By Mary Sanchez
The Kansas City Star
This is how far American politics have disintegrated.
We're arguing over whether a presidential candidate, a man leading in the polls not because of leadership qualities but because he's a master at courting the worst of nativist America, should be barred from hosting Saturday Night Live.
Am I living in a sitcom?
The decline of U.S. political discourse is being live-tweeted. And it's about to usher in huge advertising dollars for NBC.
Despite pushback from some quarters, Donald Trump will host the show Saturday. NBC is merely lining up to slice off a little share of the mania the Republican Party has wrought. Don't expect a change of heart from the show's executives. They are not impressed by complaints that Trump is courting xenophobia and bigotry with his sweeping generalizations casting Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers.
Nearly 140,000 have signed a petition sponsored by MoveOn.org asking the network to quash Trump's scheduled appearance. Don't expect NBC to cave; nor will it be shaken by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez's warning in a letter to the network and to Comcast that Trump's hosting will be "a huge corporate blunder." The problem is that it won't be. People will eat it up. If Trump has convinced Americans of nothing else so far in his campaign, he has proved that he is ratings gold. And the show's format is a perfect platform for American politics in 2015. Keep it light and fun, deliver the punch line, get the laugh and move on. And don't forget the musical guest!
It doesn't hurt that a lot of American voters like their leaders to have celebrity dazzle.
Yet a politician's duty is not to entertain with witty banter or appeal to the public's mean-spiritedness with biting jabs. The greatest leaders of the past are not remembered for their flashy wardrobes or their ease at the podium. They steadied the nation's soul in times of war, understood the delicate methods of diplomacy, correctly analyzed still-developing economic threats and made tough calls on backing voting and civil rights when others pressed for stagnation, not progress.
But we've lost sight of this.
Now candidates can't be taken seriously unless they make the rounds of late night and early morning televised yap-fests. It was inevitable that swaths of the electorate would swoon for whoever sparkled the brightest in the glare.
Trump alone is not the danger. It's the fact that he is electrifying a portion of America that is stuck longing for the past and scared of the future. They are people who are unnerved by the changing demographics of the country.
Gutierrez's letter to NBC spoke of this. SNL's invitation to Trump is "a level of endorsement that says to America that every hateful and racist thing Donald Trump has said since the moment he launched his campaign is acceptable and no big deal."
The nation is changing demographically. By 2023, Latinos will be about 30 percent of all school children. Immigrant entrepreneurs launched nearly 30 percent of the nation's new businesses in 2014. Those two statistics should tell you something: Immigrants are a huge part of America's economic vitality at present, and their role in future economic growth and innovation will be key.
Trump's nativist supporters know that the racial and ethnic shifts in the population are unstoppable. What they don't know is that they have nothing to lose and much to gain from fully integrating every American and every immigrant into the economy. But instead of addressing the complexities of immigration reform and the competitiveness of a global workplace, Trump feeds off of people's fears like a parasite.
His crazy ideas to solve illegal immigration with a giant wall and family-destroying mass deportations are affronts to morality and common sense. Even a confirmed cynic cannot believe that Americans would be foolish enough to elect this clown president. So it's safe to say that Donald Trump will soon enough go back to being a promoter of glitzy branded real estate and dull reality television.
In the meantime, he will continue to press America's panic buttons and troll the Washington establishment. He's having the time of his life, getting even with the media snobs who laughed at him for so long while legions of people he considers losers rush to join his bandwagon.
The joke is on America.
Reach Mary Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org.