Trump is a wake-up call -- even if he fades

Eventually, his shtick could get old, even for his fans. There are signs that this is happening. But there are also signs that he’s improving as a candidate. His interviews are getting sharper and less manic. Earlier this month, reporters kept asking Trump what it would take for him to drop out of the race. It seems to me what they were really asking was, “When will things get back to normal?”

The hard truth: They just might not get back to normal.

But let’s assume the skeptics are right and Trump eventually goes away. What then? To listen to some of the consultants and graybeards, all will be right with the world. They will say, “See, you freaked out over Trump for nothing.” That strikes me as exactly the wrong response. Whether or not Trump is a flash in the pan, what worries me is what his candidacy says about the pan. If you survive a heart attack, that doesn’t mean you should go back to the diet and lifestyle that gave you the heart attack in the first place.

Whether or not he gets the nomination, Trump should be seen as a wake-up call. His entirely cynical exploitation of immigration — Trump criticized Mitt Romney in 2012 for being too harsh on immigration — tapped into an entirely sincere dissatisfaction with the status quo. His brilliant leveraging of his celebrity for political gain reveals much about the calcified state of American politics. Trump may fade away, but the forces driving Trumpism are more enduring and must be taken seriously.