The Trump campaign has entertained and angered me; it has confused and delighted me: it has brought dangerous ideas and emotions to the forefront of the public, political sphere in a way that ensures nothing else can be talked about.
But it has yet to surprise me.
The popular water cooler position on Trump has been one of bemused confusion. When you talk to somebody in the milquetoast language of avoiding political controversy, you can't know why someone like Trump could possibly have this kind of support. In the same way that when you show pictures of your glacial boat trip to Iceland, you don't comment on how much it's receded.
But because I haven't had a chance to have the actual discussion, I feel I need to say it: Donald Trump's candidacy is no surprise to me. The Trump candidacy is the natural consequence of spending several decades underfunding education, and spending most of the last one in a war against teachers.
At the moment, its only real force and consequence has been to stifle GOP debate amongst the rest of the candidates. But if his lead continues into the actual primaries, we will see its true danger.
Trump is the politics of personality and sound bytes carried to its natural conclusion. For someone upset at the way government is run, who vaguely agrees with his positions but has no interest in whether they are feasible, Trump is the ultimate candidate.
It's not hard to trace his popularity back to its source, and it would be easy to blame reality TV; immoral popular culture is one of our most convenient villains. But the existence and even popularity of reality TV isn't the problem. It's the public's inability to distinguish substance and ephemera, between a leader and a hairdo. And THAT is a problem of education.
That is what happens when you hobble people who set out to enrich minds and grow a generation of children into thinkers and doers and citizens. When you tell them that they must teach facts instead of wonder, rote instead of imagination, and obedience instead of drive.
And to top it off, you tell them they must continually do it without resources.
So I'll admit that I've been entertained by Trump's presence and angered by his insults; I've been confused by his policies and delighted by his incidental push of immigration, women's rights and the economy to the front of this debate. But the only way he'll surprise me is if we get to talk about what allows him to exist in the first place: a failure in American education.