Coulrophobia

Fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia. The prefix 'coulro' comes from the ancient Greek word for 'one who goes on stilts.'

Early in the appallingly long campaign for the U.S. presidency, Carly Fiorina's ex-husband said of her and of the Republican side of the race: "In the clown car that is the Republican Party, she's the ultimate clown." Almost.

The full array of individuals seeking the Republican nomination was unrelievedly bad: clowns all but each with his or her uniquely unpleasant and insulting variation. In many ways the ultimate nominee was the appropriate distillation of their meanness and vitriol, a man who reliably offered up "BS on stilts." Generally, when someone repeatedly and loudly insists on everyone believing how smart he is and how rich he is, he is likely to be neither. He is fundamentally impoverished.

I do not fear these clowns so much as the culture they represent, their deeply flawed view of America and the democratic experiment. It is commonly assumed that the ultimate nominee hijacked the Republican Party. Actually it's the other way back: the Party hijacked the nominee.

The nominee's insatiable quest for adoration and sycophancy made him an easy mark for the tea party-ists, the alt-rightest, the racist, the bullies, the xenophobes, the misogynists, the unrepentant Confederates, the gullible, the wise (sic) users, the KKKlaners, the Birchers, the Koch-heads, the McCarthy-ites, the nuke-em-'til-they-glowers, the birthers, the rapacious, the climate change deniers ... and the deeply cynical. The more absurd his statements, the louder they cheered. The more they cheered, the more absurd he became until he emerged under their direction and with their support probably the most deformed and reprehensible clown ever to strut on the American political stage.

Donald Trump has always been a parody. His constituents, with fulsome media connivance, led him speech by speech, rally by rally, primary by primary to full out public self-parody. The important lesson we have learned is not that the ultimate nominee is a loathsome clown. That was apparent without the unendurable agony of the primary season. The important lesson is that the ultimate nominee is a creation of the Republican "base." He is the avatar, the distillation, the decoction, the voice, the representative, the essence, the apotheosis of the pitiful remains of what was once the GOP, the Grand Old Party, the Party of Abraham Lincoln.

The spectacle of Republican Party officials and Paul Ryan and John McCain and all the other local, state and national candidates trying to ride the beast of their creation while denying his existence would beggar belief had the media not profited from normalizing the circus. That spectacle is the manifest reduction to absurdity of an American political party which no longer believes in democracy ("I'll accept the results if I win"), a party that is contemptuous of the citizenry (tax the poor and middle classes for the benefit of the rich and of transnational corporations), a party that is in full revolt against reality, a party that routinely threatens violence against them who are not us.

America needs at least two political parties engaged in substantive, informed, ongoing democratic dialog about how to cope with and create our futures. One party and a parodic clown-filled circus are not enough.