A strange old hermit once asked, "Who's the bigger fool -- the fool, or the fool who follows him?" Regarding the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the station of presumptive Republican nominee, it's extraordinarily clear who the fool is, and while Trump is, himself, an unqualified and horrendously undignified would-be president, his supporters have been suckered into supporting him anyway -- for all of the wrong reasons.
This article is as much about them as it is about him, and the existence of 10 million-plus Trump supporters signals a new and nauseatingly tragic era in American politics, when decorum and discipline have been all but rejected from the political equation.
And it's working.
If you happen to be a Trump supporter, I urge you to keep reading and to consider these points with as objective an eye as possible -- thinking seriously about the candidate you're endorsing online and with your vote. Think about what history will think of you. Think about why you want your name inextricably linked to a presidential candidate who, deep down, is treating his campaign like a practical joke against the political system, and especially against you personally.
Turn off Fox News Channel and set aside your ideology for a moment. Think about this.
Imagine telling your dad or your boss at work or, hell, imagine visiting your favorite teacher from high school and telling him or her that you're voting for Trump in part because Trump told you he has "the best words." Better yet, imagine piloting a time-traveling DeLorean 30 years into the future and telling your now-adult grandkids that you voted for the candidate who said he'd be "so good at military, your head will spin." Do you genuinely have the courage of your convictions to admit to, say, your physically challenged relative that you're supporting Trump, who unrepentantly mocked a reporter with a disability in front of thousands of gawking fanboys. I dare you.
Personally, I'd be mortified. As would anyone with a conscience or a well-calibrated moral compass. But not you, Trump supporter.
Yes, I get it. You believe in Trump's spastic honesty and his alleged executive experience. You believe Trump is the antidote to eight years of President Obama who, ironically, you regard as an incompetent chief executive -- an uncomfortably different, foreign-sounding leader who's never fit the traditional description of an American president. You believe it's time for an erratic, white Republican to compensate for a no-drama, African-American liberal. Most of all, you think Trump speaks both for you and just like you. He says the things you're thinking but can't say out loud for fear of the mean, bullying social justice warriors descending upon your Twitter feed, publicly flogging you until you're tossed in P.C. jail.
I'm not denying that Trump sounds just like you. However, should the President of the United States sound just like you? Or is the Trump voice more appropriate for other endeavors? Reality show host, Twitter troll, New York socialite and iconoclast -- Trump is surely qualified to be all of these things, and he's made quite a career as a celebrity. (I thought conservatives didn't like it when celebrities dabbled in politics? But yeah, an issue for another time.) Does this endow him with the gravitas required for the post? Not a chance in hell. The presidency isn't an episode of "Celebrity Apprentice," nor should it be occupied by a professional Twitter troll.
I'll take the lead on this one: I don't want a president to sound anything like me. Ever. I want presidents who are vastly brighter, better educated, more well-spoken and profoundly more disciplined than I am. I want the best of the best. The real question is: Why don't you? We should all strive for absolute excellence in our political leadership at every level, including and especially the presidency. The most important decisions ought to be made by men and women who embrace the seriousness of the office and, most importantly, the real world repercussions of their decisions. In my lifetime, I've observed the sad, slow demystification of the presidency and the rise of candidates with whom we'd drink a beer, even though the people we typically drink with should never be allowed within a hundred miles of the Situation Room. Unlike Trump, the presidency isn't frivolous, and the government shouldn't be run like a business, even though the GOP has tricked you into believing it should.
Paraphrasing Aaron Sorkin's words in "The American President": These are serious times requiring serious people. The irony is that you, Trump supporter, agree that these are serious times; otherwise you wouldn't be politically active. So why, then, do you support a candidate who's displayed exactly zero seriousness?
There's always been name-calling in politics, but seldom if ever has it come so brazenly from the party nominee for president. Criticisms and mudslinging, yes. Grade-school level name-calling, almost never, at least publicly. Again, will you be proud to tell future generations that you supported a clown who came up with "Little" Marco, "Lyin'" Ted and "Crooked" Hillary? What about Trump's latest? "Goofy" Elizabeth Warren. Regarding that last one, Elizabeth Warren was spot-on when she replied to Trump: "'Goofy,' @realDonaldTrump? For a guy with 'the best words' that’s a pretty lame nickname. Weak!"
Our choices in politicians are not unlike our choices in music or sports. They reflect our values and personalities. Is this who you are? Is this what you want our nation to be?
Yes, I also get that politicians are often duplicitous and routinely frustrating, and Trump is a apparently a refreshingly honest counterpoint to those who you perceive as mendacious. But don't forget -- ever since Trump began to dabble in politics, he has become a politician. He's not an outsider, nor is he non-political, especially now that he's become the de facto leader of the GOP. Just because he's honest about how he plays the game doesn't mean he's being truthful about everything else. For instance, there's no way he's going to deport 12 million people. It'll never happen. There's also no way he's going to successfully reduce the national debt by negotiating 50 cents on the dollar with our creditors. Actually, he might try, but it'll end in Greece-style economic annihilation, one which was precipitated by a president who failed to grasp the grade-school-level basics of how the debt works. Trump utterly embarrassed himself on this issue last week -- an issue that conservatives have championed as a centerpiece of economic policy since the recession -- and this is with the advice of his campaign architects.
Not only does Trump not have "the best words" -- he doesn't have the best people, either. Indeed, his words and his people exist at just about the same level.
And if you believe he'll compensate with staffers who know better, remember that Trump has surrounded himself with a Putin ally (Paul Manafort) and a pair of bonafide racist crackpots (Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone). His campaign surrogates include Sarah Palin and Ben Carson, both of whom famously melted under the pressure of the national political spotlight. His most vocal supporters include conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and draft-dodging sociopath Ted Nugent.
Frankly, I'd begrudgingly accept just about any other conservative in the White House before I'd accept an empty-suit tabloid-headliner like Trump. I'm far from conservative, obviously, but conservatism packaged in a serious mind, even though it'd repeal my healthcare, destroy the climate and roll back civil rights for my friends, is at least more appealing than conservatism packaged with Trump's buffoonish words, flailing gestures and cartoonish superlatives. It's incomprehensible to me, therefore, why millions of conservatives are settling for the latter, rather than striving for better.
You've been played for a sucker, Trump supporter. You've been duped by a guy who knows how to press your buttons. Not unlike George W. Bush and Sarah Palin before him, you're confusing folksy for qualified -- slogans and nicknames for seriousness. You're making the same mistakes all over again. You've been unwittingly indoctrinated into the most destructive cult of personality in American politics since Joe McCarthy. But there's still time to escape. There's still time to reject Trump in lieu of a more serious Republican. Don't be foolish.