Photo: Gage Skidmore
“HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF,” Karl Marx famously said, “First as a tragedy, then as a farce.” A farce, by definition, is “a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.”
So the good news is that the United States is currently in the “farce” stage of history. Donald Trump, the buffoonish billionaire lunatic and “short-fingered vulgarian,” won seven of the eleven states that held primaries yesterday for Super Tuesday, making it pretty likely that he will be the Republican nominee for President, even though just a few months back, such a prospect was considered ludicrously improbable by most. In an attempt to appeal to voters, the other Republican candidates have tried to sink to Trump’s level: Rubio called the plane Trump rides on “Hair Force One.” Ted Cruz’s attack was even more ham-fisted. In the meantime, in an attempt to show off his vocabulary, Donald Trump actually said, “I know words. I have the best words.”
He — the presumptive Republican nominee for the most powerful position in the world — said, “I have the best words.”
Which — let’s be really honest — is pretty funny. Especially for those of us that aren’t Republican moderates or right-wing crazies, and for those of us who can’t conceive of a universe in which a candidate Trump beats either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, because we just can’t bring ourselves to have that little faith in our fellow countrymen. For us, it’s tempting to just sit back and enjoy the collapse of the political party which has, frankly, been on the wrong side of just about every issue for decades.
But unfortunately, even assuming that Donald Trump loses big in November and brings the Republican party down with him, this is still really, really bad news for our country. Here’s why.
Trump is validating extreme, racist ideas that should have faded into history long ago.
He’s called Mexicans “rapists.” He’s called for a ban on Muslims entering the country. When he was endorsed by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, he initially refused to condemn Duke or the KKK, and only did so when the public outcry got particularly spectacular.
America has always had a problem with race, back to our very beginning, and while we’ve come a long way, we’ve also got an extremely long way to go. One of the reasons we’ve come a long way is because we’ve successfully relegated ideas like white supremacy and open racism to the fringes of our society. We’ve rightfully assigned them the labels of “shameful” and “regressive.” A major political candidate suddenly spouting this bile unapologetically gives these ideas a new aura of legitimacy, which we worked so hard for so many decades to erode. And don’t think it doesn’t have real-world consequences: attacks against American Muslims have risen in recent months, and white supremacist sites have reported a spike in traffic thanks to Trump.
Trump is a sign that a lot of Americans have really, really poor judgment.
The American people have long accused their politicians of being name-calling bullies. Trump is an actual name calling bully — with extremely little to say in the way of actual policy. The American people have long accused their politicians of being untrustworthy, pathological liars. Donald Trump lies so constantly that fact-checking seems to have no real effect on him: Politifact has examined 101 of Trump’s statements and has marked only 1 as “True,” while 79 are marked as “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants on Fire” — but he has suffered no political repercussions. The American people have long decried their politicians as power-hungry narcissists. Trump’s ego is so dense it’s at risk at collapsing in on itself and forming sort of douchey singularity.
On top of being a bully, a narcissist, and a liar, Trump is also a racist and a misogynist. It’s as if Donald Trump has taken all of the things Americans say they hate about politicians, has amplified them to a comic level, and has become America’s favorite politician.
Trump is not a good sign for our future.
More than anything else, Trump represents an erosion of trust in the American system. People are voting for him (and, to a lesser and much-less-misguided extent, for Bernie) because they don’t believe the system works anymore, and because as an outsider, they think he’ll be able to fix things. He won’t: running a business is nothing like running a country, and Trump isn’t even very good at running businesses.
But a lack of faith in the system usually means unrest. It usually means the rise of extremists. It usually means that a country starts making some pretty stupid decisions. And, much like a farce, no matter how funny it may be, it tends to not end particularly well.