I understand that Republican politicians can't expect to be elected by running on a platform that too obviously stresses the primary purpose of the party: Protecting the assets and continued upward mobility of the rich in this country. Politically speaking, the downside of being rich is that there are so many people who aren't and those people wouldn't mind a little hand-up from Washington every once in a while, too.
That annoying fact means that GOP hopefuls have to rally to issues that function more as a distraction than a high-minded defense of a noble cause. There has been a great deal indignant muttering about where the GOP's two current front-runners for the presidency are taking the party with their strident exhortations that pander to the worst aspects of the American psyche. But Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz are not espousing anything that hasn't been in the GOP's Handbook of Relentless Pandering for decades.
The biggest boon to the Republican Party in the last century occurred when it recognized that the South had become the political equivalent of the Green Pastures after Lyndon Johnson's 1964 Civil Rights legislation stated that black people were entitled to the same rights as whites in the United States. Applying lip service to sentimental antebellum hogwash wasn't going to suffice any longer and the South flocked en masse to proponents of the thinly-veiled bigotry that is always at the core of any opposition to equal rights proposals.
The big problem for the party's resident wheeler-dealers today is that neither candidate is bothering to coat the bitter fruit in a layer of frosted sugar.
That bitter fruit was very much in display when Rose Hamid, a 56-year-old flight attendant, bravely attended a rally for Donald Trump in South Carolina dressed in a hijab. (Just imagine the kind of chutzpa it takes to wear a hijab to an event featuring the country's premiere hate monger and to do it in South Carolina!) While the front-runner railed on in that arrogantly dopey drone his followers find so authoritative about how Syrian refugees are all ISIS member in disguise, Ms. Hamid stood silently in the background. It was like watching a bratty kid play with matches while Smokey the Bear loomed directly behind him.
Her presence obviously rattled a crowd that was not expecting to experience any traces of dignity and civilized behavior at an event headlined by their favorite NBC reality star. They began chanting Trump's name just as they had been told to do by the candidate's staff in case of trouble (and a 56-year-old Muslim woman standing silently in a hajib presents a great deal of potential trouble). The lady was eventually escorted out of the building, setting off a veritable orgy of triumphant glee from the paunchy, middle-age white guys who believe that holding a sign bearing the name of someone who represents their notion of success in America makes them winners, too. One of them hovered over Ms. Hamid's departing figure with his thumbs down as if some magnificent victory had just been realized.
It is still puzzling why this particular segment of society (let's call them the Perennially Angry Crowd) has chosen Mr. Trump as its standard bearer. This group is drawn to anyone who doesn't represent what they perceive as the political establishment. Time and again, however, he has demonstrated the fact that there is a distinct and dangerous difference between dissatisfaction with politics and the abysmal ignorance of governing.
Almost every other aspect of Mr. Trump's cushy rollercoaster of a life bodes against his ever being a champion of the people flocking to his rallies.
He likes to present himself as a "self-made man," thereby establishing credentials as the embodiment of the American Dream. In fact, Trump inherited more money than it takes to sustain most African nations for a decade and then parlayed an astonishing need for attention into the lucrative business of associating his name with entities paid for by other people's money. His claims as a world-class businessman are undermined by his involvement in four bankruptcies. He boasts about waking up with the world's most beautiful women, talks wistfully about dating his own daughter, and has been married three times and yet supposedly appeals to the same people who are always hawking traditional family values and condemning Bill Clinton as a serial lecher.
He has as much in common with the people who seem enraptured by him as Kim Kardashian does with a migrant worker. I just hope that they (and the rest of us) don't have to find that out the hard way.