Two memories come to mind when I contemplate Donald Trump — and it’s an unfortunate state of affairs that I am forced to contemplate him often. First, I remember watching The Apprentice as a kid, back when Trump was known for “You’re fired!” and not “I will force Mexico to build a giant wall.” Second, I remember President Obama’s run in 2008 and how obsessed the right was with painting him as the “celebrity candidate.”

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Odd, isn’t it, that people who once dismissed Barack Obama in 2008 as a “celebrity candidate” have now latched on to Trump, a celebrity, as their man in 2016?

Of course, the celebrity of Donald Trump is very different from that of Obama. In many ways, Trump’s persona can be seen as the inverse of Obama’s. Obama talked about hope, Trump talks about fear. Obama rose to power with the help of a diverse coalition. Trump targets a narrow, angry demographic. Obama was known for his eloquence and cadence. Trump is known for his ineloquence and his brashness.

Trump’s latest ad manages to hit all the major talking points of his campaign in a scant 30 seconds: radical Islam, Mexico, etcetera. Like the rest of the things Trump has said and done, the ad is an optical illusion. Look at it right-side up, and his campaign represents the terrifying rise of a demagogue fueled by xenophobia, racism, and sexism. Look at it upside down, and it’s an American satire, one that South Park might dream up to make fun of conservatives, with Trump as either a masterful troll or a hopeless buffoon.

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As the Trump train rolls into 2016, we can only expect more bullying, more rage, more stoking of fear and bigotry. More of a South Park caricature of the far right. What’s scary is that many Americans are buying into the farce.

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