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I can’t believe Donald Trump might actually win this thing.

We’ve had months to absorb the possibility. But as we get closer to the Iowa caucuses, the prospect of Trump winning the Republican nomination gets more surreal, not less; it is the moment when a cosmic absurdity and reality begin to slide, like some end-times eclipse, into the same place.

Trump is leading in Iowa according to the much-anticipated and highly respected final poll from The Des Moines Register, conducted by J. Ann Selzer. With 28 percent of likely caucus-goers supporting his campaign, Trump holds a five-point lead over his closest competitor, Ted Cruz (23 percent). If Trump wins Iowa (still a big “if”), he would be in such a strong position that it might be impossible to stop him.

There have been no shortage of theories to explain the Trump phenomenon. He’s tapped into widespread economic anxiety among white voters. Or perhaps more accurately, their racial anxiety. He’s a “truth teller,” a scourge of the political correctness that afflicts our politics, the perfect candidate for these anti-establishment times. He’s the American manifestation of the far right’s rise across Western democracy. 

But he’s still Donald Trump, the crude boor he always was. A Trump victory would suggest a deeper illness, a country that doesn’t realize it has lost its self-respect. At the very least, there are a lot of people walking around who, like Trump himself, believe he is the classiest guy to lead the classiest nation on Earth. And that’s just sad.