Long before Donald Trump became the Republican front-runner via an aggressive application of old-school American racism and xenophobia, he was merely "The Donald," the affably irate host of a reality show in which small business owners with slightly grander ambitions and celebrities who'd lost their luster spent 15 weeks humiliating themselves for his pleasure.
Now, of course, it's the rest of the nation that's being humiliated by this joke of a candidate who just can't seem to cork his intolerant spigot. The shock of his initial success on the campaign trail should have worn off by now, but thanks to social media generally and Twitter in particular, Americans are reminded of and re-traumatized by it hourly.
To put it differently -- in 2012, when Trump declared that
news bureaus across the country didn't drop everything -- stories of actual substance, staplers, priceless vases, newborn babies -- to cover it with the kind of breathlessness that necessarily corrupts. (Lack of oxygen is never a good thing.) Trump's relentless pursuit of President Obama's birth certificate had pushed him to the margins of the political mainstream, such that declarations like this
were met with bemusement. (It is, after all, damn funny that Trump undermined the integrity of his own source by questioning his credibility via scare-quotes.) At that time, it was difficult to imagine the Donald even earning a spot in the revolving door of incompetent 2012 GOP hopefuls who -- as you no doubt remember -- all spent a week atop the polls before being muscled out of the building by the idiots behind him, not a single one of whom could just accept that it was time for them to stop wearing a path in the pavement. Trump didn't even deserve to running in tiny circles with that sad lot -- he lacked the gravitas of a Rick Perry, the business acumen of a Herman Cain, and even lagged behind of Mitt Romney in the charm department, which is no mean feat given that the former governor was frequently indistinguishable from the appropriately sized trees of which he spoke so fondly.
But at some point in 2014, Trump decided that it was 2016 or best, so he opened 2015 with what is, in retrospect, a most spectacular bust, devoting most of his energies into a sad blitz of self-promotion for the new season of "The Celebrity Apprentice," the very show from which he'd be fired in August:
He actually busted twice in January, as he spent much of the remainder of the month promoting another television show with which he would no longer be affiliated by year's end:
But to his credit, he did at least address the really important issues:
He also proved, repeatedly and what I damn hope was deliberately, that someone very near and dear to him had bought him a copy of "Bartlett's Quotations" for Christmas, as he spent the next six months in a desperate attempt to prove that he had at least read it all the way up to "f":
In fact, he seemed damn near inspired by the power of quotations beginning with the letter "e," even if the concept of attaching attribution to these pithy quotations escaped him.
"E" is for "entrepreneurs," and that's good enough for him, seemed to be his point. February saw his "e"-fatuation continue, but it also saw his campaign game-plan start to take shape in response to, appropriately enough, an actual game-plan:
"Whatever it is -- it's Obama" would be the bell that, to The Donald's ears, will never stop tolling for America so long as someone not named "Trump" occupied the White House and a Great, Big, Beautiful Wall not named the same didn't span the entire southern border:
Apparently his campaign was cutting into his reading time, as he was still deep in the weeds of Bartlett's "f":
He almost seemed, momentarily at least, like he thought he had this whole "quotation" thing mastered, and offered his own "f":
That's still not how surnames work. For someone so infatuated with his own, you would think he'd understand how the basic principles behind them. Instead, he gave the impression that when his elementary teachers took roll, they quickly learned to call on Young Donald after the Davidson boys, but before the Doyle twins, lest they never hear the end of it.
But at least now he'd started associating himself with winners:
Even if he was still stuck in "f":
He remained on his newly embraced ethos of "Whatever it is -- it's Obama":
February's end, then, came with the fetid blooming of the sentiment that would soon begin to dominate his campaign, one which also lends itself to vapid summary: "Those damn Mexicans!" But he's not quite there yet, although he may have made some progress with his Bartlett's.
In March, he it appeared as if he had finally made it to "h":
But had he really?
Of course he hadn't. Switching to the subject index is cheating, Mr. Trump, who outside the friendly confines of the collected witticisms of generations upon generations of educated white land owners, was starting to favor a particular refrain:
That's right -- "Those damn Mexicans!" wasn't indicative of a failure of character, ideology, imagination, or some unholy concoction of all three, it was now a selling point. Trump realized that racial hostility and animus doesn't just cut the only way it had, to his mind, during the Reign of King Obama; nor did it simply cut two ways, as every protester who thought themselves clever for slapping "#White Lives Matter" on a clapboard and casting themselves as the white Reverend King in the European-American adaption of "Selma," soon to be playing in the lunatic fantasies of white supremacists in denial throughout this great nation.
Not that there weren't other actual problems in the world, however:
Granted, the overblown fear of a nuclear Iran was predicated on a fundamental mistrust of the French and their ability to monitor Iran's nuclear weapons facilities -- a mistrust which seemed oddly placed, given the sudden conversion to Franophilia that followed the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks, and which would return in full force after the attacks in Paris later in the year. But in this interregnum, at least when it came to Iran, conservatives reverted to their default opinion of the French, questioning the loyalty, credibility, and national character of the once-and-future ally.
On a much smaller scale, Trump had spent the month demonstrating that you can read as many quotations as you'd like, but if you don't pay attention to how they work and what makes them clever, it's an empty exercise in intellectual vanity:
To paraphrase that "Eliot" fellow the Donald demonstrated such deep familiarity with in January, April bred a whole host of cruelty for Trump, beginning by his unwitting -- yet accurate -- characterization of himself as an April Fool's prank being played on the electorate:
April also witnessed him focus his attention on another adversary:
Two of them, actually -- the media, and women he he has deemed "extremely unattractive," as the only reason they wouldn't doll themselves up for the Donald would be if "they were bleeding from their wherever."
As he began to climb in the polls throughout April, so too did his desire to issue daily reminders that he is "winning and winning and winning":
His Twitter feed was transformed, re-tweet by re-tweet, into an echo chamber of adulation and support for a Trump run in 2016. Doom settled over the land as his inner artist was awakened:
On his canvas, Trump painted a portrait of someone who was not only always "winning," but who had, facts be damned, never not been "winning," possibly because he hasn't ever reached that point in the Barlett's and doesn't actually understand that it doesn't entail multiple bankruptcies and failed marriages:
In a omen of graver offenses to common decency still to come, he started calling out those who challenged his theory that he as a perpetual "winning" machine:
As the month drew to a close, violence erupted on the streets of Baltimore. Trump attempted to respond to it, but the demon within would not allow him to express his sympathy without protesting via misplaced, commas and unnecessary , spaces:
With May came another reminder of where he actually stopped reading his "Bartlett's":
It's like he'd stopped even trying -- just an "e" and an "f," an "e" and an "f":
Trump took the opportunity to sound a complaint that he would later make, repeatedly if never convincingly, about the length of the GOP debates, voicing his preference from a briefer window to inform Americans how he planned to make their country great again -- a much, much briefer window:
Then the threats began:
And the insults:
And more threats:
And more insults:
And more threats:
And more insults:
And more threats:
Until the horrible day had arrived:
Instead of burying one of the most vile statements in recent American political history as deeply as he could in the 24-hour news cycle by, for example, telling another reporter that his daughter is so beautiful, if she weren't his blood, he'd marry her -- instead of doing that, he re-tweeted sentiments most politicians would have run from, then he boasted about standing behind his words, and as you well know, later decided to make them the backbone of his campaign.