NEW YORK -- Donald Trump isn’t funny anymore. Whereas the first two months of his candidacy were marked with quips about his hair, that hat, the relentless pivot to China and his hyperbolic phrasing that read like the front page of an online newspaper (“these are the very best policy positions you’ll ever see”), the circus has morphed into something more sinister.
Trump’s success (also the name of his branded roll-on deodorant) is no secret. He tapped into the conspiratorial mindset of an angry minority, blaming the political elites for trousering corporate cash while leaving blue collar America to be robbed by conniving foreign powers, specifically China (trade) and Mexico (immigration).
It was not a message that could carry him through the primaries, let alone to the White House. Yet for three months he has perched atop the polls, distorting the race for the Republican nomination by forcing other candidates to compete with his bombast.
For his rivals, to cross or oppose Trump was to take a hacksaw to their polling numbers. Where he goes, they must follow, even if that leads into the nativist abyss of stripping the constitutional protections for American citizens under the 14th Amendment and demonising babies born in the US to undocumented immigrants.
“Anchor babies,” the term used to describe said infants born to parents without papers, is an ugly term, but one you’d expect to hear from Trump and the windier end of the GOP roster.
Yet on Thursday, Jeb Bush, the Party establishment’s great hope for bridging the divide between the traditional white base and the country’s burgeoning Latino demographic, defended his own use of the term. When asked if he thought it was offensive, he said: "I don't,” adding: “Do you have a better term? You give me a better term and I'll use it."
If Trump has so stretched the field that even Bush is forced to pander to the sinister rhetoric that sits in the twilight between insensitivity and bigotry, then the country is in a parlous state, particularly as the issue of “anchor babies” is a phantom.
The property tycoon seems to think that giving birth to a baby in the US affords citizenship to its parents. It does… after 21 years. But facts have no place in a race that is quickly melting from comedy into tragedy.