When Donald Trump announced he was running for president last June, the Huffington Post, unlike most of the media, didn't exactly go gaga over him. In fact, as a sign they weren't taking him seriously, HuffPo decided to post all Trump news on their Entertainment page.
That changed when Huffington Post moved Mr. Trump from the Entertainment page to the Political page. Smart move. Because Donald Trump's not funny anymore. He's no longer a joke. He's a serious candidate for president, he's leading in the polls, and he's perhaps the most divisive, dangerous, racist candidate in our history. Not even George Wallace came close.
Mr. Trump's not alone, of course. He's standing on a platform of hatred -- against minorities, immigrants, women and gays -- which the Republican Party has been building for years. Even today, Jeb Bushand Ted Cruz want to allow only Christian refugees from Syria to enter the U.S. And 31 governors, mostly Republicans, have closed their borders to all Syrian refugees.
But Mr. Trump's by far the worst. His entire campaign is built on hatred. First, against Latino immigrants, whom he called criminals and rapists. Second, against African Americans, whom he's blamed for the majority of violent crime in New York City. And now against Muslims, all of whom he brands as terrorists and wants to keep out of the country, "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
What's going on with Donald Trump? That's not hard to figure out. It's right out of his 1997 playbook, "The Art of the Deal," where he recommends: If you want to command the stage, make the most daring demands possible and say the most outrageous things possible -- and people will pay attention to you."
Bingo. Mr. Trump doesn't care if his proposal to apply a religious test to anyone entering the country, while banning all Muslims, is blatantly unconstitutional and antithetical to basic American values. It's worked for him to get more media attention.
What's even more stunning is not what Mr. Trump said, but what most of his fellow Republicans refuse to say. Sure, some of them tut-tutted their disagreement with the ban on Muslims. This is "not what this party stands for," declared Speaker Paul Ryan. "I don't agree," echoed party chair Reince Priebus. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said such a ban would be "completely inconsistent with American values."
But then everyone of them turned and said they'd still vote forDonald Trump over Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, if Trump were the Republican nominee. What hypocrites! How could they possibly support anyone, even a Republican, who would promise to trash the Constitution on day one?
Meanwhile, three other candidates -- Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum -- volunteered they had their own plan to keep Muslims out of the country, which was better than Mr. Trump's. Only Lindsey Graham, who probably has the least chance of all but makes the most sense, dared take Mr. Trump on directly. "He's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot," Mr. Graham told CNN. "He is helping the enemy of this nation."
Instead of targeting all Muslims a la Trump, Mr. Graham said what the United States needs to do is embrace the "99 percent" of Muslims who reject radical, violent extremism and have died "by the thousands," many wearing the uniform of this country, trying to fight it.
So why are most of the other Republicans pussy-footing around Mr. Trump? Because they fear that if they're too hard on Mr. Trump, he might bolt from the Republican Party and run as an Independent, thereby assuring a Democratic victory.
Which is less scary than it sounds. Sen. Graham has the answer to that, too. As he points out, sure, Republicans might lose the White House, Senate and House if Mr. Trump's on the ballot as an Independent. But they'll probably also lose all three if Mr. Trump's the party nominee. Given they're likely to lose 2016 anyway, Graham says, "I'd rather lose without Donald Trump than try to win with him." That way, at least, the Republican Party would still stand for something other than outright discrimination.
The only way to stop Donald Trump is for the Republican Party to reject him summarily. It's true that what he proposes about Muslims disqualifies him from being president. But those who criticize him, yet say they'll still vote for him, are just as guilty and just as unqualified.
Bill Press is host of a nationally-syndicated radio show, the host of "Full Court Press" on Current TV and the author of a new book, "The Obama Hate Machine," which is available in bookstores now. You can hear "The Bill Press Show" at his website: billpressshow.com. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.