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gemli is a trusted commenter Boston

My goal, from now until the election, is to wake from this extended nightmare. There is no other explanation for us to be having this conversation, in which a minor shift in style or tone could put Donald Trump in the Oval Office. In my nightmare, tomorrow’s headline will read, “Trump doesn’t call Hillary a fat old lying cow with scrofula, soars in post-debate polls.”

If he doesn’t praise Putin or insult the mother of a dead soldier, will Trump get points? If Hillary grimaces or coughs or wears an unflattering outfit, will pundits declare her the loser? Is the bar really set so low that candidates must dig their way under it?

Conservatives got us here, having so beaten up our honorable two-party system that Donald Trump seems qualified to carry the Republican banner. They feign embarrassment while they watch Trump exemplify the ignorance, the blatant appeal to wealth and the denial of reality that characterized their game plan from the moment Obama took office.

Most people don’t follow politics all that closely. They see a headline, pick up the tone and talk among themselves. Conservatives commandeered the discourse and made income inequality holy, and healthcare for all an abomination. They rendered many of us stupid and susceptible.

So in a way Trump is your baby, Mr. Brooks, a veritable Rosemary’s baby, the evil spawn of ignorance and innocence. We may have to live with him, but you’ll have to change his diapers.

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gemli is a trusted commenter Boston

Here’s a path for a Trump victory: large numbers of Deplorables shamble zombie-like to the polls. They’re clearly in need of brains, but somehow they manage to find their way to voting booths and pull the lever for Trump.

The problem is not in our political stars, but in ourselves. If there’s even a possible path to a Trump victory, we’ve already lost. It’s not that Hillary Clinton is the ideal candidate, but she’s a realistic candidate. Her secretive personality is off-putting to some, but it’s not because she isn’t prepared to be president. She’s been preparing for decades. She’s done her homework.

In contrast, Trump never showed up for class. He’s an incurious, intellectually weak, grandiose, self-promoting ignoramus who ironically flaunts his ignorance. Somehow these failings make him rise in the polls.

We’ve been coasting along since the last world war thinking that we were exceptional. We made education affordable for returning GIs, built up the middle class, came to grips with racism, sent rockets to the moon and recognized the rights of women, minorities and gays.

Trump is a rude awakening. He took root in soil fertilized by conservative fear and loathing, and has blossomed into a toxic weed. Even if he loses, his inexplicable popularity will leave us with a sense of foreboding, a realization that we’re only one election away from the abyss. If he wins… Après Trump, le déluge.

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gemli is a trusted commenter from Boston — 15 hours ago

Liberal thinking emerges from enlightenment. It’s the realization that we’re all in the same boat, regardless of gender or skin color or sexual identity. It’s the opposite of tribalism, and the religions we create to justify rewarding the chosen few and sending undesirables to hell.

The 20th century saw an awakening of the idea that everyone deserved a decent life. Robber barons were cast out by unions, the old were granted financial security in retirement and women wrested their right to vote from a male-dominated society. The self-evident superiority of one race over another was shown to be based on ignorance. Sexuality was found not to be a choice, but a natural part of biology that existed along a spectrum.

Nothing lasts forever. For the last twenty years there has been a backlash against liberalism from a bitter contingent of conservatives who miss the good old days. They recall the old tribal imperatives when they wrap themselves in the flag and clutch a Bible to their chests. They deny science in favor of revealed truths that come from their God. They proclaim exceptionalism even as we sink on every scale by which it is measured.

Mr. Douthat thinks there is good to be found in the reactionary slide that gave us Trump and Cruz. He thinks calling this bitter philosophy by another name will make it palatable, and we can profit from its “insights.”

Conservatism isn’t something we embrace. It’s something we recover from. Let the healing begin.

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