If the Republican Primary season this election cycle has taught us anything it’s that we’ve seen the death of intelligence and a sense of shame in modern American politics. As I write this I can hear the chorus of all who say it died long ago. Wrong. It was in critical condition and on life support. Being something of a cockeyed optimist, I was hoping for a slow but steady recovery. Those dreams were dashed beyond repair during the last two Republican debates.

I once thought there couldn’t be a GOP primary line-up worse than the one fielded in 2012. I have never been so wrong in my life.

It was an open secret here in Ohio that Kasich was going to run. I fully expected his campaign to collapse under massive indifference as his aborted 2000 run did. Our error was it didn’t causes us to confront a terrifying reality about the Republican field. In what apocalyptic, alternative universe is Kasich seen as the sane, moderate, affable voice of reason? This shows how far into Dante’s Hell we have descended.

Every cognizant person knew Senator Ted Cruz was pushing himself to be the evil, smirking face of the GOP Liberty Caucus, the Tea Party torches and pitchfork wielding mob and the abhorrent manifestation of Evangelical pseudo Christians. After all he engineered the mutiny in the House of Representatives to shut down the Federal government. He called Majority Leader McConnell a liar on the Senate floor.

Cruz ruined Dr. Seuss for most of us as he felt it was clever, pithy remarks during a mini filibuster. Ted’s pandering grandstanding alienated colleagues as he raised funds positioning for a Presidential run from the far right. I felt then and still he is a dangerous, theocratic, homophobic, extremist nationalist hell bent to undo every progressive gain since the late 19th Century. It is horrifying he has drawn support for his vision of a despotic Christian America. The man is more dangerous than a meth fueled velociraptor.

Marco Rubio abandoned any pretense of being a quasi-moderate as he tested the wind and leapt into the contest as a born again conservative.

Then there was Jeb, the consensus nominee. After all how could the field stand against big donor money and the political prowess of the Bush family? He refused to see the United States was suffering from a Bush hangover that made a cheap tequila binge seem therapeutic.

Wait, it gets worse.

Minor candidates who were dancing on the edge of madness, jumped in joyfully espousing positions every bit as and at times more reactionary than Cruz’s. They also seemed to be functionally insane.

Santorum the frothy was back.

Huckabee left FOX and decided God wanted him to gallop into the fray tilting at secular windmills.

Carly Fiorina, not content with losing a Senate attempt in California and running Hewlett Packard into the ground, decided to toss her hat into the ring as the anti-Hillary.

Scott Walker, who never understood how ’16 was going to shape up, folded early.

Ben Carson slept walked out of the OR and into the wilderness of constant confusion.

We all imagined this field was going to be comedy gold. The reality is it’s black comedy on par with Dr. Strangelove.

Into this waltzed The Donald. He shrugged off his royal robes of The Apprentice, descending down an escalator into the waiting arms of a fawning press.

Fox News over the years had Trump on as a political analyst. Repeatedly. They gave him a veneer of legitimacy in their fair and balanced bubble. The audience was brainwashed into considering The Donald as a font of wisdom. FOX embraced the walking ego as an asset to their warped vision of journalism.

The mainstream press started giving him millions in free airtime as they covered his rambling shenanigans nearly nonstop. Absolutely no one with a lick of sense considered this self-aggrandizing, freak show busker as a real candidate.

Then space time seemed to shift in apprehension of a disaster of cosmic proportions.

With every appearance Trump pushed the envelope of common decency, rational discourse and any kind of knowledge concerning the issues that embroil the nation.

He started with his infamous wall. He declared it would be a wonderful wall that he’d make the Mexican Government pay for. He called undocumented immigrants from Mexico criminals and rapists. With a smattering of good people tossed in.

He wondered aloud why we had all these expensive nuclear weapons if we weren’t going to use them on Muslim nations.

Trump called for killing terrorists and their families. He wanted to reinstate torture as a viable American policy as he condemned our use under W as halfhearted.

He railed against political correctness using his rejection of it as cover for embracing war crimes and other despicable policies. Trump wanted to suspend any immigration of Muslims, period. He thought a database for them was a splendid idea. It seems tattoos and gold stars didn’t work well enough in Germany.

Trump blustered as he had protesters tossed out of his rallies, at time violently whipping the crowd into a frenzy. All in all he was creating a cult of personality. We’ve all seen how well that always ends. He did not suffer any dissent from his world view well. He still doesn’t.

Economists warned his economic policies would be catastrophic. Those cognizant of historical similarities broke out the taboo F word in American politics. Fascism.

With a decent understanding of the historical undercurrents swirling in his campaign I couldn’t help but fear the similarities to Nuremberg in 1932.

I’ve seen firsthand at a rally here in Columbus the demographic he draws. It’s not just the usual anti-government crowd so prevalent in our society. It’s blue collar and white collar. Young professionals and pensioners. Suburban soccer moms and white elitists. White supremacists and the disaffected. A cross section of white fear, angst and distrust of the “other”.

These people long for an America that only existed in 1950s sitcoms. The pundits who blame only a vague anger miss the Elephant in the arena.

Since the upheaval of the ’60s there has been a element of racism bubbling under the surface of American politics. Nixon, that evil, soulless, satanic bastard skillfully channeled division under a thin veil of respectability. He used the wiles of Machiavelli to rebuild the GOP after Goldwater’s debacle. Nixon masterminded the Southern Strategy into malware that spread through the Republican party consuming its soul. ┬áThat subtle, covert racism has been carefully cultivated by Republicans over decades by the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

After the election of an African American with a funny name, that racism and hatred has exploded into mainstream Republican politics. Birtherism and claims PBO is a secret Muslim Brotherhood sleeper agent were actually mentioned by members of the House. PBO was the holy grail of conservative paranoia. Trump has channeled the recurring American desire for a strongman to lead the nation out of the wilderness of diversity.

The lesser candidates have fallen by the wayside. Carson has admitted he’s toast and left. Nobody noticed. Some were surprised he was still running.

The crusaders left standing are Trump, with unimaginable support. He has won the majority of the contests so far. When he has lost it’s been by close margins. This demagogue has dominated the elections to date.

Embarrassed and humiliated, Jeb fled the field of battle.

Cruz is a strong second channeling his brand of fiery intolerance and is making a hard run at Trump.

Kasich with one win and few delegates is touted by himself as a sane alternative to Cruz and Trump. The grown up on his field of dreams. Kasich is holding on by a thread hoping for a brokered convention in Cleveland.

The last several debates have become a travesty and twisted distortion of the ideals that made America a flawed but great nation. The candidates argue like playground bullies marking their territory. Vicious attacks that are only juvenile taunts pass as legitimate political rhetoric. Hell, the closed caption transcribers have at times given up. They’ve described the scrum as unintelligible chatter.

After assuming Trump would crash and burn the candidates recognize, far too late, the mortal danger the party is in.

So, attacks on Donnie have devolved into insults about spray tans and make up. Candidates are called little or thirsty, sweaty and YUUUGE liars. Actual taunts of Trump having a small penis are unchallenged by the media as being deplorable. The Donald declared he’s well-endowed to approving laughter by the debate audience. Lincoln and Douglas it ain’t. And we wonder why the world feels we are insane and dangerous.

Trump’s inherent arrogance reared it’s head over and over like the chorus of a Justin Bieber song lodged in your head.

The easiest question in American politics is do you reject and disavow a horrendous statement or unwanted endorsements. So Trump was asked about former Grand Wizard David Duke endorsing him and if he rejected said endorsement. A question like that for God’s sake you answer Yes. Unequivocally. You don’t say you don’t know who David Duke is. You don’t need to look into it. You simply condemn them as vile racists and move on to the next question. See, EASY. Oh, for the record defending using a quote by Mussolini isn’t a good idea either. It’s right there with using the damned quote to begin with.

The hateful rhetoric and belief America is hungry for the proto fascism expressed by these small, venal, vicious coke fueled Orcas is a disgrace as our allies look on in terror. I wonder where this secular, tyrannical, lawless hellscape the candidates describe is lurking.

After these exhibits of performance art, I am left stunned and dismayed.

The 3/10 Debate was especially disturbing as the field shambles towards OH, FL et. al on Tuesday 3/15. Trump seemed as if someone slipped him some mood stabilizers. He was the Donald we expected, but boring. Cruz was the vicious vicuna wanting to burn down America to remake it as a theocracy out of the smoldering ashes. Rubio was reaching to try to sound reasonably sane by presenting insane policies dashing to irrelevance in FL primary. Kasich was more forceful , strident and lecturing as the exasperation leaked out like our leaded water.

A GOP Debate without pyrotechnics, derision, crass genital comparisons is more frightening. By calming down they’re trying to change the perception that all of them want to fundamentally alter the America into something unrecognizable. All of them seem to have discovered tempering the heated rhetorical flourishes are pushing sane voters away. Subduing the their bluster they hope to expand and draw in the right center into their nationalist pandering. Sadly, far too many on the right despise losing their dominance and privilege by wholeheartedly falling in line to burn it down.

The policies at the Republican debates have been the same policies of constant war, gutting then filleting Constitutional protections, theocracy and a push to economic ruin. The only difference is it’s now on simmer rather than at a full boil.

It is horrifying the people on these assorted bandwagons are our neighbors. Our family. Our friends. Our coworkers. People whom we thought were reasonable adults. We have exposed open wounds, seeping hatred. America seems not to be that much vaunted shining city on the hill. We seem to have fallen into a cesspool of hatred and despair from which we can only hope to escape.

I at times feel embarrassed and ashamed these carnival barkers are representing America, claiming to speak for the majority. Even that vicious, venal bastard Nixon never elicited these feelings in me.

Our last best hope is we have enough people left who are disgusted by these candidates to save us in November from our possible fate

If you’ve never had a reason to vote, or vote Democratic, you have to step forward. It’s a duty. A calling to attempt cry out for a bit of simple dignity and decency. By any metric either of the Democratic candidates are heads and shoulders above the insane carnage on the right.

So, do we stand by and watch Trump lead us blithely down the yellow brick road of nihilism or do we say no. Not here. Not ever. We have to stand against this tsunami of madness. We are better than this assault on our values, ideals and conscience. At least I hope we are.

We have to vote for real leadership or look on in despair as the America we cherish falls.