Donald Trump? That Donald Trump?? President of the United States??!!
When aging movie mogul Jack Warner was informed that Ronald Reagan was running for president, he reportedly shook his head in dismay.
"No," he said. "Jimmie Stewart for President. Ronald Reagan for best friend."
There are some superficial similarities between Reagan and Trump. The much-beloved Reagan was California's first celebrity governor, a second-tier movie star who became a first-tier president, the man who created and embodied modern conservatism.
Trump, by contrast, has been characterized as a second-tier billionaire, a schemer and scammer, betrayer and swindler, and an unprincipled ignoramus. He almost certainly now will be the Republican presidential nominee.
Trump's positions range from incoherent to dangerous. Unlike Reagan, he has no experience in government, no club of experienced advisors and little prospect of assembling a competent Cabinet. Imagine the likes of Jim Baker, Caspar Weinberger or George Shultz working for Trump — no way!
Trump has been a public figure for decades. During that time, and especially during his candidacy, he's said some strange things.
John McCain isn't a war hero because he was a POW? Calling women he doesn't like "fat pigs," "dogs," "slobs" and "disgusting animals"? Telling a magazine interviewer, "You know, it doesn't really matter what [the media] write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass." Any of these remarks would likely doom a Republican candidate for El Paso County commissioner — but come November, Trump will be at the top of the GOP ticket.
Will Colorado Springs Republicans support Trump, despite his faults? As far as I can tell, no Democratic candidate for president has ever carried Colorado Springs. And of all the Dems who have ever run, it's reasonable to assume Hillary Clinton would be among the most disliked by local voters.
A few months ago, I couldn't imagine any scenario in which Trump would be the nominee. Today, I can't imagine any scenario in which Trump fails to win in El Paso County, despite his apparent handicaps.
Consider the negatives. Women, Hispanics, African-Americans and Muslims have reason to vote against him. Even more significantly, many members of our large, influential and overwhelmingly Republican military community can't stomach Trump. Will they hold their noses and vote for Hillary, not vote at all, or go for a third-party candidate?
"(Libertarian candidate) Gary Johnson is polling at 11 percent," said a prominent GOP insider, "so some Republicans might vote for him. I suspect that Republican candidates statewide in districts like House District 17 will just duck the question of who they're supporting and say, 'This race is about our district and our issues. I'll leave national politics to CNN — let's talk about our opportunities and our path forward.'"
Stan VanderWerf, an Air Force retiree who's seeking the GOP nomination to replace Sallie Clark on the Board of County Commissioners, was willing to go on the record — although without much enthusiasm.
"I have reservations about Mr. Trump," he said, "but I'm more concerned about Sanders or Clinton — so yes, I will vote for Trump."
District 3, which includes the west side, Manitou Springs, Broadmoor and Ute Pass, has elected moderate conservatives such as Clark and former Manitou Mayor Marcy Morrison. Could Democrat Electra Johnson beat either VanderWerf or his primary opponent, Manitou resident Karen Cullen?
We'll see, but it may be that Trumpism is part of our civic DNA. We may pretend to a certain gentility, to a decorous political culture led by respectable folks like Clark, John Suthers, Amy Lathen, Merv Bennett and Pete Lee, but we've fallen for a Trumpian scoundrel in the recent past.
Slumlord, photographer kicker, tax evader, misogynist, convicted felon and current prison inmate ... yep, Douglas Bruce. We bought into his cunningly crafted amendments to the City Charter and Colorado Constitution, believed his hyperbole, reveled in his rhetoric and elected him to office.
Trump is Bruce written large and turned upside down. He doesn't care about constitutions, charters, and taxes — he just wants money, power, fame and beautiful women. But just as Brucian taxophobia hijacked Colorado, Trumpian narcissism may conquer America.
Colorado Springs? We'll see, but I think we're about to fall for another con artist. Here's hoping that other cities don't fall for the scam.