Americans are angry. Seriously angry.
Rage from the left and right, the despair of independents and the lack of accountability from Washington have fueled the rise of the Donald Trump movement.
Forget his positions or policies or complete lack thereof. Forget his occasionally insane/over-the-top divisive rhetoric.
That's what institutional Republicans just don't get.
How long have we heard the cliches now? "Trump's days are numbered" or "he's a flash in the pan, a flavor of the week."
While Jeb Bush defends or disses the merits of the war in Iraq and John Kasich talks about debt to GDP ratio, Trump is connecting with people making broad statements based on one thing and one thing only -- emotion.
Trump understands this: It's not what you say. It's how they feel.
In most elections, positive emotion typically wins people over. For now, only Marco Rubio is out there delivering a "breath of fresh air" kind of speech, but no one is breathing in that fresh air because they're too busy yelling like a pack of cartoon characters from South Park, "Durk our durrr!" (If you don't get that, Google it).
Today's electorate is out for blood.
The American mood has changed, the times have changed and the Grand Old Party is acting "older" than ever (channeling their inner-Clint Eastwood "get off my lawn"), stuck in its ways of explaining the "fundamentals of the tax code" instead of connecting with people about what this election really means to them.
Actually, let me take that last word, "them," a step further. What candidates should be using every time they get up to talk is "this election is about YOU."
The last few decades have been made up of highs, lows and extremes. President Bill Clinton epitomized the 1990s. He was a warm, fun and intelligent guy with enough of a Southern drawl to make you say, "Aw shucks! I don't care what he did in the Oval Office! I could have a beer with that guy!" After all, what the hell did anyone have to worry about?!
We had a strong economy, low debt and a fairly peaceful planet that we could only dream of today.
Then came George W. Bush. He was another guy a lot of Americans wanted "to have a beer with." Like Clinton, he was a governor and flexed just enough muscle with "compassionate conservatism" to win over almost half of America.
Almost. Wink, wink!
Then came terror. Then came war. Then came a surveillance state under a super-awesomely branded piece of legislation called the "Patriot Act." Once again, keep in mind the creators of "South Park" and think "America, **** yeah!"
Then came fear. An entirely new mood began to develop in America, one consumed with anxiety. The far right started questioning Bush's spending, Big Brother-like domestic policy and reckless foreign policy. The far left went completely nuts. Some nights while watching Keith Olbermann, I thought he might shank me right through the TV!
But then ... then came hope. Barack Obama won the hearts and minds of the electorate. At home, he promised a utopia. Abroad, everyone would love America again. We would remove troops from Iraq and shut down Gitmo. We wouldn't need to do things like shoot missiles at families in parts of the Middle East we can't pronounce from a drone in the sky.
Except, none of that happened.
Now, anti-war liberals, not quite as vocal as they were during Bush's term, are also disgusted. Some in the left are even starting to take to Trump for some for the same reasons conservatives are. "He says it like it is!" they proclaim.
While I believe Trump needs to lay off the terribly offensive comments, back off illogical policy and let some air out of his ego, if he shifts his emotion toward a more positive vision, he may remain a power player. After all, true leaders don't complain. They connect, inspire and bring people with them.
If you're a Trump supporter, maybe at some point you'll ask more in-depth questions about issues that matter, such as foreign or domestic policy. After all, we really didn't demand too many details from Presidents Bush or Obama. Are you happy with the direction the country is heading?
Yet the reality is this: Unless Republican candidates find a way to strike a balance of authentic passion and maybe even a little anger with their own personalities, they will continue to get lost in the fire and smoke surrounding the Donald.