In today’s America, political parties no longer elect our president.

Forty-three percent of registered voters are not enrolled in either party; that’s the largest group of voters. Registered Democrats comprise 30 percent, while Republicans trail at 26 percent.

Those numbers go a long way toward explaining the phenomena of “The Donald.”

Independents will decide this election. At this point they are faced with extreme choices: progressive liberalism, even socialism on one side, or ultra-conservatism on the other. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz. Only the strongest partisan voters find this lineup acceptable.

Therefore, from the rubble of two discredited political parties, comes the explosion of a different choice for president. A non-public servant, a recognized TV celebrity, a supreme opportunist.

Donald Trump has zero political experience, and no real qualifications for commander-in-chief. It’s as if it is only a movie. Trump has turned a joke into a possibility.

But this arrogant egotist does understand the No. 1 political axiom: Find a winning issue and run on it, relentlessly. That issue today is national security and the effect that immigration has on it.

Look no further for what is happening in this presidential election. Fear is palpable in America. So Trump shouts, “I will build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, I will round up and deport all illegal immigrants” — all 11 million — “and no Muslims or Syrians will be admitted to this country.”

Is that realistic? Under normal circumstances, the average American would react incredulously with something like, “Wait a minute, we’re going to have a multi-billion-dollar wall, like the one that was torn down in Berlin, and somebody else will pay for it? Eleven million people, families with children living here, will be thrown out, and if you practice a different religion than us, you are banned from admittance?”

Substitute fear for reason and you will get a demagogue for a leader. A lesson taught by “populist” dictators in third-world countries.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this years presidential campaign is realization that so many understand so little about America and the greatest democracy in the world. A poll leading up to Monday’s Iowa caucus reveals that 43 percent of Democrat voters there actually consider themselves socialists and will vote for Bernie Sanders. The self-avowed socialist’s strongest supporters nationally are ages 18-35. Our college and university professors have succeeded in convincing a generation that not only is socialism acceptable, but that it may be preferable to capitalism.

Leading Democrat presidential contender Hillary Clinton and her party struggle to explain any difference between progressive liberalism and socialism. Instead, she simply offers us a third term of the policies of an extremely divisive president, the least successful since Jimmy Carter. Hillary is one of the most distrusted candidates in history.

The Democrat choice essentially becomes four more years of homeland insecurity and economic decline.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party implodes with tea party candidates in a crowded primary field.

Core conservatives, hoping to select the Republican nominee, have decided that Ted Cruz is their champion.

Cruz first must get by the master illusionist, star of this movie, The Donald. And even if Cruz could do that, can a self-described ideologue, who voted against a strong defense budget, win a general election when national security is the No. 1 issue?

So, a master marketer and entertainer, creating a new brand for himself, commands center stage in a “Star Wars”-like election. Donald Trump has made himself the story.

Name recognition is everything in politics. Trump gets away with insulting everyone, not answering on any critical issue with specificity, and claiming to unite us, while actually dangerously further dividing our nation.

Using the art of intimidation, he manages to avoid questions of business methods (four bankruptcies) and personal character (marriage infidelity).

At Liberty University, Trump, while attempting to prove his religiosity to the evangelicals. has to be corrected by the student body, as he once again misquotes the Bible.

Finally,Trump declares himself bigger than the presidency itself by petulantly dodging the final Iowa debate.

An electable alternative must emerge to the political aberration we are witnessing, because right now the leading Republican and Democrat candidates offer only one choice, “none of the above!”

Trump’s campaign is not about making America great again. It’s all about and his lifetime mantra, “I am the greatest!”

Trump or Sanders. It’s midnight in America.

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.


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