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The rise of Donald Trump is a Terrifying Moment in American Politics

February 11, 2016


The following article is by Ezra Klein…

On Monday, Donald Trump held a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he merrily repeated a woman in the crowd who called Ted Cruz a pussy.

Twenty-four hours later, Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary in a landslide.

I’m not here to clutch my pearls over Trump’s vulgarity; what was telling, rather, was the immaturity of the moment, the glee Trump took in his “she said it, I didn’t” game.

The media, which has grown used to covering Trump as a sideshow, delighted in the moment along with him — it was funny, and it meant clicks, takes, traffic. But it was more than that.

It was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president showing off the demagogue’s instinct for amplifying the angriest voice in the mob.

It is undeniably enjoyable to watch Trump. He’s red-faced, discursive, funny, angry, strange, unpredictable, and real. He speaks without filter and tweets with reckless abandon.

The Donald Trump phenomenon is a riotous union of candidate ego and voter id. America’s most skilled political entertainer is putting on the greatest show we’ve ever seen.

It’s so fun to watch that it’s easy to lose sight of how terrifying it really is.

Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante.

He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

Trump is in serious contention to win the Republican presidential nomination. His triumph in a general election is unlikely, but it is far from impossible.

He’s not a joke and he’s not a clown. He’s a man who could soon be making decisions of war and peace, who would decide which regulations are enforced and which are lifted, who would be responsible for nominating Supreme Court justices and representing America in the community of nations.

This is not political entertainment. This is politics.

Trump’s path to power has been unnerving. His business is licensing out his own name as a symbol of opulence. He has endured bankruptcies and scandal by bragging his way out of them.

He rose to prominence in the Republican Party as a leader of the birther movement. He climbed to the top of the polls in this election by calling Mexicans rapists and killers.

He defended a poor debate performance by accusing Megyn Kelly of being on her period. He responded to rival Ted Cruz’s surge by calling for a travel ban on Muslims.

When two of his supporters attacked a homeless man and said they did it because “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” he brushed off complaints that he’s inspiring violence by saying his supporters are “very passionate.”

Behind Trump’s success is an unerring instinct for harnessing anger, resentment, and fear. His view of the economy is entirely zero-sum — for Americans to win, others must lose.

“We’re going to make America great again,” he said in his New Hampshire victory speech, “but we’re going to do it the old-fashioned way. We’re going to beat China, Japan, beat Mexico at trade.

We’re going to beat all of these countries that are taking so much of our money away from us on a daily basis. It’s not going to happen anymore.”

Trump answers America’s rage with more rage. As the journalist Molly Ball observed, “All the other candidates say ‘Americans are angry, and I understand.’ Trump says, ‘I’M angry.'”

Trump doesn’t offer solutions so much as he offers villains. His message isn’t so much that he’ll help you as he’ll hurt them.

Trump’s other gift — the one that gets less attention but is perhaps more important — is his complete lack of shame. It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery.

Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint.

It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.

Trump lives by the reality television trope that he’s not here to make friends. But the reason reality television villains always say they’re not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch.

“I’m not here to make friends” is another way of saying, “I’m not bound by the social conventions of normal people.” The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.

This, more than his ideology, is why Trump genuinely scares me. There are places where I think his instincts are an improvement on the Republican field. He seems more dovish than neoconservatives like Marco Rubio, and less dismissive of the social safety net than libertarians like Rand Paul.

But those candidates are checked by institutions and incentives that hold no sway over Trump; his temperament is so immature, his narcissism so clear, his political base so unique, his reactions so strange, that I honestly have no idea what he would do — or what he wouldn’t do.

When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his affection for Vladimir Putin, who “kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries,” Trump replied, “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”

Later, he clarified that he doesn’t actually condone killing journalists, but, he warned the crowd, “I do hate them.”

It’s a lie that if you put a frog into a pot of water and slowly turn up the heat the frog will simply boil, but it’s a fact that if you put the American political system in a room with Trump for long enough we slowly lose track of how noxious he is, or we at least run out of ways to keep repeating it.

But tonight is a night to repeat it. There is something scary in Donald Trump. We should fear his rise.


37 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    February 11, 2016 4:45 pm

    Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, … when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

    Really? I could name one or 2 here that must be like The Donald!!

  2. TB Queensland permalink
    February 11, 2016 5:40 pm

    Donald Trump … the American Hitler?

    Or just another Anti-Christ?

  3. armchair opinionator permalink
    February 11, 2016 10:37 pm

    Reading the above just makes me think that he’s the american version of tony abbott.

    Americans are angry, but not about the same things as donald trump.

    He’s populist and hoping to become president off the back of the ignorant, the uneducated and tea party types who vote against their own best interests. Trump is not a godbotherer though, it’s a wonder he is acceptable to the loonies.

    That hair simply does not allow me to take him seriously.

  4. February 12, 2016 7:30 am

    “Donald Trump … the American Hitler? Or just another Anti-Christ?”

    Fuck! You are so full of shit,

    The answer is simple: Sack the electorate and elect a new one.

  5. Splatterbottom permalink
    February 12, 2016 11:23 am

    Trump is the weapon of choice of ordinary Republicans who are sick of being betrayed by the party machine. He may not be exactly what they want in a president but they would prefer him to any of the establishment candidates.

    Trump is preferable to either another Bush or another Klintoon. In fact the Rapsist’s Wife should be doing time now. But what are the chances of a Democrat controlled Justice Department charging her in spite of the FBI wanting to do so?

    Unlike Obama, Trump actually likes his country. He won’t see it overrun by criminals, savages and leeches and he won’t piss on US allies and suck up to its enemies the way Obama and the Gigolo Traitor Kerry have. Another leftist Democrat President and the US will be on its knees, precisely where Obama and the left want it.

    And, while I’m sure Bernie Sanders enjoyed his honeymoon in the Soviet Union all those years ago, someone should tell that dribbling leftist moron that communism is dead and discredited. Unfortunately there is an abundance of fuck-knuckle commo wannabes like Sanders out there. We have the Greens and the various socialist alternatives here and they don’t have brain to bless themselves with between the lot of them.

    Sanders has about as much chance of leading his country as Corbyn in the UK or di Natale in Australia.

  6. Tom R permalink
    February 12, 2016 12:53 pm

    He may not be exactly what they want in a president

    😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆
    😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆
    😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆

  7. TB Queensland permalink
    February 12, 2016 2:37 pm

    Fuck! You are so full of shit,

    😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆

    The outlook for Melbourne today is shitty … as usual …

    😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆

  8. February 12, 2016 8:47 pm

    l`m loving the-ronald, he all the various herds of teabags stampeding in their panic, and hopefully they will trample each other. The next 3-teabag candidates barely total in popularity the numbers the-ronald has, and it is great to see the-ronald has steam-rollered jeb-w:-)

  9. Tom R permalink
    February 13, 2016 12:38 pm

    This is going to make TB a happy little camper

    😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 :lol

  10. Neil of Sydney permalink
    February 13, 2016 12:53 pm

    Labor will reform negative gearing & capital gains tax subsidies to ensure our tax system is fair

    More lies by the party of lies.

    Next thing the party of lies will be saying is that they will reduce unemployment – something they have never done.

  11. Tom R permalink
    February 13, 2016 1:23 pm

    These are the kind of headlines we’ve been missing 😉

  12. February 13, 2016 2:26 pm

    blib,,,,,Labor will reform negative gearing & capital gains tax subsidies to ensure our tax system is fair. #alpconf16,,,,,,

    #what l notice is blib is making a lot of `nice` sounding statements as if he is just a hairs breadth away from the prime-meddler-ship and not the fcukling `chasm` in reality, how are dem polls team-cheerer and the seats xeno or greenz will snag, macternan is quitting on the west-coast, any others not-standing next time for the `team`

    (can moonee fcuking ponds please wake-up to themselves)

  13. February 13, 2016 2:41 pm

    squirter,,,,,,communism is dead and discredited. Unfortunately there is an abundance of fuck-knuckle commo wannabes like,,,,,

    # ,, china

  14. Tom R permalink
    February 13, 2016 4:22 pm

    how are dem polls team-cheerer

    narrowing 😉

  15. February 13, 2016 4:57 pm

    Did you see this bit team-cheerer?

    crikey,,,,,,UPDATE: Full results on the ReachTEL site here. The primary votes are 48.1% for the Coalition (down 0.4%), 32.8% for Labor (up 1.0%) and 10.1% for the Greens (down 0.7%). The personal ratings find Malcolm Turnbull taking a solid hit, with his net approval rating of plus 15.3% comparing with results of between plus 31.5% and plus 41.4% in ReachTEL’s three previous polls on his watch.,,,,,

  16. February 15, 2016 8:01 pm

    blib,,,,,,,,Labor will reform negative gearing & capital gains tax subsidies to ensure our tax system is fair. #alpconf16,,,,,,,,#tweet

    tem-cheerer,,,,,,This is going to make TB a happy little camper,,,,#provided blib wins the next election, which still looks highly fcuking unlikely for blib ,,, #yaaaaay.blib

  17. February 15, 2016 8:21 pm

    l was awake before 4am this morning, so l watched `meet-teh-press` (teh-usa pbs edition) and, the-ronald was on!

    1. l thoroughly enjoyed the clips of jeb-w trying to `handle` the-ronald, only for jeb-w to be shot-down in flames by the-ronald

    2. l also thoroughly enjoyed the host trying to `handle` the-ronald during the interview, only to end-up being `handled` himself by the-ronald

    #the-ronald provides gold-class entertainment:-)

  18. February 16, 2016 9:17 pm

    l`m still Lovin` the-ronald,

    give him the box of matches and let him burn teh-usa to the ground (saves china from having to do it later) and hopefully the fire will spread and canberra will crumble too. (it`s our only hope)

  19. February 21, 2016 8:26 pm

    Hey teabags, l`m thrilled to report that jeb-w has dropped out of the repug nomination race, AND the-ronald is still top of the teabag-heap

  20. March 2, 2016 5:57 pm

    HEER COMEZ THE RONALD ,, #SooopaTooosdai

  21. March 12, 2016 5:10 am


    Donald Trump receives Ben Carson’s endorsement at his Mar-A-Lago Club ahead of Florida’s primary.

    Former rival Ben Carson has backed Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, becoming the second former US presidential candidate to support the billionaire businessman in the race for the White House.

    I have found in talking with him, that there’s a lot more alignment, philosophically and spiritually, than I ever thought that there was.

    Former presidential candidate Ben Carson on Mr Trump

    Mr Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who dropped out of the race on March 4, follows New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a former candidate who also backed Mr Trump after earlier dropping out of the race for the party’s nomination ahead of the November 8 presidential election.

    Mr Carson made the announcement at a joint news conference with Mr Trump in Florida, ahead of that state’s primary on Tuesday.

    “We buried the hatchet. That was political stuff,” he said at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club resort at Palm Beach.

    “I have found in talking with him, that there’s a lot more alignment, philosophically and spiritually, than I ever thought that there was,” added Dr Carson.

    The latest endorsement for Trump followed a CNN-hosted Republican debate in Miami, and gives the New York real estate magnate a boost just days before crucial nominating contests.

    Republican primaries in five states, including Florida and Ohio, on March 15 will be critical for Mr Trump to cement his lead and to determine whether US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Governor John Kasich will be able to continue with their increasingly long-shot candidacies.

    Mr Trump told the news conference that Mr Carson had not asked for any formal role, but praised his former rival’s ideas on education.

    “Ben’s going to have a big, big part,” he said.

    Mr Carson, who had some support last year in opinion polls but whose campaign failed to garner backing in the early nominating contests, dropped out of the race last week.

    On Friday he said that Mr Trump was sincere in his talk about making America great again, and that he is on board to help him.

  22. March 14, 2016 5:51 am

    funny stuff on todays meet-teh-press, one of the teabags wants the other two repugs to `drop-out` so that `he` can `defeat` THE-RONALD in a one-on-one race (he`s fcuking dreaming)

  23. March 19, 2016 9:55 am

    Some things just don`t change:-)

  24. April 25, 2016 7:46 pm

    todays repug-squirting on meet-teh-press was fantabulous (-: the `other-two` repug-teabags can`t mathematically make the `nomination` and defeat THE-RONALD, apparently

  25. May 6, 2016 1:34 pm

    teh Two Last teabags bite the dust. (this-week) (-:

  26. May 6, 2016 1:35 pm

    The-Ronald `has` Landed (-: (-: (-: (-: (-: (-: (-:

  27. May 19, 2016 7:07 pm

    Preferred Nationally, Hillary-42% v The-Ronald-45%

  28. May 19, 2016 7:28 pm

    Where are my teabags? They should be all over this thread celebrating the teabag-HQ victory for their team, despite initially shooting themselves in the head, and finding their own supporters preferred the `joke-candidate`.

  29. May 21, 2016 6:41 pm

    hey teabags, NRA `endorsed` The-Ronald today (-:

  30. May 27, 2016 11:11 am

    So teabags, it was made `official` over-night. The-Ronald is now the `official` and `endorsed` repug-teabag prezidential nomination. Cheer-up teabags, the-ronald is polling well ahead of hillary too.

  31. May 27, 2016 10:53 pm

    The-Ronald,,,,,Hillary can`t close the deal!,,,,, #guffaw

  32. June 5, 2016 10:03 am

    Responding to name-calling by hillary,

    the-ronald,,,,hillary clinton has to go to jail,,,,she just has to,,,,#guffaw

  33. June 9, 2016 11:16 am

    Sucking the wind out of hillary`s sails,

    the-ronald,,,,,to all the bernie sanders voters ,, we welcome you with open arms,,,,,

  34. June 13, 2016 9:06 am

    Orlando Florida mass-shooting by `death-cult` gun-man has just politically thumped hillary and boosted the-ronald and his `lock-out-muslims` propaganda.

  35. Splatterbottom permalink
    June 13, 2016 10:34 am


    Because the Klintoon crime family is immune from prosecution. #No One Left To Lie To

    “Orlando Florida mass-shooting by `death-cult` gun-man has just politically thumped hillary and boosted the-ronald and his `lock-out-muslims` propaganda.”

    Obviously. People are sick of the standard PC ‘take it up the arse for Islam’ response usually dished out by gutless pollies like The Rapist’s wife: “This has nothing to do with Islam” followed by epic hand-wringing and outpourings of concern for Muslims and then finally an expression of concern for victims and their families.

  36. July 20, 2016 5:07 pm

    Cleveland Rocks! The-ronald is now the fully endorsed repug prez-candidate! Laying waste to the disgruntled teabags still trying to dismiss him.

  37. July 22, 2016 2:05 pm

    Cleveland Rocked! The Ronald has `accepted` the teabag prez-nomination for the repugs. His speech was much better than l thought would be made. Can`t wait to see what hillary will say next week.

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