For Donald Trump, this is not going to end well. What began as a lark has turned into an albatross, and he now carries around his neck the ultimate burden of a man who has turned the world against him.
Far and Away
Somewhere in America, Trump must be weighing his options. He never expected it to go this far, but as far as he takes it, he is consistently goaded by an incredulous media into taking it farther. When his labeling of Mexican immigrants as rapists and killers sent people into a frenzy, with demands for him to take it back, he doubled down on his accusations and called for the deportation of not just Mexicans, but every one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States - husbands, wives and their children - and a massive wall to be built to keep them out.
When reporters challenged him on his assertion that he personally witness on TV "thousands and thousands" of Arabs in New Jersey, "that were cheering as the (World Trade Center towers) came down," he insisted that the celebrations were not only in New Jersey, but by Arabs all across the country and around the world.
When people were appalled over his call for mosques to be carefully monitored, he doubled down and demanded their closing. And when that didn't sit too well, he demanded the registration of all Muslims and, finally, "the total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."
Fruit of Divine
The intoxicating nectar of a national media spotlight and seductive possibility of becoming President of the United States are difficult to resist. For Donald Trump, they have become an addiction. And the consequences of this addiction are increasingly apparent as he wades deeper and deeper into controversy, dominating the national conversation.
When he was once considered eccentric and almost lovable for his outlandish remarks, he is now viewed as erratic and dangerous to the American republic. In an open letter to Trump, former Attorney General and 47th governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm demanded that he get out of the race for the good of the country. "Your lies and vitriolic rhetoric are causing irreparable damage to the nation," she said.
Bill Moyers suggested that, with Trump as the worst offender, Republican Presidential candidates are leading the GOP to "the eve of destruction." Moyers referenced Tom Engelhardt of Tomsdispatch.com, who lamented, "There's nothing, no matter how jingoistic or xenophobic, extreme or warlike...that Donald Trump and the rest of the crew can say...that will affect their popularity negatively."
At Arm's Length
As Trump calls for the arming of citizens to fight the coming wave of terrorism that he predicts, news of horrific gun massacres like the San Bernardino shooting no longer appall and compel people to re-evaluate the laxity of gun laws. Rather, they are driving people to arm themselves and prepare for battle. According to the F.B.I., "More Americans had their backgrounds checked while buying guns on Black Friday than on any other day on record."
Speaking to the Fiscal Times, eight-term Oklahoma Congressman Mickey Edwards said that Trump feeds his followers "a heavy diet of demonstrable falsehoods and exaggerated claims" which "primes them to lash out when he points them at a target."
Eventually, cooler heads will probably prevail and Trump will be relegated once again to private citizen status. Trump himself, finding that his business is suffering and his brand is taking a hit, may execute an exit strategy before the summer. But the damage will have been done. He is unlikely to be remembered as the billionaire real estate mogul who built a global empire and elevated his brand on the strength of an outsized personality, audacious bravado and shrewd business dealings. Rather, he may find himself being spoken about in the same breath as notorious historical figures like Senator Joseph McCarthy, a once-popular American politician whose "recklessness, indignant bluster, and bullying tactics," led to his fall from grace. "(He) adeptly manipulated the media, told ever more outrageous stories concerning the communist conspiracy in the United States, and smeared any opponents as 'communist sympathizers' to keep his own name in the headlines for years."
Trump may also find himself inheriting the same legacy as dictators like Italy's infamous Benito Mussolini, with whom he shares a similar speaking style. In a Biography documentary, biographer Dennis Mack Smith remarked of Mussolini, "You see some pictures of him and you have to laugh. How could people be taken in by such a man?"
As the world watches Donald Trump, no one is laughing anymore.