Who do you believe, the Klan or the Nobel laureates?

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaign at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaign at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

    Only a handful of newspapers in the entire country have endorsed Donald Trump — in Vegas (the paper is owned by an ally), Santa Barbara, St. Joseph (somewhere in Missouri), and Waxahachie (somewhere in Texas) — and we all know the reasons for his tiny tally.

    But wait! A fifth newspaper has come forward to extol him in a thumbs-up front-page editorial!

    “Make America great again!” The slogan appeals to people who are sadly realizing that something has happened to America. And it’s not good! The desire to make America great again touches at the very heart of Americans who are having a harder and harder time identifying with (the) new American image….We have to ask ourselves, what made America great in the first place? The short answer is that it is simple. America was great not because of what our forefathers did, but because of what our forefathers were. America was founded as a white Christian republic.

    There you have it. Trump has now been officially lauded by the Ku Klux Klan.

    Granted, presidential candidates can’t pick and choose their supporters. But it’s abundantly clear by now that the Klan, those sympathetic to the Klan, and those who read the Klan paper (The Crusader — “The Political Voice of White Christian America!”) have decoded Trump’s message of white grievance and love what they’re hearing.

    They loved it when Trump retweeted white supremacist claptrap. They loved learning that Trump and his dad used to reject black renters by sticking the letter C (for “colored”) on their applications. They love his baseless claims that black polling places are infested with voter fraud, and that these “certain areas” need to be patrolled by concerned white citizens (who are threatening to do just that). The Klan paper’s editorial warns of a “racial time bomb” that can only be defused if Trump “makes America great again.” Indeed, “This is the hour when the God of Destiny placed your feet to walk the earth.”

    Of course, the Klan endorsement doesn’t mean squat to the wider world; in general, newspaper endorsements don’t sway many people anyway. But sometimes, as in this case, you can judge a candidate by the type of people he attracts. (People who do stuff like this.)

    And sometimes, as in the next case, you can judge a candidate by the type of people he repels.

    Earlier this week, 370 economists — including eight Nobel laureates — signed a letter opposing Trump. They assailed his economic proposals — which would “decrease tax revenues by $2.6 to 5.9 trillion over the next decade according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation” — and they ridiculed “his deep ignorance of economics and inability to listen to credible experts” — but this was the key passage:

    He promotes magical thinking and conspiracy theories over sober assessments of feasible economic policy options. Donald Trump is a dangerous, destructive choice for the country. He misinforms the electorate, degrades trust in public institutions with conspiracy theories, and promotes willful delusion over engagement with reality. If elected, he poses a unique danger to the functioning of democratic and economic institutions, and the prosperity of the country.

    Meanwhile, in a separate letter on Monday, 19, winners of the Nobel prize for economics endorsed Hillary Clinton. Robert Shiller of Yale University, one of the signers, told The Wall Street Journal: “I don’t normally engage in politics, but I decided to sign this one because I think that the destruction that Trump’s campaign tactics have done to the institutions of this nation is a great moral issue. It isn’t Republican versus Democrat. It isn’t a normal political statement. It is a feeling of outrage against a demagogue.”

    What these endorsements and letters tell us is that, believe it or not, despite the saturation bright-shiny-object 24/7 cable coverage of the Anthony Weiner laptop thing, important stuff is still happening in this campaign. When the Klan endorses Trump, and indeed when Klan pal David Duke sarcastically hails Weiner with the Twitter hashtag “ThanksJews,” it is important. When accredited people with brains come forward to rebuke Trump for his dangerous brainlessness, it is important. When it’s revealed anew that Trump dodged paying taxes by playing with other people’s money, it is important. When it’s newly revealed that Trump’s companies have destroyed emails and documents in defiance of court orders, it is important.

    By the way, Team Trump is fleeing the Klan’s thumbs-up editorial with all deliberate speed; in a statement last night, it said (try not to laugh): “Mr. Trump and the campaign denounces hate in any form.” Translation: Sowing hate was fine in the primaries, but now we gotta hide it.

    And if the tepid early turnout among African-Americans is any indication, they might just get away with it. So who will be happier next Wednesday – the Klan or the Nobel laureates? The answer will tell us what kind of country this is.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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