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Trump brings GOP to a frightening place

WASHINGTON – Republicans woke up over the weekend to the most grievous insult imaginable: The Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, of former New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, of Dwight D. Eisenhower, of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and, yes, former Gov. George E. Pataki.

“U.S. Republicans Want Trump,” shrieked the headline from a Quinnipiac University release about its poll leading up to Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. It refers to The Donald.

Months ago, I referred to the Manhattan real estate developer as the Jerry Lewis of politics. In the face of Trump’s antics, it turned out to be a slander on Lewis, who has been so generous to people with disabilities.

Then I thought maybe Trump was like a Don Rickles, but the Las Vegas favorite was only kidding. Trump isn’t.

Trump and the electronic media have brought Republicans into a new, fearfully evil plane, and frightfully, perhaps the whole country.

The Quinnipiac survey claimed Republicans favored Trump nationally by 31 percent, over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 22 percent.

What is it in Trump that Republicans like so much? Is it his language? At a recent rally in Milford, N.H., according to The Hill, Trump bawled out an expletive twice. The sofa soldier yelled, for example, “if we’re attacked, we’ll beat the s--- out of them.” That was only the flavor of the moment.

If you’re selling pure hate, bring it out of the back room, pick it off the underside of the bar like discarded gum, and dump it right onto the political stage.

To coin the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s phrase, Trump’s purpose is constantly “defining deviancy down,” making normal a pattern of conduct once viewed as disgusting.

Its only purpose is to attract attention. It began with his bigotries against Mexicans and other Latin Americans, and his preposterous call to “build a wall.” Then the bile segued into his call to temporarily bar all Muslims from the United States.

He accused surgeon Ben Carson of having an “incurable pathological temper,” comparing it to “child molesting.” He accused Florida Sen. Marco Rubio of being “a disaster with his credit cards” and panned former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina for “her face.” Trump claimed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz “stole” his Iowa caucus victory over him. He chided former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for recruiting his “mommy,” Barbara Bush, for the campaign.

There’s no serious talk from Trump about the $19 trillion debt, deepening poverty, murder and misery in the central cities, health care, labor rights, abortion reform, failed public schools, runaway college costs or outsourcing of industrial jobs.

On the campaign trail, it’s all meanness, grossness and bullying, including reporters sentenced to having to cover him.

Cut away the gloss and Trump is about recklessness, about violence of speech and of behavior and, evidently, of violence in the heart. It’s not funny anymore. As commander in chief, Trump would be a very dangerous man.

There’s the slimmest hope he can be stopped Tuesday in New Hampshire. Or maybe in New York on April 19.

We should blame the electronic media, particularly Fox and CNN, for playing a game with the country’s future, for the sake of ratings and advertising revenue, by putting this man on the air at every opportunity. The owners of these outlets have no more conscience than the lobbyists who represent them.

But at the root, political anger doesn’t explain Trump. Things ain’t bad enough to warrant electing Donald Trump. The cause may be something worse. The Germans have a phrase for it. They call it “geistige Leere,” a cultural, spiritual emptiness.