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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/31/15

And the Most Disturbing Presidential Candidate of 2015 Award Goes to...

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Reprinted from The Nation

Not, somehow, Donald Trump.

Scott Walker
Scott Walker
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Gage Skidmore, Author: Gage Skidmore)
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Donald Trump dominated American politics in the second half of 2015, as he will in the first half of 2016 -- and perhaps well beyond that point, if Republican leaders and major media outlets continue to treat the billionaire blowhard with kid gloves. Trump has been surfing a wave of free media by delivering constantly crude attacks on immigrants and refugees and religious minorities, and by responding to mild rebukes by doubling down on the vitriol. In so doing, he has established a pattern of demagoguery that diminishes the national discourse and makes a mockery of American ideals.

But was Trump the worst demagogue of 2015? He certainly had competition from his fellow contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, as anyone who heard former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee ranting against marriage equality, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie mischaracterizing the Black Lives Matter movement or Texas Senator Ted Cruz proposing a religious test for accepting Syrian refugees can attest.

While it is easy to focus on Trump, and right to call him out, it's a mistake to neglect the extremism of his current and former rivals -- most of whom continue to say that they would back the billionaire if he were to win the GOP nomination.

Consider the case of Scott Walker, arguably the biggest political loser of 2015. Before Trump trumped the competition, Walker led the polls in key battleground states and nationally. He looked for a moment or so like a potential nominee -- earning praise as a supposedly "mainstream" Republican who could also appeal to the party's right-wing fringe.

Then Walker started talking, and Republicans were aghast.

By the time Walker quit his free-spending run for the Republican nomination, he was polling under 1 percent and headed for the "kids'-table" debate stage.

To a greater extent than any of the other candidates, Walker did himself in. No attack from a rival contender or media expose did the Wisconsinite so much harm as his own statements on foreign policy. When inquisitors such as ABC's Martha Raddatz asked basic questions, the governor's lack of background and preparation became painfully obvious. Yet it was not just ignorance that damaged this "mainstream" Republican. It was his bizarre and unrelenting disdain for public employees in particular and union members in general.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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