Donald Trump: the Republican Party's nominee for president?
Could there be some last-minute twist, some redemption, an unfinished Frank Capra movie?
No. There are no backrooms anymore. Delegates are enthusiasts. Try convincing them — I have — to switch. They don't. We put our faith in democracy, but it's a risky business.
The Republican Party is about to nominate a man who belongs on a television stage, not in the Oval Office. His appeal has absolutely nothing to do with policy, which he doesn't pay much attention to — nor does anyone really ask him about. No, his appeal to many is that he says the unthinkable. He makes sexual references that have given rise to a new cottage industry: "How to Talk to Your Child About Trump." He insults women with a nasty wink that I thought had been banished, at least from any respectable public face. Nope. How about period jokes? Yup. And jokes about penis size? Indeed. (Have you noticed people staring at hands more lately?)
Never in history has a man marched to the nomination with more baggage and less shame than this man.
If you're not scared, you should be. This is happening.
Forget about an open convention. This will be four perfectly produced evenings of Trump, interspersed with tributes to Ronald Reagan and George Bush. The people who become convention delegates by working phone banks, night after night, week after week, are not about to enter the convention hall and suddenly change their minds. Barring video proof of the Donald committing a felony (at a bare minimum), he gets the nomination. No open convention can save the party from the delegates.
Donald Trump is great for the comedians and commentators and pundits who have found manna in the man who knows television better than most of us ever will. Trump jokes abound. Even the president tells them.
The thing is, the man could be president.
Could he win? Why even ask. A year ago, we all said he had no chance of getting the nomination, and of course we were all wrong.
With two candidates in the race — one of whom, despite her very different qualifications, carries a few valises of her own — the answer is of course he could win. Sexism lives. Big surprise. And it is far more difficult for women to get to the top of the executive heap (rather than the legislative ladder) than it is for men. Just look at California, as blue as can be: two women in the U.S. Senate, and never a female governor. The pattern that holds at the top corporate levels holds in politics, as well. Anybody could lose a race, but a female somebody surely could.
And then, as the world looks on, our great democracy having become a laughingstock, only one question will be left.
Who did this to us?
Who debased our democracy to the extent that we would entrust the most powerful weapons in the world to a man with absolutely no experience to guide him, and no respect for what he doesn't know? Who turned us into bobbleheads with no principles of our own, nodding along to a movement armed by anger and little more?
Look to your left. Look to your right. Look in the mirror.
No one has turned us into anything that wasn't there. The question is whether the better angels of our nature will ultimately triumph.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
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