Repeatedly underestimated as a court jester or silly showman, Mr. Trump muscled his way into the Republican elite by force of will. He badgered a skittish Mitt Romney into accepting his endorsement on national television, and became a celebrity fixture at conservative gatherings. He abandoned his tightfisted inclinations and cut five- and six-figure checks in a bid for clout as a political donor. He courted conservative media leaders as deftly as he had the New York tabloids.
At every stage, members of the Republican establishment wagered that they could go along with Mr. Trump just enough to keep him quiet or make him go away. But what party leaders viewed as generous ceremonial gestures or ego stroking of Mr. Trump — speaking spots at gatherings, meetings with prospective candidates and appearances alongside Republican heavyweights — he used to elevate his position and, eventually, to establish himself as a formidable figure for 2016.
During the rise of Trump as a presidential candidate over the past eight months, I've tried to only post links that point out the mostly indirect responsibility that the GOP bears for his ascendancy. To my mind, for the moment, it's the most important story to tell. But this piece by Haberman and Burns blows the door wide open on the theory as a whole.
Until now, I saw Trump as a byproduct; a forest fire of hate and bigotry created by a movement that was only stoking the flames of the original camp fire. But this reporting suggests two very important things:
1. The GOP played a far larger role in his candidacy than anyone knew.
2. He's got nothing to lose and, simultaneously, everything to gain.
Trump is a blowhard and a know-nothing, a pathological liar who uses his money and power to insulate himself from any version of the truth in which he is not on top.
But—he's got the money to keep this facade up. For a very long time. And as long as he sees this presidential run as as a me-against-the-world scenario, and millions of disenfranchised Americans are content to see him as their proxy for their anger and fear, he is dangerous. From here on out, I will no longer consider him just a clown, a charlatan.
And I think you should read the above linked-to piece, and I think you should—we should all—reconsider how we think of him, before it's too late.