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Thursday, October 20, 2016

He’s number one?!

Yes, it’s an early poll and, as such, pretty near useless.

Yes, Herman Cain was once number one, too, and we know what happened with that.

Yes, the fact that he is number one probably reflects name recognition as much as anything else.

And no, he will never be his party’s nominee, much less this country’s president. It won’t happen even if GOP chairman Reince Priebus has to personally shoot him with tranquilizer darts on the way to the podium to stop it.

All that said, don’t let anyone tell you it means nothing that Donald Trump has surged to the top of the Republican field, according to a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll. Don’t let anybody say we ought not note with alarm the fact that 17 percent of Republicans think this loudmouthed, attention-seeking, self-aggrandizing carny barker is fit to be president. Trump has climbed 6 percentage points since June, vaulting ahead of Jeb Bush, who remained steady at 14 percent.

The billionaire developer and reality show host did this because of, not despite, a portfolio of absurd promises, xenophobic rhetoric, and preposterous assertions. He’s the guy who’s going to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep the “rapists” out — and somehow make Mexico pay for it. He’s the guy who’s going to bomb the oil fields of Iraq as a way of defeating ISIS. He’s the guy who’s still not sure Barack Obama was born in the USA. He’s the guy who says our gross domestic product has fallen below zero (it hasn’t), and American nukes don’t work (they do).

And what do 17 percent of Republican votes see in this cornucopia of the bizarre? Let 59-year-old Steve Fusaro of San Clemente, California, speak for them all: “He’s got some backbone,” he told pollsters.


Apparently, that’s what nearly 1 in 5 Republican voters sees in Trump. As a result, some of us are forced to see in them a fresh, depressing sign that the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan is not yet ready to come in out of the cold. It — or at least, a significant fraction of it — continues to embrace a politics of bigotry and resentment, an estrangement from objective reality and a belief that the simplest, most simple-minded solution shouted in the loudest voice equals wisdom.

Once upon a time, the Republican Party was a sober-sided collective that strategically pandered to the resentments of a loud, fractious, ultra-conservative wing. But increasingly, that tail now wags this dog. And if you disagree, go back to the top and read it again:

Trump is number one?

Sure. Why not? Didn’t he promise to build that wall and make Mexico pay for it? There you go, right? Immigration solved, right?

Well … no. But the very fact that so many of us apparently think so provides a vivid illustration of the anti-intellectualism and deep-fried yahoo-ism now holding the Republican Party hostage.

Somehow, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, and Bush the elder has become the party of secession talk, revolution talk, and vigilantes harassing children on the Southern border, the party of the “war on whites,” “the war on Christmas,” Tea Parties, and birthers, the party of anti-science, anti-history, and fear that the U.S. military is, right this moment, preparing for the invasion of Texas. In a word, the party of crazy.

Small wonder it is also the party of Trump.

Yes, cooler heads will soon prevail and some establishment candidate will carry the banner into battle. But don’t let that tempt you into being sanguine about this insane moment when the leader of the Republican field is a two-legged id with an incontinent mouth.

We should take no solace in the fact that Trump will eventually fall from his lofty perch. Rather, we should wonder what it says about the GOP that he was up there in the first place.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected])

Illustration: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

  • bobnstuff

    I wish the tin foil hat group would go off and start their own party and leave the GOP also. I became a republican over forty years ago. I have worked to get reasonable people elected to local offices and have had leadership positions in my local party. I believe that all those years of service to the party should make me a republican but now I get called a RINO and am told that my party has moved on. I would like my party back, thank

    • Carolyn1520

      The GOP as we knew it, is gone. The hijackers couldn’t survive as a third party and when they were invited in, took full advantage. Even those who were the most conservative are now considered RINOs. They wouldn’t be welcomed by this new party.

      • bobnstuff

        The good thing is my local party has managed to keep sane. It’s only when you move up to the state level that hey become crazy. The TP is like vampires, once you invite them in they will suck the life blood out of the party.

        • plc97477

          Unfortunately the party invited them in with no reservations, now they need to deal with the mess they have.

      • Muglas

        Seems to me that the radical right, long being cultivated by the right wing media for GOP use, has been stolen by Trump.

        • Carolyn1520

          Trump is to the right, what Luther, the angry translator, is to Obama. 😀

    • Bob Eddy

      Your party catered to the segregationists in the seventies to shore up your party, and implement the Sothern Strategy then welcomed in the delusional and yes, racist, tea baggers and they, not you, own the party. If you truly crave that reasonable,sane, thoughtful Republican party, you can still have it…over on the right side of the Democratic party.

      • bobnstuff

        My local government hasn’t had a democrat elected in my lifetime so if I change parties I have no say in local government. The local democrats are a lot more fun though.

        • Marv Nochowitz

          What is true on the local level may not be true at the state or national level. You don’t have to vote a straight ticket

          • bobnstuff

            On local level it’s all decided in the primaries. The democrats don’t even put up a full slate. Above that level I try to vote for best person running.

          • There is no best politicians running, there’s only best politicians.

  • Carolyn1520

    “the anti-intellectualism and deep-fried yahoo-ism now holding the Republican Party hostage”.

    That says it all.

  • The lucky one

    “loudmouthed, attention-seeking, self-aggrandizing carny barker” as good a five word description of Trump that I have seen.

  • Marv Nochowitz

    A Trump nomination would mean many republicans would vote for a democrat or not vote. No republican with even the slightest bit of intelligence would vote for Trump

    • CrankyToo

      No Republican with even the slightest bit of intelligence would vote for ANY Republican.

    • Robert Eckert

      A woman called out at an Adlai Stevenson rally, “You will have the vote of every thinking person in this country!”
      Without missing a beat, Adlai replied, “Too bad I need a majority.”

  • njguy54

    Trump is succeeding simply because there are those who mistake bravado and certainty with leadership. If someone yells “Two plus two equals five!!” at the top of his lungs, people are more apt to perceive him as correct — and therefore, a leader of some sort — than a quieter, milder person who says “Well, maybe it doesn’t. Let’s think about it…” Remember back in 2004 when John Kerry was slammed for talking about the need for “nuance”?

  • Muglas

    It’s kinda funny – RightWing Media spends years cultivating fear, hate and bigotry in their audience for use by the GOP, then Trump walks in and steals them.

  • my eyes are hungry

    Yes backbone is good. Having an actual opinion on something is good. When a reporter asks you what baseball team you like, don’t say you love them all equally.
    Is Trump’s opinion over the top, sure. And that’s sad because there was potential in him.

  • pmbalele

    Don Trump is GOP hero. He is telling the truth what GOPers believe in. Hate of new immigrants. But you will be surprised that GOPers who hate Latinos and other racial minorities are the same GOPers hiring Latinos to work in their houses. Some are even cheating on their wives with young Latino girls.