I was sitting in a barbershop the other day as the barber worked on a guy - both facing away from me while they watched the flatulent Donald on Faux Neus.
During one of his repeated oft-repeated lies, I said something like “The guy just can’t stick with the truth about anything.”
The fella in the chair, still facing the other way, asked “What’s the matter? You don’t like Trump?’‘
“I believe he’s the most serious threat our modern political system has had to deal with, “ I replied. “A very dangerous person.”
The guy got up quickly, turned to face me and half-yelled, “Donald Trump is one of the great heroes of our time. He’s the only one out there who gives a damn about us veterans!”
“Trump is a veteran,” I asked?
“Damned right,” the guy said as he walked the 20 feet between us to get right in my face.
“When and where,” I asked?
The guy stopped, fumed, said nothing, then got back in the chair. Later, as he was leaving he said to all, “Trump’s a vet. And I’m a vet. And I’m going to knock on every door in this county to get him elected.”
I asked Barber Don to change the channel. He did.
Trump is no veteran. He was kicked out of three high schools so his father sent him to a military academy. That - and multiple deferments during the Viet Nam war - are as close as he ever came to vet-dom.
I use this slice of small town, seaside life, to help illustrate what’s coming which is this: I believe Donald Trump has done irreparable damage to our system of presidential elections. We will never look at the process in the same way again. And we may never elect a president the same way again. Trump - outright lies, false claims, obscenities and all - has infected millions of people like the guy in the barbershop. He’s making a mockery of a centuries old system of selecting a president - a commander-in-chief - and convinced millions of people his lies are truth and truth is anything his “followers” believe it to be. Or, they don’t care.
Complicit in this political destruction, I believe, is the National Republican Party. By standing idly by as 24 mostly unqualified and untalented people put themselves before the country to run for president, the GOP failed to advance and fully support someone - or several someones - who had the necessary skills to become president. Preibus and the other GOP moolah’s stayed out of the fray, vastly underestimated Trump and abrogated any responsibility for assuring the party had viable and qualified candidates.
Democrats have little to crow about, either. The closest Bernie Sanders - with his avowed but universally misunderstood Socialist label - is likely to get to the White House is to join someone’s protest picket line on Constitution Avenue in 2017. Secretary Clinton - qualified without doubt - comes to her candidacy carrying so much baggage she needs a dozen personal porters. Baggage Trump - or any other eventual GOP nominee - will use to beat her bloody and undercut her candidacy daily.
There’s even more blame for an intransigent Congress led by people who long ago lost sight of their own small roles in our Republic or how to conduct themselves and the affairs of this nation to benefit the people who put them there. They, too, helped create a Trump.
The far right has no corner on uninformed - dare we say ignorant - voters by the millions. The liberal contingent to left of the Democrat center has been producing it’s own falsity and peddling some ill-founded claims.
The plain truth is a huge block of Americans - maybe more than half - knows little more about the candidates of either party than they see on TV or hear in conversation with equally uninformed friends. Evidence of lack of basic knowledge of our government is everywhere - from high school campuses to retirement homes. Breeding ground for “Trumps.”
Try it yourself. Ask people around you: when (to the nearest 10 yeas) was “In God We Trust” added to our money - when (to the nearest 10 years) were the words “under God” added to our Pledge of Allegiance - how many justices on the U.S. Supreme Court - what’s the capitol city of Alabama, New Hampshire, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Tennessee - what did the slogan “54-40 or fight” mean - find Afghanistan on a world map - how many voting members are there in the U.S. Congress?
I don’t know if P.T. Barnum really said “never underestimate the ignorance of the public” as the story goes. But he made a damned big impact doing just that! So is Trump.
Voters - especially this year - are awash in political lies, deliberate misinformation, half-truths and false claims. Both national political parties have contributed greatly by not producing fully vetted - and qualified - candidates. So have several generations of public and higher education by not making extensive knowledge of citizenship required learning from first grade through grad schools. Across the board, citizens of this country know a lot less of their government than those of other nations. Proof of that is not hard to find.
But it’s Trump who creates the most fear for our national future at the moment. Like a 9-point earthquake under a glass factory, he’s shaking and breaking the foundation of rules, traditions, protocols and requirements for an orderly political process to select the head of government for this nation and begin transition to a new administration.
His complicit handmaiden is the national media. The pursuit of ratings points - read advertising dollars - has made whores of CNN, MSNBC and the always unreliable Fox News. Trump’s candidacy is being treated like the “second coming” as networks follow his travels with cameras at the ready and breathless anchors worshiping his over-the-top pronouncements whether they contain a grain of truth or are pure B.S..
National print media has been only slightly less worshipful. Some efforts have been made to separate Trump’s wheat from Trump’s chaff but not nearly enough. Hate radio has daily relayed lie after false claim after mindless personal attack - convincing loyal followers that Trump - and Cruz to a lesser degree - will “make American great again.”
At the moment, though he’s totally unfit and completely unqualified, it’s hard to see how Trump can be denied the Republican nomination. It’s about a lock. Counting delegate noses, it’s nearly impossible to see anyone but Clinton coming out of the Democrat convention. If that’s the ticket in September, bookies in Vegas will likely put their money on Trump. In some spots, they already are.
Donald Trump is a danger to our national security that the founding fathers never saw coming. A former national security chief is already openly describing how the U.S. military might have to disobey and oppose a future President Trump.
He’s heavily damaged a political process. It’s equally possible he could damage an entire nation before it’s over.