaders of the GOP and their wealthy patrons appear likely to be stuck with Donald Trump, a ticking time bomb of a candidate. So they will now pay for their indulgences, and they deserve to do so.
But the rest of us – and the world – do not deserve the perils to democracy and traditional American sensibilities that a Trump presidency would bring. It is dispiriting and scary how much damage could be done by a governing novice with Trump’s combination of flawed character, aversion to facts, juvenile emotions and preposterous promises.
In the mid-term, Trump’s disruption of the status quo could be a useful catalyst for a much-needed realignment of the two major parties, or perhaps even the creation of a third one. Realignment happens every four or five decades, the last one being the Barry Goldwater-Richard Nixon conversion of the Southern states from Democrat to Republican in 1968-72. The “Southern strategy” was accelerated by the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch with the candidacies of Hubert Humphrey (1968) and George McGovern (1972) and George Wallace’s independent campaign of ’68.
It’s again time for people wary of the new extremism in the GOP to find a more comfortable home.
Meanwhile if, as seems likely, Trump seizes the nomination, many Americans will be relieved that the middle-school-level Republican preliminaries are over and all the other quarreling 13-year-olds are in the principal’s office, not the Oval Office.
But because the GOP establishment and the other candidates tried for too many months to wish Trump away rather than doing the digging necessary to expose his obvious vulnerabilities, that task will remain for the Democratic candidate, presumably Hillary Clinton, who also has plenty of political baggage, some real, some imaginary.
So when the deluge of serious questions about things such as Trump University, Trump Mortgage, Trump Airlines and other failed and marginal adventures begins, Trump will respond, as always, with dismissive insults and we’ll be right back in the sewer, too distracted or enthralled (in the sense that people are enthralled by a horrific car wreck) to think or talk seriously about the issues.
Soap-salesman Trump has convinced too many angry and frustrated Americans of three seductive myths:
▪ That he “tells it like it is.”
▪ That the inevitable shift in the country’s demographics and the inexorable changes in cultural and social beliefs can be avoided.
▪ That his personal business success automatically qualifies him for governing.
In fact: He tells it like he wishes it to be; neither he nor anyone else can reverse the trends that so terrify white, straight, religious Americans; and government is not a business and businesses are not democracies.
It’s time to face some hard realities.
Davis Merritt, a Wichita journalist and author, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.