Fast-forward to exactly 10 months from now, and imagine that Donald Trump is indeed, as now seems all too likely, the Republican presidential nominee.
Hillary Clinton is comfortably ahead in the polls. Not by the immense margins once predicted, but by what looks like at least a solid, 55-45 percent victory. Democrats think they've got a real chance to take back both houses of Congress.
Then, on Oct. 23, 2016, four groups of two terrorists simultaneously enter shopping malls in Omaha, Peoria, Charlotte, N.C, and Spokane, and begin shooting.
When it is over, Trump calls for martial law and the immediate expulsion of any immigrant born in the Middle East and for summary execution of anyone guilty of terrorism.
Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama urge calm, vow to eventually punish the guilty, and caution us not to blame an entire religion or region for a few badly twisted men.
What do you suppose would happen on Election Day?
That's what worries me. Republicans, of course, are worried by something else. My usual routine is to watch CNN for a few minutes in the morning while I take on the heavier intellectual work of playing tug-of-war with my dog.
For months a parade of what passes for Republican statesmen — old senators, consultants, talking heads — have appeared on camera to explain that Trump would soon collapse and the voters would turn to a more sensible candidate.
For a while it was supposed to be Jeb Bush (Is he still running? Does anyone know?) Then, Marco Rubio. There was the brief Ben Carson moment, which faded when it became clear that he was actually mad as a hatter, really thought space aliens built the pyramids as grain silos for the ancient Hebrews, and didn't even seem to know when he was lying to himself.
Meanwhile, Trump stayed far ahead, the dark Freudian id of the bigoted American soul. Finally, about two weeks ago, it started to become painfully clear this wasn't going away.
Conventional mainstream politicians and media started to panic. The Detroit Free Press published a rare editorial that filled the entire front page denouncing Islamophobia, and Trump, under a huge headline: WE STAND TOGETHER.
Ten days ago, Nolan Finley, the editorial voice of the conservative Detroit News, wrote a hand-wringing column that echoed the despair of Republican Party movers and shakers:
"The panic among the GOP leadership is that if Trump ends up atop the ticket, he'll get so thoroughly slashed by Clinton that he'll wash out Republicans all down the ballot."
Finley added that big-money Republicans were already planning to flood GOP congressional candidates with cash to try to save them. Their nightmare scenario is another 1964, in which Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, who passed for an extremist in those simpler times.
Democrats won 2-to-1 majorities in both houses of Congress, and actually were able to enact some legislation that did people who were struggling some good. (They called it the Great Society and you can read all sorts of lies about it on right-wing websites.) If that were to happen again, a President Clinton might remember she was a Democrat, and do things like push through programs to make education affordable.
What if she created a huge American Infrastructure Corps, and instead of making the military the only option for our jobless youth put them to work building roads and bridges?
What if thousands of Detroiters who've never had a job could be trained and put to work fixing up or demolishing ruined buildings, learning skills and a work ethic?
What if (shudder) something was done to make the hugely bloated rich pay something like their fair share of the costs of a society that has been so amazingly good to them?
No, nobody, not even Bernie Sanders, is suggesting a return to the 90 percent tax bracket for the top earners that existed years ago under that old communist Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was actually a Republican president. (The rich didn't flee the country then, by the way, though some of them had to make so with last year's yachts.)
But what the Koch brothers and the DeVos family and their puppets now fear most is that something might happen to reverse the massive redistribution of wealth that's been underway in this nation since 1981.
The redistribution, that is, from poorer Americans to the very richest ones, the so-called 1 percent.
That's the most neglected story of our times. There's a reason all those lower-earning white workers and retirees are angry; they are living less well than their parents.
Donald Trump has tapped into something very real, and has cleverly given them a scapegoat to hate and blame: foreigners and terrorists: first Mexicans, now Muslims.
To everyone's horror, millions are buying it. People have been saying that he is selling a brand of fascism, and they have a point. But in fact, he isn't selling anything at all but himself.
Trump, who was once a liberal and who donated to both parties, has — perhaps to his surprise — blundered into a zone, got a reaction that may have surprised even him with its intensity, and has picked up the ball and run with it.
And the Republicans, who are now in anguish, have only themselves to blame. They've been telling us for years that government was the problem, that we should, in the words of the sainted Grover Norquist, "shrink it to where we can drown it in the bathtub." They've been glorifying the rich and sticking it to the poor. This year, they don't have another candidate with the charisma of a banana. And into the vacuum steps Trump.
Suddenly, you've got a rich guy who they've seen on TV for years telling them their crummy lives are not their fault.
He talks the way they talk, macho and tough. He's had a long string of glamorous women and made millions. He's telling us he's not afraid of anything, and letting us think he'll kick these little Muslim bastards' balls through their ears.
Powerful medicine, and, if you have a brain, scary as hell.
Stay tuned for the next episode of the Decline of the West.
Snyder's feelings are hurt!
News flash: Gov. Rick Snyder was shocked, really shocked that the Detroit Free Press compared him to Trump in their anti-Muslim-bashing editorial.
In a column-length bleat, Snyder whined about how unfair it was that the paper compared the two, just because he became the first governor in the nation to hysterically call for a ban on letting in Syrian refugees after the Paris terror attacks.
His move led to an elephant's stampede in which nearly every other GOP governor joined in the Syrian-bashing. But when called on this, Snyder said he only wanted "assurances that my first priority — keeping Michigan citizens safe — is possible under current federal guidelines."
Well, anyone in immigration could have told him that any refugee coming to Michigan would first have spent as much as two years being intensively checked out. Most are women, children, and old men. No guys with Kalashnikovs on the Damascus-Detroit redeye this week, or ever.
By the way, how many of the seven terrorists killed in the Nov. 13 Paris massacres were Syrians? Well, so far as we know, that would be ... none. At least five, however, were citizens of Western European countries. So here's your chance, Snyder: Be the first governor on your block to proclaim: Ban them Brits!
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