There is pandemonium in the squared circle of public life. Pretty much every day someone (a candidate, or a campaign, or the media) will ‘‘hold up some bright, shiny object,’’ as Carly Fiorina put it on ‘‘Meet the Press.’’ That increasingly popular metaphor is an apt one, because the various images it conjures — an intergalactic body glowing brighter as it moves closer to dumbfounded earthlings, a ball on a string held by a hypnotist, a mobile hung above a baby’s crib — all, to varying degrees, seize attention, whether through their novelty or through manipulation. In politics, a shiny object is the preoccupation of the moment: the 14th Amendment, or so-called birthright citizenship and anchor babies, or, inevitably, any poll.
In these dazzle-me-now days, there can be grave consequences for a candidate who comes off as gray and plodding and bogged down in nuance — let alone in shame or embarrassment. Writing in Esquire, Charles P. Pierce said he had expected that Scott Walker would be doing better with the Republican electorate at this point. ‘‘What I did not anticipate,’’ Pierce wrote, was “the rise of the shiny object that is The Man Called Trump.’’ Pierce added that he also did not expect that Walker himself ‘‘would turn out to be such an unimpressive lump of cheese.’’
Donald Trump ‘‘is the brightest and shiniest of all the bright, shiny objects,’’ said David Axelrod, a longtime Obama political adviser. Trump is like a one-man meteor shower of this genre. He sprays exhilarating antagonism upon all manner of Megyn Kellys, Mexicans or whoever his ‘‘loser’’ target of the day might be. He tweets around the clock, rides around in a shimmering helicopter and has that noggin of shimmering hair. He hurls us into the ropes until we find ourselves disoriented, careening against a turnbuckle: Where are we? How did we get here?