Is 2015 over yet? Is it safe to come out now?
What a bummer. Mass shootings, cops using unarmed civilians for target practice, the Middle East in rubble, terrorist attacks, Donald Trump.
Trump wasn’t the worst of it, perhaps. But he certainly was the most irritating.
It was a spectacle worthy of Tennyson — “Trump to the right of us, Trump to the left of us, Trump in front and behind. Into the valley of Trump rode the 300 million.”
A year ago he was a loud-mouthed reality show host who moonlighted as a developer of ugly buildings. Now he’s the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
To any patriotic American with a sense of history, it’s embarrassing. We are a country of 320 million people — many of us smart, some informed and reasonable. And the best we can do is Donald Trump?
I used to marvel at the Italian propensity for electing ludicrous buffoons to high public office — people like Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi. How could so civilized a place treat the vote so lightly?
But, I reasoned, the Italian national pastime is the opera: the province of great, outsized, slightly ridiculous characters. Their politics seemed to be an extension of that.
Trump’s supporters don’t suffer traditional opera gladly. They’re more the Grand Ole Opry type, a different thing altogether.
It’s as though the Republican Party, a year ago, took an ad in The Wall Street Journal which read:
“Wanted: energetic self-starter to run a large, diverse organization. No experience necessary. As a matter of fact, experience is probably a disqualification.
“Nor is any knowledge required, particularly in the fields of science and arithmetic. A complete ignorance of history would be welcome, too.
“What we’re really looking for is someone who believes. The specific content of the beliefs required will be given to the applicant once he or she wins the job, but a passionate belief in God and the free market will be paramount among them.
“The job offers a handsome six-figure salary, free housing, and a liberal vacation allowance (that’s the only thing liberal about it), as well dynamite retirement benefits.
“Candidates must be prepared to spend the better part of the next two years telling people what they want to hear. Integrity is optional.”
It’s as though they ran the ad and, lo and behold, applicants began crawling out from under their rocks all over the country. And the loudest, most outrageous of the rock dwellers was Donald Trump.
So-called political experts like myself have been predicting Trump’s demise ever since he flashed upon the scene insulting war heroes, women, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, the mentally ill, and worst of all, journalists.
We all thought that, politically speaking, he’d be sleeping with the fishes by now, along with more plausible candidates like Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and that Democrat from Virginia whose name no one bothered to learn.
Well, to make a long story short, that’s not the way it rolled.
Ted Cruz, the meanest kid on the block, is gaining in Iowa, but the Donald is still leading in national polls.
Is it possible that, against all odds, this joke goes on into the general election — with Trump carrying the Republican banner into battle with Hillary Clinton?
I still say no. Not possible. We are not Italy. I refuse to believe that one of our major parties — the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower — would pick a clown like Trump to represent it. Ronald Reagan was bad enough, and Trump makes him look like Thomas Jefferson.
I don’t know who the GOP candidate will be, but not Trump.
On the other hand, one of the pluses of last year was Barack Obama awakening from his six-year slumber to begin acting like the president we elected, actually doing things despite the relentless opposition of the Republican Congress.
It wasn’t nearly enough. But in the land of Trump, every ray of sunshine is welcome.
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.