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Like the Hat Says... 

Deconstructing the Trump phenomenon

Donald Trump is easy to understand. He needs to hear himself talk, see himself on TV or feel the rush of a Twitter feud. He's also clever and not to be underestimated. I've seen plenty to convince me that he's not qualified, in terms of temperament or experience, to lead our nation. What's confounding has been trying to understand how so many support him.

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HELLO, ANGRY MOB The Founders warned us about this; in Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton understood that we'd have disagreements like these, unleashing "a torrent of angry and malignant passions." When we let such passions cloud our judgment, our democracy is in danger. Americans need to engage in this election.

WORST. FIELD. EVER. Trump's rise was enabled by his (lack of) competition; it was as if the Bad News Bears grew up and went into politics. After the minefield of GOP-approved policy positions weeded out viable candidates, and Ted Cruz became Republicans' last hope, it was clear that the party badly botched things. Ironically, the winner refused to play their game. Trump ignores party leadership on everything from Syria to free trade; he flip-flops with ease, often having Etch-A-Sketch moments in the same interview. The GOP choked on its own orthodoxy and failed to offer America a plausible presidential candidate.

STOCKHOLM SYNDROME You're flying along when the hijackers take control. Next thing you know, half the plane has joined them: "Yeah, sorry, but we're with the hijackers now." Via hostile takeover, Trump seized the GOP, insulting many prominent Republicans along the way. Somehow they're OK with that and have endorsed him.

BULLIES ARE COOL AGAIN Remember how you taught your kid not to bully, or to stand up to bullies? Forget that sissy, do-unto-others crap. Trump's campaign is right out of seventh grade, where relentless name-calling can rule the school. Understanding those joining the hijackers is like making sense of a 12-year-old: They're too scared to cross the biggest bully on the playground.

THIS WAS THEIR PLAN? The GOP has obstructed President Obama for almost eight years now. Many of our toughest issues are on hold. Just wait about a decade, the GOP seemed to promise, and come 2016 it'll be the glorious dawn of... Donald Trump? Let's agree: There is no plan. There never was a plan. America has elected too many people who are just winging it. If you can't govern, articulate a coherent vision or offer up realistic leaders, you have ceased being a viable political party. The Democrats have their own problems, with an unlikable frontrunner and a split personality. But the GOP, at the national level, is nearly defunct.

NONE OF THE ABOVE Some Republicans say they're just not gonna vote. This is like your kid making Jell-O while you're gone, getting it everywhere — even in the curtains — and when confronted, he's like, "Oh, I'm not cleaning that up." Then he pouts. The GOP has made a complete mess of this election, and their answer is to sit it out? Sorry, voting is your sacred American duty and taking a pass is a dereliction. Imagine the yard sign: "GOP 2016: We're Sitting This One Out, America." Navigating this election will be a character-defining moment for individual Republicans. The ones who stay true to their principles, take on the bully and resist the hijackers will be the ones left to rebuild the GOP.

Despite national polls that have some believing this is a close race, smart Republicans know that nominating Donald Trump is the political equivalent of a Hail Mary.

In the fall, remember, you have to win the ELECTORAL COLLEGE. Toss-up states are not looking good for Trump. And instead of mending fences, he continues his insult-comic politics, alienating the swing voters he needs to win those swing states.

The general election is also a war of MONEY, and Trump needs lots of it, which is awkward since he just spent months crowing about how he's self-funding his run. Many deep-pocket donors are taking a hard pass.

We already know that many Republicans are saying they'll sit this one out. Meanwhile, Democrats and many independents should be fired up, having either been personally insulted (women, immigrants, the disabled) or just concerned about Supreme Court nominations. TURNOUT is also a function of on-the-ground organization, something you can't conjure out of your smartphone from Trump Tower.

MODERATE REPUBLICANS make up about 30 percent of the party, are well-educated (they believe in science) and not hung up on becoming the bathroom police. The question isn't just how tepidly they'll support Trump, but whether the GOP could lose them forever.

A lot of normal Americans are content to do great work, raise great families, enjoy the fruits of this great nation and generally pursue happiness as they are able. They don't want America getting screwed up. After witnessing the debasement of our political process over the past year, these less inflamed Americans would like nothing better than four more years of Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton looks like she'd stick closest to his playbook. Americans of all political persuasions also know that we need two safe and sane political parties to function; currently, one is on the rocks, threatening to take us all down with it.

So like the hat says, by delivering the White House to Hillary Clinton and forcing a day of reckoning on the right, Donald Trump may yet Make America Great Again. ♦

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