Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You--You're Fired

Ten years ago, I made a prediction.

I told my students that, within their lifetime--maybe mine, one of the two major parties would nominate a reality TV star to become president of the United States.  I wasn't joking, and I didn't have anyone particular in mind.  I never dreamed it would happen so quickly.

Since the Indiana primary yesterday, Donald Trump has become the presumptive Republican nominee and now there is no getting around it.  Donald Trump, who never has held any office or public trust under the United States or any state government, whose greatest fame is for insulting people and otherwise making sure we all know who he is, now stands poised to join the ranks of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.

I made my prediction ten years ago off-the cuff, and I'm not quite sure why I remember making it.  But I do remember why I made it.

In my introduction to American government, my regular theme is how much Americans have lost what I only can call their civic pride.  We no longer respect the sacredness of politics for what it is, our shared effort as a community to solve the problems together that no one can solve individually.  Politics is our common life and our common effort to build something together that is good and that lasts.  As Edmund Burke told us, it is a contract "between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born" to work together toward something greater than ourselves, more than can be accomplished in any human lifetime.  We express those hopes and do that work through government.

Despite the separation of church and state, politics and government are a kind of holy work.  We should think of them that way.  Our founders did.

Yet, that is not how Americans think about government or politics any longer.  Americans today (if the people I meet are any guide) no longer seem willing to appreciate politics or government.  The social forces that explain it are complex.  We have heard too many times that, "Government is the problem," and our use of the word "politics" expresses our disdain for special interests wherever they may be found (always overlooking that each of us has his own special interests, too).

David Brooks had an unusually good column in the New York Times around the time I made my prediction, observing that our age is one where we "see politics as a competition for recognition." We enter the community only to express our own self-regard, press our own interests. He also wrote that people are driven "to rage if others don't recognize their worth."  That's a good place from which to begin to understand the 2016 presidential race.  We do not feel that our interests are recognized.  We feel rage.

All along while we have been told government is a problem and our relationship to politics has been distorted and dirtied during these last several decades, tremendous inequalities have crept into American life that have left behind the middle class and the working poor.  The mixture of that brew has been toxic, and its effects were not necessarily first most clear in politics.

Over the last two decades, polarization has grown.  Political disagreements have become sharp social divisions.  It has become casually acceptable to say that some other member of our community does not belong in it because they have the wrong ideas.  Gun culture has grown.  This became the nation eager to watch the histrionic dramas and ugly take-downs of reality TV.  We want to see the brawl on Jerry Springer or the splash of wine in the face because we all know someone who deserves it.

We have become a coarse and vulgar people, each of us self-absorbed so much by our rage at not being recognized that we have stopped participating in politics.  This, what we have today, is more like a feeding frenzy.  It's not entirely our fault.  The social forces, like our political problems, are bigger than any one of us.  But it is the inescapable conclusion.

Little surprise that so many of us no longer can tell the difference between politics and a sporting event or a reality TV show.  Why should Donald Trump not seem ready to sit in the White House?

Years ago, Tom Wicker wrote a book about Richard Nixon, One of Us.  Wicker explained the rise of Nixon to the White House in the simplest, most direct way.  The American people elected Richard Nixon, chose all that he would do as president, because they recognized themselves in him.

Donald Trump is a vulgar loudmouth, thumping his chest, demanding recognition, making showy insults, and angrily defending his personal greatness against everyone.  He is 'one of us.'  We are the people who have brought Trump to this moment.

Don't express too much surprise this morning.  This all has been not that hard to see coming.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

He Doesn't Win Anymore

This story arrives in today's New York Times like a confirmation that Donald Trump is unprepared to be the president of the United States, and that his vaunted skills for negotiating and dealmaking are vastly overrated.  In all, he is no more than bluster and bully.

(Note--I said above this is a "confirmation," not a revelation.)

Trump objects that, “'Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal,' he said, accusing party leaders of maneuvering to cut his supporters out of the process. 'They wanted to keep people out. This is a dirty trick.'” And, in what seems to me like an unusual bit of front-page editorializing, the Times adds that, "By blaming the process rather than his own inadequacies as a manager, Mr. Trump is trying to shift focus after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas outmaneuvered him in delegate contests in states like Colorado, North Dakota and Iowa, losses that could end up denying Mr. Trump the nomination."

Trump's loud objections to a "rigged" process may gain him some traction, since most of the voters are as ignorant about the party nomination process as he (evidently) is.  But that won't make him right, probably it won't be enough to help him, and it seals the case against his qualification to be president.

What Trump fails--and, admittedly, most people fail--to understand is that the party nomination process is just that--a closed process within a private organization.  Like any other club or even a corporation, the Republican Party has rules by which it selects its presidential nominee who, if successful, will become the leader of the organization.  Trump can object.  But the rules are being followed.  The rules were disclosed a long time ago, they are available to anyone on the planet who wants to acquaint himself with them.  That Donald Trump was so pitifully unprepared to win under these rules is a signal about how slack he is intellectually, how incompetent he is managerially, and how much he has gotten by in this campaign and his career just by shouting louder.

At some point, even the loudest and rudest bully runs into the hard, flat surface of a fact.  The fact, here, is that the party nomination process is not a democratic process.  It looks like one.  But, it isn't one.

The voters are members of the Republican Party, to be sure.  They even get to vote.  But, to put this into a language Trump should understand, they don't get to run the party anymore than ordinary shareholders get to run a publicly held corporation.  Rather, there are leaders within the Republican Party who make the real decisions.  In this case, the leaders who matter aren't even in Washington.  They are in local communities and states all over the nation.  They know the rules, and they are using the rules to get what they want.  They understand how their organization works.

Donald Trump could have known the rules, and could have had a post-ballot box strategy that could reach farther than a TV camera.  But, he didn't.  It never entered his mind that he would need to do more than he still is only doing now--talking, shouting, insulting, objecting.  And so, Donald Trump has reached the negotiating table unprepared.  He won't be able to make this deal. This all comes as a powerful reminder Trump has no place in national leadership, his skills being better suited to cut-and-run capitalism or reality TV.

Put it another way: How will Trump beat China at the negotiating table when he couldn't even beat the Colorado Republican Party?

Like the electoral college system our Constitution set in place to preserve us from an unqualified president, the parties have these rules and delegate selection mechanisms to save them from an unqualified nominee.  By falling prey to those mechanisms and rules, Trump proves he is unqualified.

The system, in fact, works.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Losing by Winning

A considerable amount of ink has been spilled, and even more electrons, to document the ideological and intellectual incoherence of the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump.  All that is good work.  Perhaps, though, it is time to consider something entirely different.

In fact, there is at least one way in which Trump is remarkably coherent, and it tells us even more about American politics than it tells us about Trump.

Trump's slogan may be, "Make America great again," but it should be, "We don't win anymore," because there is no phrase he repeats more often in his rambling rally speeches and debate appearances: Mexico is killing us, China is beating us, we don't win anymore.

Winning is the center of Donald Trump's political ideas.  Americans should understand that and what it means.

The prelude of 1970's Patton finds its title character addressing the audience, standing in front of a huge flag as if at a political rally.  He tells us that,
Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. The very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.
In general, that is a hard proposition to argue with.  Everybody loves to succeed--to win--whether a five-year-old playing Go Fish or Charlie Sheen, who hashtagged his tiger blood-fueled feud with sitcom producers--#winning.  We admire successful individuals, we pity those who fail.  Anybody can understand that, from the playground to 2 and a Half Men to the boardroom.

In fact, it stands to reason that a businessman would place such heavy emphasis on winning.  The world of business is the world of the quick and the dead, winners and losers.  The author of The Art of the Deal would appreciate that as well as anyone.

Consider his own words--
My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward.  I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing to get what I'm after.
No one who has watched Trump's political rise could be surprised by that candor.  Trump's worldview is zero-sum: he wins, or someone else wins.  No middle ground.  Among real estate developers and celebrity pitchmen, maybe that even is good business.  But it is not good politics.

Think just for a moment just in terms of the American political contest between Republicans and Democrats.  The say-anything, do-anything, winning-is-all-that-matters approach should sound very familiar because it is a fairly accurate description of the kind of establishment politics that has alienated the voters so much.

A generation of politicians using poll-tested language to say whatever is needed to win, and who have polarized our politics by insisting that every question is an all-or-nothing, total-win or total-loss proposition, has created an environment where we cannot legislate, we cannot confirm a Supreme Court justice, and the system barely will budge at all.

Does anyone in the United States today think that situation is healthy?  Does Trump's be-a-winner worldview not, in fact, already describe the broken political culture that has created the frustration to bring him to within two steps of the presidency?  And, should he be elected, why exactly should we think that more of the same would improve anything?

But then, go back to China and Mexico.  Think of American foreign policy, our relationship with every other nation in the world.  When has America been most successful?

It would be difficult to match the success of World War II, when we did not fight alone but as an Allied Power with more than two dozen other nations.

But if we did want to imagine something that could match World War II, perhaps the security we built during the Cold War with our North Atlantic allies offers a good example.  That security framework--NATO--still guards us today (though, Trump has talked recently about abandoning it), and like our World War II alliances it depends on the delicate work of forging partnerships and building relationships.

Of course we never abandon our own interests.  But when we have been most successful, it has not been when we have treated our partners like obstacles and adversaries such as during the 2003 invasion of Iraq (which Trump, himself, called a mistake).  America has been great when we have been a good neighbor, a leader of a global community, and not when we have tried to "win" at any cost and at someone else's expense.

Trumpism, or the Trump Doctrine, is as simple as it is unsuited to the real world of challenges facing the United States.  It is, however, a mirror of the people who support Trump and have made his political vision something to be taken seriously.

This nation, glutted on professional sports and the in-your-face ethos of reality TV seems no longer able to think about problems except in terms of who's-up, who's-down, winners and losers.  Our politics has been caught up in that larger cultural phenomenon so that now, for a large number of Americans, only the anger of Trump and his determination to humiliate someone else seems to speak to them.

Like an endzone celebration dance or a showy slam dunk, Trump leaves no room for good sportsmanship.  Like a glass of wine splashed in someone's face, Trump sees no value in sparing someone else's dignity.

And, like appreciative stadium fans or the millions who tune in to see a reality TV villain get comeuppance, we don't want him to.  That's not who we are.

The political vision of Donald Trump is an American vision to which he give voice.  We the people, to all appearances, believe more than anything else that, "Winning isn't everything.  It's the only thing."  Whether we are talking about ISIL or China or the Democrats, it means seeing other people mostly as a measure of our own success.  That must exclude working together with them as equal partners.

In Trump, that destructive notion has found its champion.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"This is Not the Gospel"

Is it the case that a religious leader no longer has a valid opinion about religion?

I ask the question because Donald Trump seems to believe it is "disgraceful" for Pope Francis to pass an opinion about who is and who is not a Christian.

Pope Francis's exact words bear some repeating, since they have been misquoted and mischaracterized throughout the last few hours since the Pope's comments were reported. He said:
A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.
So, let's agree that this all is true.  The Gospel is not about walling people off.  The message of the Gospel in quite specifically the opposite of that, so much as a salvation once available only to a Chosen People now by gift of grace becomes available to all the peoples of the world.

Let's also agree that Pope Francis referred only to "A person," and not to Donald Trump.  It is true that a person who thinks only about building walls is not a Christian.  Whether Donald Trump is that person is a matter that Donald Trump has decided, not Pope Francis.

And, whether Donald Trump is a "nice person" (he insists he is, just ask him) could not be farther from the point.  As a good friend once observed, there is a big difference between being nice and being good.

As bizarre as were Trump's reactions, Catholics Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio did not much better.

Somewhat absurdly, Rubio said that, "Vatican City controls who comes in and how they come in as a sovereign state."  But if Sen. Rubio ever had visited Vatican City, he would know that people enter and leave as freely as they cross the street.  I entered and left more than a half-dozen times in 1998, and I don't think I even took my passport from the hotel.  If that is the model Rubio has in mind for comparison to the U.S. border, I totally agree with him.

And then, there is Jeb!   Gov. Bush said that, "“I think it’s OK to get my guidance as a Catholic from the Pope,, but certainly not economic policy or environmental policy.”  That Kennedyesque statement has a long history in American political life.  But it's a little strange suddenly hearing it coming from Jeb Bush.

After all, as governor of Florida, Jeb Bush intervened in the court proceedings that ended Terri Schiavo's life by citing to the authority of Pope John Paul II in a political matter.  True, it was not a matter of economics of environmentalism.  It was a question about the dignity of human life--like, for example, how we treat immigrants.

But Bush was even more honest today when he said that, "I support walls and fencing where it’s appropriate."

If the topic was keeping rabbits away from the tomatoes, I would agree with him wholeheartedly.  But something there is that doesn't love a wall.  And, as Robert Frost suggested, it is nature that brings down walls because, just as the Church teaches us, our nature calls us to solidarity with one another.  We are especially called to be in solidarity with the vulnerable, the poor, the sick, and the stranger.

Something there is in the desire to build that wall that says Mexico teems with vermin--"criminals, drug dealers, and rapists."  But they are not vermin.  They are human persons, each the Imago Dei.

To build the wall, to insist we need it, is not to offer anything useful to solving our immigration crisis.  To build the wall is only to say, 'We don't want them."

And, "This is not the Gospel."

Pope Francis went out on a limb today.  He'll take some hits for it.  I'm glad he did it.  For too long, too many Republican and Democratic politicians have leaned too comfortably on the Church.  But the Church's job is to make us uncomfortable.

It's good to have a man in Rome who is willing to do it.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

When Will the Fever Break?

Antonin Scalia's body is not cold, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called upon this great and noble nation to wait at least eleven months before trying to fill his seat on our highest court.

Donald Trump has urged Senate Republicans to "delay, delay, delay" to block President Obama's efforts to fulfill his constitutional role by abdicating theirs.

When will this madness stop?

It is easy enough to imagine what motivates Republicans.  They hope to win the 2016 election, so that a Republican will appoint a new justice, so that the balance of the Court will not change, so that they will win future cases, so that..., so that..., so that....

Because, after all, Republican presidents' Supreme Court nominees always do exactly what conservatives want them to do.  Like David Souter.  And, Anthony Kennedy.  And, Sandra Day O'Connor.  And, John Paul Stevens.  And, Warren Burger.  And, William Brennan and Earl Warren.

To ensure certainties just such as these, Republicans would mortgage a branch of government.

This is stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.  I search for a more articulate way to describe what Republicans are presenting as governing, but I fail to find any other way to say it.  This is stupid, and it must end.

Consider just a few small facts:

  • The Court will hear its first major abortion case in a decade later this spring, Whole Women's Health v. Cole.  Pro-life conservatives should have realized by now that failing to replace Scalia does not subtract a pro-choice vote from that decision.  A case that may have been decided 5-4 now would be decided 5-3.  In a best case scenario for pro-life conservatives, if Justice Kennedy were to uphold the Texas statute, the case would tie at 4-4 and the Fifth Circuit ruling would stand.  That would leave the restrictive Texas statute in place--a small win for pro-life conservatives--but it would leave the underlying issues undecided and represent no real progress against abortion.  The issue would inevitably be re-litigated at a later date.
  • Failing to keep the Court at nine justices for an extended period of time will encourage the Court to avoid controversial decisions, entirely, so as to avoid ties.  The effect will be to magnify the importance of the U.S.Circuit Courts, whose decisions would become final in the absence of an appeal to the Supreme Court.  That's good news for conservatives in the 5th and 11th Circuits but bad news for conservatives in the 1st, 8th, and 9th Circuits.  The others are toss ups.  Holding the Court at 4-4 hardly is an overall win for Republicans.

  • Finally, and not inconsequentially, let's be realistic about Republican prospects for the White House in 2016.  Hillary Rodham Clinton hardly is a lock.  But when we consider the practical disarray of the Republican Party and their nomination process, their ongoing estrangement from key constituencies necessary to succeed as a national party, their prospects for winning the election hardly look cheerful.  And even if they did win--does anyone seriously believe they will enjoy a veto-proof majority in the Senate that would prevent Senate Democrats from blocking a Republican nominee?  To follow McConnell's and Trump's logic as far as we can foresee it will go, Scalia's seat could remain permanently open.  There always is an incentive for one party to delay.  Once we have started down this path, why would we ever stop?
What we are describing here, all around, is the practical ending of governing this republic.  This simply is the final victory of partisanship over country, reflected in a willingness to let a branch of government founder as a hostage to the most short-sighted partisan interests.  

What we are watching unfold this weekend is a breathtaking betrayal of a two centuries-old commitment to constitutional government that, at some point, puts country first.

This country is in the grips of a fever.  Unless it breaks soon, something else, more vital, is going to give out.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Spotlight on Faith

Oscar season is upon us.  Now, with Spotlight nominated for several Academy Awards, attention has begun to return to this remarkable film.  But it's not always the right sort of attention.

I have heard Spotlight described as an attack.  I have heard people say that Catholics should be prepared to defend the Church against it.  And, it's not only me.  The Catholic Herald has a good piece this week on Spotlight director Tom McCarthy whose headline tells the sad story of how some people have received the film--"Spotlight Is Not an Attack on the Catholic Church."

For my own part, the film has not left my imagination since I saw it in December.  Spotlight is a deeply Catholic film, and it offers us something altogether unusual in a Hollywood movie: kerygma.  Spotlight proclaims a cinematic vision of a prophetic church.

Who are the good Catholics in Spotlight?

Not Cardinal Law.  He is a prince of the Church who tolerated and enabled the victimization of children to protect an institution.

The Catholic laypeople who supported the Archdiocese of Boston's charitable work, or who worked for its legal defense?  They also were willing to do anything to insulate the Archdiocese from the world, to maintain its fortress-ghetto identity against anyone who would question it.

The fallen-away Catholics of the Spotlight team?  Three of the four were raised Catholic and no longer practiced.  They were separated from the Sacraments and may not even have believed in God.  Yet their well-formed consciences, their deep regard for human persons, were evident in the sacrifices they made for the public good.  Their Catholicism might not have been good, but it was unmistakable.

What are the good institutions we find in Spotlight?  The Archdiocese?  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts?  The Globe?

These are important questions at this time in Church history.  Since the Middle Ages, the Church has seen itself in a privileged position next to other earthly institutions.  All authority comes from God (Rom. 13:1), and so down through the centuries, the Church has seen the sphere of social or political life and all worldly institutions as both separate from and subordinate to it.  As God's instrument on earth, the Church sees itself as the source of those other authorities, higher than them, immune from their scrutiny or criticism.

Spotlight gets to the hard meaning of those attitudes in the real world.  Those who seek to end the Globe's investigation urge the reporting team to think of all the good the Church does.  The bishop in the opening sequence tells a victim's mother she should protect the Church's good work, urges her to keep silent.  It can be easy to think that the Church is not like other institutions or authorities.  It is tempting for Catholics to believe the Church has a special claim on good works, superior to others.  But those ideas are complicated by the good works done by the Spotlight team.  In fact, we see that all the time in life when government and other worldly institutions, people outside the Church, do good and holy work.

The truth of revelation subsists uniquely in the Roman Catholic Church.  Goodness does not.

Spotlight, therefore, comes as a call to the Church and to laypeople to re-think who is a good Catholic, and to re-evaluate what the Church is relative to other institutions.  If we answer this call, a profound series of changes in our attitudes must follow.  Those changes would stretch out into many directions--political, social, ecclesiological, theological.  Much of what we think we know about the Church and its relationship to us and the world would change, and yet the Church would not change at all.  This is the most important point.

The Church only would become more essentially what it is, a means of grace and sanctification, and a more full realization of the Church envisioned by the Second Vatican Council.

The question, then, is whether the institutional Church, with Catholic women and men, can answer the call of the Spirit issued through this film--in fact, a call issued by the abuse crisis.  Can we change our understanding of the Church and our relationship to it?

The reactions to Spotlight sometimes look like we have learned nothing.  We circle the wagons again, back into the same formation they used in Boston (and, many other places) for so many years.

Who are the good Catholics?  The ones watching this great film, and who made it, who see a glimmer of hope for a new day in the Church.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

United in Division

Originally submitted to USA Today on January 19, 2016

Poor Ted Cruz.

He has been calling Donald Trump out as a “counterfeit conservative.” He may even be right. But he hasn’t realized that does not matter.

Yes, it’s true that Donald Trump is incoherent. He is not a conservative or a liberal. In fact, much of what Trump says does not even make sense. Like his new partner, Sarah Palin, Trump baffles those of us that look for a political candidate who appreciates complexity or elevates the public conversation. But like Palin, that also is the secret of Trump’s success.

A convoluted political history has brought us here. Ronald Reagan forged a conservative coalition with his 1980 election. But that coalition was an uneasy partnership of evangelical Christians, pro-business conservatives, and national security hawks who were held together by the force of Reagan’s personality. As soon as Reagan left the scene, George H.W. Bush failed to hold them together. By the 1992 election, Pat Buchanan channeled a wavelength of anxiety and isolationism that seems familiar in 2016. Buchanan made clear how poorly Reagan’s coalition worked without Reagan.

Since 1992, the conversation among conservatives has become a strange game of one-upsmanship. Newt Gingrich led an upstart 1994 revolt against the Republican leadership, promising to be more conservative than the other conservatives. The term RINO (“Republican In Name Only”) was coined around this time to distinguish true conservatives from phony conservatives. Republican candidates routinely position themselves as an “authentic conservative” or a “real conservative” against their conservative opponents. The Tea Party Movement was about recovering a conservative memory of a lost America, getting back to something more authentic against the political (or, the Republican) “establishment.” Now there is Trump. And still, Cruz’s attacks amount to a distinction of a “true conservative” from a “counterfeit conservative.” But Cruz does not understand that Trump’s remarkable campaign has moved past that old game. We have entered a new moment in this political history.

Along the way from Buchanan to Trump, the anger and the sense of betrayal among their supporters has remained constant. Those voters have not been tracking issues or legislative voting records. They have been responding to a feeling—America is changing, leaving them behind, and they want things back the way they once were.

Being a “real conservative” never was about tax policy or pro-life politics. It always was about giving a voice to anxiety about changing values, demographics, and economics. Donald Trump has figured that out. Trump understands that he can succeed by channeling the anxieties of lower-income and less-educated white voters even if he never makes sense according to a Ronald Reagan or a William F. Buckley, Jr. definition of what conservatism is. In fact, the more incoherent Donald Trump is, the better off he is.

When Trump talks about repealing Obamacare to encourage more competition among health insurance companies and reduce healthcare costs, some of us want to say that sounds suspiciously like Obamacare. When Trump talks about getting another country to pay for a wall that would rival the pyramids for its ambition, some of us want to say that sounds unrealistic. When Trump talks about barring Muslims from entering the U.S., some of us condemn the obvious discrimination and point out it would be an ineffective way to secure ourselves against terrorism.

And, that is exactly what Trump wants. Every criticism of Trump, champion of an anxious slice of America, further draws the difference between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ that his campaign thrives on. Trump becomes more ‘conservative’ each time he is mocked or corrected or criticized by elites, intellectuals, and political professionals. In the end, the Trump phenomenon is not about anything Trump says—and, there is nothing so outrageous he can say that will upset his supporters. Rather, what we are witnessing is a new kind of political movement. Trump is not about issues and positions. Trump is about the division.

That’s why Sarah Palin’s endorsement is an important milestone in the Trump campaign. Palin was the first candidate on the national stage to stand entirely on the division between ‘Us’ and ‘Them,’ free from facts, substance, or a coherent position on the issues. Palin endures by flattering a “real America” that it is safely divided from the “spineless…Ivy League,” the “lamestream media,” and the “Hollywood Left.” Her endorsement of Trump is no surprise at all. It is a sort of homecoming.

The most dangerous myth in American politics is that it is explained by a division between Right and Left. It isn’t, and maybe it never was. Our politics is a free-for-all around issues of race and class and culture. We are tribal. Our tribal differences have clarified themselves now far beyond a simple Left and Right.

Trump and Palin understand us. Ted Cruz is way behind them. So are most of the other Republicans and political commentators.

And, while it still seems unlikely Donald Trump will become president, this new phase he has unleashed in our political life will not go away quietly.