In 1992, independent candidate Ross Perot positioned himself as a straight-talking businessman who would be tough on bad trade deals.
Be honest. Did you ever really believe that the foul-mouthed, swirly-coiffed, animate bottle of Tropicana Pure Premium that announced his presidential run by marking the guys who mill about Home Depot parking lots as the greatest threat to Western Civilization since the Barbarians sacked Rome would eventually run neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in a race for the White House?
Depending on where you stand politically, the 2016 race is shaping up to be either the election of your sweetest dreams or most abominable nightmares. Following the thinly-veiled Klan rally that was the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, erstwhile reality TV pimp-turned-trucker-hat-sporting Grand Dragon Donald Trump sunk in the polls like a snitch in the Hudson River. Heck, for a few halcyon summer weeks, it seemed like America might emerge from its collective fever swamp and realize that, while by no means perfect or even necessarily desirable, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was the far more stable option over which to hand control of the nuclear arsenals.
Alas, this is America we’re talking about.
George Wallace campaigns in 1962 on behalf of aggrieved white dudes across Dixie.
As the presidential primaries bleed into an American spring that’s sure to be unlike any other in recent political memory, one thing has remained bewilderingly consistent: Donald Trump has made the Republican Party his chew toy, and like a stubborn beagle who just found your favorite pair of socks, he isn’t letting go. Whether the boorish billionaire wins or loses the GOP’s presidential nomination, he’s already made his bug-splatter-like mark on the American national windshield, and it’s gonna take a hell of a lot scrubbing to clean off.
Plenty of commentators (including your’s truly) have placed Trump within a rich tradition of American demagoguery. Few comparisons, however, have been more apt than the striking similarities between The Donald and Deep-South reactionary George Wallace, who ran for president during the 1960s and 1970s on a platform of reactionary racism, crude anti-intellectualism, and economic populism.