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It’s turned into the question of the summer: “So when do you think this Trump thing is going to end?”

I’ve had a lot of people ask me that lately, and the honest-to-goodness answer is that neither I nor anyone else has the slightest idea when The Donald’s ghastly high-wire act is finally going to come crashing down.

I mean, Fox News tried to

So no, I have no idea when Trump’s run will end. December? March? January 20, 2025? Anything once dismissed as absurd seems possible right now. Let’s elect a kitten governor! Let’s pump maple syrup through the Keystone pipeline! Let’s blow up the moon for fun! Why not?

And yet, as farcical as it seems, we probably should have seen it coming.

The Trump Bump isn’t some random, bizarre lightning strike out of the blue. It’s the natural result of everything that’s gone wrong with American politics over the last thirty years combined with a hyper-connected, paranoid, bitter, and angry electorate. In short: something like this was bound to happen sooner or later.

What makes Trump successful enough that he’s leading the pack of Republicans and is within bellowing distance of Hillary Clinton in some polls has less to do with policy, positions, or even what passes for his personality, and far more to do with the way national politics has turned into a howling maelstrom of hate and misery. Pundits and radicals have been screaming in our ears, desperate to outdo one another in a quest for ratings and clicks, until the truth is completely lost in the fog.

This kind of warping of reality is happening much, much more on the right than on the left; as a result, certain segments of that electorate are ready to mistake an obnoxious rich man whose speeches are nothing more than a stream-of-consciousness, right-wing radio rant for a breath of fresh air.

It’s impossible at this point to dismiss Trump and what he represents. Something about campaigns has shifted. From here on out, all the things we thought we knew about politics will matter less and less.

Here are some examples: Trump is http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-gop-clown-car-20150812?page=10″>not scripted. He isn’t safe. He isn’t well-handled — in fact, he’s not handled at all. He’s not focus-tested. He doesn’t have the backing of leaders from all over the country. He isn’t consistent. He has high negative ratings. He doesn’t do retail politics.

Instead, Trump is a jerk with lots of money, lots of time, plenty of charisma, a huge audience online, and a lead in the polls. To put it bluntly, this is the future.

Look, in the past, there were gatekeepers. People got to run when a party endorsed them. That required all kinds of cozying up to party leaders and raising money and doing all the fairly gross things politicians have to do to get elected. If that didn’t happen, donors wouldn’t open their wallets. Ads wouldn’t be seen. Appearances would get cancelled.

Now what matters more than party leaders and powerful donors is the direct connection a politician can forge with an audience. Trump is successful because he’s famous. He has an audience. He knows how to go on TV or online and draw attention. What he’s getting is less poll numbers than ratings. Whether that translates into actual votes or not may not actually matter; he’s shown the system can be upended.

In short, Trump is perhaps the best representation of the Internet celebrity candidate so far. There have been plenty of others, though not all of them have been successful. Imagine how different things would be around here if Tom Foley had been interesting to watch, if Linda McMahon had stopped caring what people thought of her, or if Ned Lamont had run against Joe Lieberman in the age of Twitter.

So what does that mean for the future of campaigns? We’ve known that the Internet is a great place to organize, raise money, and whip up support. But now the Internet isn’t just a sideshow or a useful appendage. It’s the main event, the place where fame and politics will mesh ever closer together.

Campaigns are changing fast. I just hope that better people than useless egotists like Trump can come along and take advantage of that, and soon.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.