Merck, the pharmaceutical company, has a series of TV ads on the dangers of the shingles virus. In one version, former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw said the pain of being slammed by opposing players was “nothing like the pain that shingles causes.”
“Excruciating” is the word my 78-year-old cousin used to describe the pain of the shingles blisters. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” he said. (Later, he made an exception for former Vice President Dick Chaney, but that’s another story.)
If you had chickenpox — and I did — the shingles virus is still lurking in the tissues of your nerves, waiting to strike. One in three people will get the disease, which has no cure. Sufficiently panicked by those odds, the Merck ads and my cousin’s tales of agony, I’m scheduled for a shingles vaccination shot in early January.
If only there was similar protection from Donald Trump.
Like shingles, Trump strikes hard and without warning. He began his presidential campaign by saying that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists.”
To everyone except his supporters, Trump has been spreading pain across the body politic ever since.
The blistering attacks are well known by now. Sen. John McCain is not a war hero because he was captured and held prisoner by the Viet Cong. Women are ridiculed: Megyn Kelly for her tough questions during a Republican candidate’s debate, Carly Fiorina for her looks, and Hillary Clinton for her bathroom breaks. Muslims in New Jersey allegedly cheered the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Trump now proposes that all Muslims should be corralled into a national data base. Increasingly, the news media has become a favorite target of his.
There is no cure for Trump’s boorish behavior. It will continue to spread whether he becomes president or not. It is just a matter of degree.
Should he reach the White House, I predict that Trump will have to pull his punches. He won’t get anything done by insulting politicians, constituencies, interest groups, minorities, women, etc., here at home, or the peoples and leaders around the world. He won’t play nice often, but he will be forced to more often than he may like.
In the more likely event that Trump fails to reach the White House, I’m confident that he will not return quietly to the realm of reality TV. Propelled by a national following and an ego of prodigious proportions, Trump has ascended onto the global stage and has no intention of leaving it. Emboldened by his supporters, he will be free to release even more vitriol and outlandish rants at whomever and whatever displeases him.
Demagogues like Trump are not new to our system. The previous century gave us Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. Both arrived without warning, made us fearful, and exposed us to prolonged periods of pain and suffering. The nation survived them, and will do so again.