My brother-in-law, a life-long and pretty conservative Republican, recently commented that Trump’s primary victory reminded him of an old saying. Paraphrasing, it went something like this: the man who knows, and knows he knows, can be trusted; the man who doesn’t know, and knows he doesn’t know, can be trusted; but the man who doesn’t know and doesn’t know he doesn’t know is dangerous, and cannot be trusted.
The Donald, of course, doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. If anyone had any doubts, his suggestion that he would “negotiate” the nation’s debt with creditors, and “do a deal” in which they would take less than they’re owed, should put those doubts to rest. (Among the multiple things he clearly “doesn’t know” that he “doesn’t know” are the importance of America’s creditworthiness to global fiscal stability, and the inconvenient fact that the majority of the nation’s creditors are its own citizens–including, importantly, those depending on Social Security.)
In the wake of the Indiana primary and Trump’s emergence as the GOP nominee-apparent, the internet has been inundated with “analysis” and theories about how this happened, who’s to blame, and of course, “what the hell happens now.”
So far, one of my favorite (albeit dubious) theories lays the blame with Sarah Palin–or more accurately, with John McCain, who elevated the Wasilla Wacko to national prominence.
In this view, the damage Palin wreaked was in getting Republicans to lower their standards for what a vice-president or a president ought to be. Suddenly, what one writer called a “meaningful and valuable norm” no longer controlled public opinion. Palin was embarrassingly unqualified for the job, but she was endorsed by McCain and establishment Republicans–and the result was that the bar was lowered so far that for a number of Republican voters, Donald Trump was no longer unthinkable.
I’m sure there are as many theories as there are pundits. Americans who are appalled at the prospect of electing someone so manifestly unprepared and unsuited for the Presidency are trying to make sense of it all (and in most cases, looking for someone–anyone–to blame).
There’s lots of blame to go around, of course. But while we are trying to make sense of the crazy situation in which we find ourselves, we’d better spend the time between now and November doing whatever it takes to ensure that voters understand the difference between voting for the winner of American Idol and the person who will be occupying the Oval Office.
We may or may not be enthusiastic about our other choices–but there are degrees of unthinkable, distasteful and very, very dangerous.