When Donald Trump declared his presidential candidacy, quite a few people, including me, thought "never in a million years will he be the Republican nominee, let alone president."
As his poll numbers rose, we thought "he's got a hard ceiling; not a chance he'll carry the race." And "not even GOP primary voters could be THAT stupid."
But it looks like I was wrong, and all those other people were too. With the Iowa caucus and then New Hampshire just around the corner, Trump's running as hot as ever. Not even his cowering, sputtering fear of Megyn Kelly, so disabling that he announced his intention to skip this week's Fox News debate rather than face her, seems likely to dent his position as the Republican front-runner.
Heck, he might even win in November, proving once and for all the Mencken was right ("democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard").
Are there any consolations to be found in the possibility of a Trump presidency? Yes, I think there are.
When you get right down to it, he's not any more especially authoritarian, xenophobic or narcissistic than the other "major party" presidential candidates. He's just less filtered in how he presents himself.
The idea of his finger on the nuclear button bothers me, but not any more than the idea of Ted Cruz's, Chris Christie's or Hillary Clinton's.
It might not be as bad as it sounds. Especially since the alternatives aren't exactly attractive on their own merits.
Maybe a Donald Trump presidency would be right up in our faces enough, more so than the reigns of those other prospects, to get it through Americans' heads: "Let's never do THAT again." I doubt it, but hey, it could happen.
More likely, it would just mark the final death knell of the Republican Party. Which, I admit, would make putting up with four years of Trump more than worth it, especially if it produced a whole new political alignment -- Democrats alone on the right instead of splitting that side of the political spectrum with the Republicans, the Libertarians finally giving America a "major party" on the left (no, that was not a typo).
Scoff if you like, but don't step on my dreams. As long as we're considering the surrealistic nightmare of a prospective Trump presidency, I'm entitled to them.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).