Around this time a year ago, I was looking forward to a Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton contest. Both are smart and serious politicians who see the same problems — a middle class in decline, a world struggling to adjust to a different form of American leadership — but have different solutions. We could have had a real, substantive debate about policy.
Instead, we got Donald Trump.
He is now officially the Republican nominee and if the last few months are any indication, the next four — between now and the election — will see a further escalation of his rhetoric: more bile, more sowing division, more know-nothingism, more lies.
Just in the last few days, since the Republican National Convention in Cleveland disbanded, Trump has:
- slandered the grief-stricken parents of a Muslim American soldier who sacrificed his life in Iraq;
- insulted General John Allen, who coordinated military efforts against the self-proclaimed Islamic State;
- “sarcastically” called on Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails;
- suggested he might recognize Russia’s annexation of the Crimea but not come to the defense of a NATO ally;
- claimed the European Union was founded to compete with the United States;
- broadened his proposed ban on Muslim immigration to countries suffering under Islamic terrorism, including France;
- forgotten a key component of his “plan” to pay down the national debt: to sell federal land; and
- said he may fund political action groups to defeat those Republicans who opposed him in the primaries.
This is all unprecedented for a presidential candidate. Any one of these statements, on their own, should be enough to disqualify Trump from the office he seeks. Yet by the time we’ve digested one outrage, he opens his mouth again and something worse comes out.
It’s depressing. To read about and see a man, every day, who is so willfully ignorant (he has been a candidate for a year but seems to have learned nothing about policy), so lacking in self-awareness and so cruel does things to one’s state of mind.
Then there’s the possibility this vindictive little man actually wins and gets his hands on a nuclear arsenal. It’s a terrifying thought.
Given the stakes, I don’t think any of us can stop writing about Trump. The day his type of behavior is taken for granted, American society will have lost something vital to its well-being.
But I have to think of my own well-being too.
So I am going to try to stop paying attention to Trump’s daily antics. I’ll keep writing about the meaning of his candidacy, about the bigger picture of this election and about policy, but if I continue to allow myself to be outraged on a daily basis I’ll end up in a mental institution before this campaign is over.