Ages ago, when the world was still very young, the First Debate came and shook the world. I am old now and my time has almost come, but I seem to recall that moment nevertheless. I remember how shocked I was at the coming of The Beast, that thick-headed and bullying Animal of Many Insults, that roared its way into the very pits of palaver with its huge mouth gaping hotly and hungrily.
Ah yes, I remember it clearly. But where is the Avatar of Awesomeness now, I ask myself? Where now is the Golem of Greatness?
It has been so long, so long. I grow weary when I even think about it, the passing of all this time. And truly, The Beast itself is no longer; the fire has died in its eyes. It is alive, surely, but it has become a mere shade. Its shape is but the hint of fog in the distance, and its whisper not enough to startle a mouse.
Hmm, no. Trump has not faded away quite yet. But I do believe that Thursday's second Republican debate showed why he will. And I also believe that it showed why the GOP should nevertheless be quite cautious about getting its hopes up too high.
A while back, I wrote that Trump's appeal to Republican voters did not seem to be that he trumpeted all conservative things in an all-conservative way. Instead, I said, he appealed to them because he was loud, forceful and promised to actually act on his stated beliefs. Those beliefs might not be the gospel truth according to some Republicans, but that wasn't the issue: the issue was getting things done. And there was Trump, proclaiming as strongly as he could that he was the man to do it. He was, he himself stated, the non-politician to sweep all those weakling politicians out of the temple.
Except, of course, that his promises became hollower the more he repeated them.
You cannot, for example, promise to deport 11 million aliens just like that. To do so would require (a) lots and lotsa government money, and (b) lots and lotsa government officials and (c) lots and lotsa of buses, too. Oh, and you'd also have to tag the cretins in advance, so that you can catch them if they have the temerity to make a run for it before getting thrown out of the country (you never know with cretins, right?).
In short, it would require the very sort of federal government (an almost all-encompassing police state) that absolutely no Republican voter would ever think of condoning. It's not just undoable; its very contemplation is absurd.
So, where does that leave Trump's message? Well, where it ought to be. At first glance it's delicious. It's nice and shiny and it's got da muscle. But when you hear it for the second time, and then the third, you begin to realise you're watching ice cream in the desert sun.
So, no Trump? He seemed up for a while; now he seems down.
Good news for the GOP, surely?
Nope, not really.
Just before the second debate, CNN released a poll showing that about 32% of likely Republican voters supported Trump. 19% supported Ben Carson. A rather measly 3% were prepared to support Carly Fiorina.
Just after the debate, CNN released another poll. Trump's support had dropped to 24%. Carson had gone down to 14%. But Fiorina had escalated; she was up to 15%.
Now, what does this show? In terms of individual politicians, not much. You might think that the poll clearly confirms my own opinions, as stated above, but it doesn't really. If anything, the poll confirms that some cracks are appearing in the Trump monolith, but not more than that.
What it does show, though, is this.
Before the second debate, a total of 54% of likely voters supported a non-politician. After the second debate, that figure had not really changed at all: it was 53%.
It has been remarked upon by some how wildly the polls have swung recently. I would say the exact opposite: look at what has remained the same, and there you should find a fairly accurate measure of the voters' mood.
The voters aren't all too committed to either Trump, Carson or Fiorina. They might like some of them or even all of them, but in the end, they will happily hop from one to the other. Their goal is not to support the individual; their goal is to oppose the establishment. And they're doing it in spades.
Good news form the GOP? No, not really.
And now the night is falling. It has been so long, so long. Tell me, where is the boy to bring me my tea? Where is he?
Ah, there you are, Trumpsy. Yes, put it done there. A sugar, please, that's a good boy.
Tell me, Trumpsy, have you heard the tale of The Beast? Let me tell you the story, for it's a good tale.