Back in September, I wrote one of those tongue-in-cheek columns considering the wild notion that we would see a Trump/Sanders independent campaign in 2016. Part of the reason for the piece was to annoy people who felt neither man had a chance at the Oval Office, but a larger part was because at the time, I found Trump to be completely hilarious. After all, who better than The Donald to sharpen decades of GOP talking points to a fine point and repeatedly stab the Republican Party and the media with them?
Despite the fact that all the professional pundits said his candidacy was a joke or would never get off the ground, Trump managed to earn a spot in the televised debates and even take the lead in most polls. In true Trump fashion, he played the role of the Marxist — the Groucho Marxist, that is — by having the audacity to point out the cheapness of the party he'd been invited to. Trump skewered American politics by pointing out he'd given money to almost everyone on the stage.
He went even further by noting he'd given to the Clintons as well, further illuminating that, for the most part, the entire concept of the left-versus-right debate in this country is little more than a fundraising tool to perpetuate the political-industrial complex. More than any other figure in recent memory, Trump illustrated at those early debates how the wealthy people who own this country also own the political system, making it easier for them to legalize their malfeasance.
The gag was funny at first, reaching satirical levels that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert could only dream their corporate sponsors would let them get away with. It was the kind of comedy that makes people uncomfortable, which you could see in the faces of the candidates Trump said he'd given money to and was now owed for that contribution.
It was also satire that came with an ugly side as well, a side we first began to see when Trump implied that every person crossing the border from Mexico was a gangster, rapist, or both. That was the first hint at just where things were headed.
But after Trump's call to ban all Muslims, regardless of nationality, from entering the United States in a speech before an audience on the USS Yorktown, it's clear that the joke's over. For whatever reason, The Donald's rhetoric has veered entirely away from pointing out the flaws in America's thoroughly bankrupt political system and crashed headfirst through the wall of fascism. While it's true that he might still only be playing up the long-suppressed feelings of the GOP base (who, by the way, are still keeping him at the top of the polls), the cost of his recent outbursts are simply too high to maintain the joke.
Make no mistake, no one can rightly hold Trump to blame for this nonsense all by himself. There were plenty of GOP bigwigs who thought this would all be a great, fun ride during the primaries and it would serve to set up one of their other well-groomed yet utterly vacuous demagogues in their ill-fitting suits to look positively desirable against the presumed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
The rest of us are to blame as well.
We're a nation of people who don't like substance, which is why the nightly television news cuts up and spoon feeds us our daily allotment of news in 90-second portions, or why daily newspapers write what seems like two-sentence, 15-word paragraphs and call it a day. Meanwhile, the 24-hour news channels act as echo chambers for the interests of billionaires competing for our sympathies as we choose which set of yelling morons we can stomach best. And they all do it for money.
Which brings us to the final problem: Trump generates a lot of views and clicks and, therefore, advertising revenue. So much so that it is very unlikely to foresee a scenario where he is forced off the public stage and out of the limelight by anyone other than himself. And even then, it's a safe bet some thought-challenged nitwit at TMZ will assign an intern to follow him around with a camera. And when The Donald farts too loudly, it'll break the internet. Again. And again. And again.
So, there it is: Trump is a good joke gone horribly wrong. He is now just a Kardashian with terrible politics, designed only to keep the public's eyeballs transfixed on the train wreck. Unfortunately, we aren't watching the train wreck from the safety of the surrounding hills — we are actually on the train.