It’s a disease called Imminent Death Syndrome, as parodied on HBO’s “Mr. Show,” the mid-’90s sketch comedy series from David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, wherein “a person is on the brink of death for 80 to 100 years.” In the sketch, Cross’ character, Larry, who hasn’t been let on that he has IDS, wants to learn guitar. The guitar school dudes, having been tipped off by Larry’s mother about his IDS, take patronizing pity on the sure-to-be-dead-soon Larry, telling him how he’s the best guitar player they’ve ever heard (despite it being his first lesson). The façade escalates to point of Larry being invited to play guitar in the guitar dudes’ band’s concert that night. So in front of 3,000 fans, each one called by Larry’s mother to root him on and to not let him in on the secret, Larry lives out his dream on stage. And yet, Larry never dies. He keeps going and is even awarded an honorary degree and allowed to practice medicine as people make a path for him in order “to make the victim’s final days rewarding.”
To date, Imminent Death Syndrome is the only rational explanation for the Donald Trump phenomenon, this rich demagogue who got it in his head that it would be fun to run for president.
It’s as if some twisted Make-A-Wish-style group has made millions of phone calls to primary voters and 95 percent of the Republican establishment to make way for a clownish misogynist bigot who, as described by the Huffington Post editor’s note that accompanies every story written about him, is “a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims – 1.6 billion members of an entire religion – from entering the U.S.”
Here are some of Trump’s IDS highlights so far:
Build a wildly impractical wall on the U.S.-Mexico border that would cost tens of billions, require an act of Congress to build and take years and years and years? Sure! Go for it! You can do it! Oh, and Mexico’s going to pay for it? Of course, it will. You’re brilliant!
Round up 10 million undocumented Mexican immigrants, turning ’Merica into a stop-and-frisk police state, requiring camps full of hundreds of thousands of humans waiting to be processed and shipped away at the cost of who-knows-how-much? Sure! Go for it! You can do it!
Mock a disabled reporter on stage in front of thousands? Well, wasn’t that funny?
Relegate women to little more than menstruators, dogs, fat pigs, horse-faces and disgusting urinators? Oh, but at least he’s not politically correct. Isn’t he just the best?
Insult not only a war hero and not only a venerable U.S. senator, but insult him for being a prisoner of war, insinuating that it was foolishness or idiocy that led to the capture. This is criticism coming from a person who received rich-kid deferments to avoid the very war he’s criticizing the senator for being captured in, criticism coming from the de facto leader of a political party whose these-colors-don’t-run support of military has been trumpeted for decades as stronger and more emphatic than that of the left? Sure thing, IDS patient. And that withering, spineless U.S. senator, John McCain, goes as far as to endorse him!
Go after the judge trying his company’s fraud case, saying that Mexicans (the judge is American) and Muslims would be incapable of being impartial and then implores his followers to join him in the attacks? Yes, please. Show us the way.
And to do one better, as an act of gratitude, the highest and hollowest elected official in the Republican Party, Paul Ryan, calls Trump’s remarks “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” And yet, of course, Trump still has his full support.
I’m sure there are other more complex and nuanced explanations for the millions who have cast primary votes for Trump and the sheepy politicians falling lockstep in line behind him. But for now, I’m going with Imminent Death Syndrome.