The conduct of the Republican primaries makeslook like a well-ordered society.
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The danger of losing our social filters.

So apparently the Republican nomination for president hinges on the size of Donald Trump's penis. I am sorry this is even a topic. Surely almost any other penis is of more interest than Mr. Trump's. I mean, please, put that thing away.

Trump actually boasted last week that he could have gotten Mitt Romney to fellate him. ("I could've said, 'Mitt, drop to your knees,' and he would've dropped to his knees.") I suppose I might consider one of Romney's sons, assuming he'd stop trying to convert me long enough to be of use. Or Ben Carson, except his voice would rapidly put me to sleep, and where's the fun in that? See how fast we can descend into locker room talk?

Some people say "Little Marco" Rubio is a closet case. If that is true, his recent behavior has been so dreadful that we should all deny him sex. There was a precedent for this in the 1990s, when someone unhappy with Bill Clinton urged lesbians to deny sex to his cabinet officers Janet Reno and Donna Shalala.

I think we had better stop this unseemly speculation before we get to also-rans like Mike Huckabee and Carly Fiorina. Imagine waking up from a drunken binge in Vegas and finding one of them lying next to you, propped up on an elbow and leering at you expectantly. I'm sorry, I said stop.

The provocation for this juvenile jousting traces back before Rubio's campaign-trail antics to Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, who once called Trump a "short-fingered vulgarian." Trump never disputed the second part.

Let me end this bawdy banter by recalling the moment in the Benghazi hearing when a Republican congresswoman demanded to know if Secretary Clinton spent the fateful night alone. When Hillary burst out laughing at that ridiculous question, I fell in love as instantly as I did a half century ago when I watched a defiant young boxer say that the heavyweight champion of the world should be pretty like him. Granted, it's a different kind of love, a chaste, public-spirited love where no nasty bits factor into it.

I bet you would have said, had someone asked you a month or two ago, that our national discourse could not get any worse. Please stop saying that. It only tempts the gods! But this degraded situation is the result of letting demagogues get away with branding every social courtesy and civil gesture as a crime of "political correctness." That phrase is a reliable signal that an ugly sentiment is coming. The virtue of honesty is raised in its defense. Not honesty in the sense of showing a humble regard for the truth, but in the sense of sharing whatever brutish thought pops into your head.

The conduct of the Republican primaries makes Lord of the Flies look like a well-ordered society. But however long the GOP's nihilist orgy continues, we will still live in a diverse society whose peaceful functioning requires mutual respect. If we elect the crude blowhard who leads the Republican field, thoughtful, informed national policy will be replaced by a demagogue's whim. Is it really so awful having a black president or a gay family down the block that it makes sense to spray gasoline all over and light a match?

It is a short step from saying anything to doing anything, as when Trump encourages his crowds to beat up protesters. Since he and his rivals so loudly tout their Christianity, let me point out that their Savior says, "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me," not "Knockest thou the crap out of someone." If both messages mean the same to you, you should be neither president nor pastor.

The Lords of Misrule, as we might dub the Party of Lincoln in its evident death throes, have overstayed their welcome. It is time for them to stagger home and sleep it off, and for the poor bastards on the morning shift to hose down the street and prepare for a new day. Better we all sober up now than wait until after the election, when we could groggily survey the wreckage and say, "Did I really do that?"

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Blade and Bay Windows.

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