THE DEMAGOGUE AT THE DOOR A con man could triumph in tough times

By Peter F. Steves, Special to the BIR

A week or so ago I had dinner with an erudite and sophisticated Dubliner, and during the meal he posed a straightforward question with an uncharacteristic expletive: “What the [deleted] is going on with America and Donald Trump?” Before I could muster an answer, he tossed out another question: “Can he actually win?” I blurted out, “Yes…”

The prospect does seem unbelievable, but – sickeningly to this scribe – not inconceivable. For America, a demagogue is at the door of the White House and on the verge of kicking it in.

Before any Trumpites, Trumpists, or whatever term they go by, bellow that I must be some mindless follower of Hillary Clinton, the jibes belie the facts – as they so often do with the birther-in-chief, a.k.a. Donald J. Trump. Any readers of this space over the years know that it has never been friendly turf for either Bill or Hill. In large part due to her own murky foothold with facts, and in part due to critics who have bombarded her for more than 25 years with crackpot conspiracy theories and blind hate, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate. A word here to the “Bernie or Bust” crowd: Americans of 2016 would never have elected a Socialist whose party Trump and his minions would have gleefully renamed “Communist.”

Donald Trump has slithered like some antediluvian reptile into some of the darkest chambers of American life. He has capitalized on one undeniably legitimate segment of voters – those who have been left struggling since the economic meltdown of 2008. Of course, Trump boasted about how the collapse was great for him because he could snap up real estate at rock-bottom prices.

A historical fog envelops followers of Trump and his hateful rhetoric. Voters shout that they want change, a dissolution of the status quo, and that Trump is the true agent of change. To borrow a description from John McCain in his slam at the Religious Right years back – yup, the very same McCain whom Field Marshal von Trump declared was not a war hero because Trump likes guys who weren’t captured: Donald J. Trump is “an agent of intolerance.”

None of Trump’s rhetoric and bluster is new. America has endured it before. Still, the lessons of the past evaporate in Trump’s obsessive barrage of tweets, his sorry blend of simplistic bromides, cultural, racial and ethnic epithets, and distortion of the past. In the bloated, blustering, combed-over person of Trump, the Nativist and Know-Nothing cant of the 1840s and 1850s has roared back to life in 2016.

What’s old is new. We must erect literal and figurative walls to ban the outsiders, our own history be damned. For anyone with Irish bloodlines, our ancestors who first left behind the old sod in search of something better would recognize and recoil from today’s version of the Nativists, Trump and his crowd. In all likelihood, our Irish forebears would let us have a piece of their mind when it comes to “The Donald.” In the 1840s and 1850s, the Nativists – “real Americans” – wanted to take their country back from the “hordes” of Irish and German immigrants.

Perhaps our ancestors would remind us of the coffin ships that carried them from famine-wracked Ireland, of the “Irish Need Not Apply” signs they encountered, and of worse. In our ancestors’ day, the Nativists loathed anything Irish, anything Catholic, any immigrant, anything they deemed “un-American.” They proclaimed that they needed to save the nation from going broke to pay for “foreigners” who were arriving in unprecedented waves. Sound familiar? Today, Trump paints Hispanics in the same way.

I know, Trump’s defenders will point out that today things are “different.” Unquestionably, we face a terrorist threat – yes, Radical Islamic Extremism – unlike any in our annals. ISIS must be crushed. Still, if Trump wins and charts a course that tramples all semblance of the American character, of America as the place of opportunity and dreams, we will need to change the message on the Statue of Liberty to “Stay Off Our Shores.”

Senator Ted Cruz, no paragon of the truth himself, did have a moment of utter clarity after Trump, a.k.a. the Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief, mocked Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and linked Cruz’s father to the assassination of JFK. Cruz denounced Trump for the narcissist and pathological con man that he is. All to no avail, of course, as Von Trump’s Express rumbled over “Lying Ted” as it had previously mowed down “Little Marco,” “Low-Energy Jeb,” and the rest of the Republican primary field.

There is simply not enough space here or anywhere else to run the full litany of Trump’s lies, invective, lack of an ethical or moral core, and jaw-dropping lack of any qualifications to be Leader of the Free World. Despite that, next January 20, it might well be Trump who will be taking the oath of office. It’s a safe bet that at the time he will not have released his taxes as he becomes the Con Man-in-Chief. If so, don’t blame me: “I’m with Her.”