WHERE did we go wrong?
Was it in 1962, when Marilyn Monroe sidled onto a stage in what could have been mistaken for lingerie and warbled “Happy Birthday” to John Kennedy, blurring any line between the presidential and the pulchritudinous, between show business and the nation’s business?
Was it six years later, when Richard Nixon, trying to soften his image, made an appearance on the television program “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”?
Or was it about a quarter century after that, when Bill Clinton played saxophone on “The Arsenio Hall Show” and, at a Q. and A. with teenagers that was sponsored by MTV, laid down a marker for briefs over boxers?
I’m not sure. But of this I’m certain: We now utterly conflate entertainment and politics, routinely confuse celebrity with authority and regularly lose sight of the difference between a cult of personality and a claim to leadership.
And Donald Trump — still going strong, still dominating the polls — is the emblem, apotheosis and ripe, fleshy, orange-crowned fruit of this. (Yes, Donald, I called you a fruit. Deal with it.)
He’s not just some freaky mascot for a preternaturally angry electorate, though he’s plenty freaky and the electorate brims with disgust for career politicians and rage at a system that seems impervious to meaningful change.
He’s not just the Frankenstein that the Republican Party created, and he’s not just a blip.
He’s the show that we’ve been sucked into and that we’ve asked for. He’s the carnival that we invited to town.
— FRANK BRUNI, writing in the New York Times, “We Invited Donald Trump to Town”