Hard to imagine anything more jolting to the body politic than a candidate who declares war on a religion (“Islam hates the U.S.”), who incites violence (“I’d like to punch him in the face”), who gets his foreign-policy advice from TV (“I really watch the shows”), who calls Mexican immigrants rapists, who mocks a disabled reporter, who winks at KKK supporters, and who is quantifiably the biggest liar in politics (which is like being the nastiest person in Hell).
But this may be how it starts, not how it ends.
America could trump Trump.
From the start of his campaign, I’ve maintained that Trump’s disruptive potential says less about him than it does these times. In June, I called him “a combed-over reflection of angry America”—people cut adrift by globalization, buffeted by intense social change, and disconnected from a corrupt political duopoly.
Still, Trump has surprised even me with his ability to inflame and exploit people’s anger. What did I miss? First, I overestimated the political establishment. Nobody in a crowded field of rivals built a strong and sustained case against Trump; one after another, the bully made them flinch. In Washington, clueless Republican leaders dismissed Trump’s chances for months and, even now, lack the moral courage to defy him. Meanwhile, professional Democrats cheered Trump’s ascent as a sign of their own superiority, smugly ignoring the fact that his voters could be their voters if the Democratic Party hadn’t disconnected from their concerns.