Telling people to sit down and shut up is the last thing newspapers ought to do, but that was the message the editorial board of the Des Moines Register sent last week when it dropped a treatise titled, "Trump should pull the plug on his bloviating sideshow."
How does that make sense, and why is it necessary to say? The scary answer comes from a line in the editorial that bounced around my brain so deafeningly that I decided the only way to get it out was to share it with you. The piece talks about Trump being at the top of a national poll, then reads: "But being electable is not the same as being qualified."
Actually, democracy could be defined as the belief that being electable and being qualified are the same thing.
And that's one of the real problems with the piece: it indicts Trump for being a "feckless blowhard," but it's also an indictment of the voters, a fear that they'll be susceptible to his feck-free hard-blowing.
If elected, Trump would be among the worst presidents in our history. I'm talking Buchanan-level suckiness. We could have even Republicans begging Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to lead a peaceful overthrow of a Trump administration six weeks after the inauguration.
I would say the guy is wrong about everything, but except for trashing our military prisoners of war and immigrants he's never said what he'd actually do about anything. Quick quiz: what does Trump want to do about tax rates, infrastructure, health care, the environment, military readiness, military spending, etc.? I dunno. You dunno. Because, you know, he dunno.
On the one area where he's been vocal, immigration, I'm his exact opposite: he thinks many of our 11 million immigrants here illegally are criminals and rapists who must be expelled and kept from re-entering with a big wall. Most days I think we ought to let in another 11 million immigrants and make room by kicking out a like number of the laziest and most annoying natural-born Americans we can find. Seriously.
But that does not mean Trump does not have the right to say that people here illegally shouldn't be allowed to be here. Saying that does not make him insane. In fact, to many Americans, it's a statement as simple as "two plus two equals four." And although he's absolutely wrong on the statistics of claiming immigrants are rapists or criminals, it is true that any crimes committed by illegal immigrants in this country were committed in this country only because our federal government did not keep them out or expel them.
I don't feel any need to shut Trump up, or call him names. OK, honestly, I do feel a desire to call him names, but it's not an irresistible desire. I don't feel the need to tell him to pull out of the race, because I trust the marketplace of ideas. I trust the public, the voters of this great nation, to see the truth and act on it.
It does not behoove the Des Moines Register's editorial board to demand Trump pull out, to demand that the current top choice of Republican voters not be an option for those voters because it thinks he's icky. And the argument the board makes, that other candidates are going to be denied a spot in the upcoming debate because Trump will have taken it, is the ultimate in sour grapes.
If a candidate isn't in the top 10, it's because no one currently cares what he or she has to say. People currently care what Trump has to say.
If the paper's editorial board has a problem with the policies Trump supports, whatever they are, it ought to attack those. But if it has a problem with the democratic system that lets Trump run, or the voters that are making him a leading candidate, it ought to have the guts to attack democracy, and the voters.