Every time Hillary Clinton points at an imaginary person in the audience, I hear a voice saying “Welcome to the Oval Office, President Trump”, writes Donal O’Keeffe

I had a sandwich and a coffee in the Amber service station in Fermoy a few weeks ago. At the table next to me was a group of children, eating chips and enjoying the lack of adult supervision. Four boys and two girls. I’d say the oldest of them was ten. I paid no heed till I realised that they were discussing politics.

“Guys!” said a boy who had until this point been throwing ketchup sachets at one of the girls, “Imagine if Donald Trump actually won!”

“Oh my God, Donald Trump is such a racist!” replied the girl.

“If Donald Trump wins it will be The End Of The World,” said the other girl with grim certainty.

“Um,” said a boy who was stacking his chips one on top of the other in a lattice formation, “You know Donald Trump won’t be the actual president of Ireland, ‘cause that’s like President Higgins’ job?”

(From the murmur of approval which greeted this remark, I suspect Michael D would get a warm reception from Fermoy’s under-ten community, should ever he stop into Amber for a feed of chips.)

“If Donald Trump gets to be The President Of America,” said the little girl, keen to return to the apocalypse, “That’s like he’s The President Of The World!”

“Oh my God that would be SO horrible!” said the boy stacking chips. “Donald Trump is like the Worst Person Ever!”

Beside them, I thought, given we have such clued-in children, then at the least the future of this country is in safe hands.

Mind you, they wrapped up their discussion by having a competition to see who could eat the most sugar, so perhaps their political insight should be judged accordingly.

Personally, I don’t know if President Donald Trump will be The End Of The World but I do think there’s a terrifying possibility that not alone will he be the Republican candidate, I think (and the bookies say I’m wrong) there’s a good chance he might well become US president.

I get rocks thrown at me every time I say this, but I think Hillary Rodham Clinton is a godawful candidate. Every time she points at an imaginary person in the audience, I hear a voice saying “Welcome to the Oval Office, President Trump”.

Clinton is the very epitome of the political establishment against which Trump has built his seemingly-unstoppable insurgency campaign. It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Hillary’s main qualification to run for president is her own overwhelming sense of entitlement. And we saw how that panned out for her against Obama in 2008. I also think she has been around so long that she has – in her own right – any number of political corpses trailing her. That she may be facing indictment for storing classified emails on her own private server would be bad enough, but she also has Bill.

William Jefferson Clinton must surely wish for the halcyon days when the worst he had to fear was periodic so-called “bimbo eruptions”. These days, there’s something called an “internet”. Not everything on it is true – not by a country mile – but everything really is on it. Donald Trump didn’t think twice about trying to implicate the father of his rival, Ted Cruz, in the killing of JFK. Why would he hold back on repeating the devastating allegations that a simple Google search will throw up?

There’s also the fact that nobody else has been able to stop Trump. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich all failed. What makes you think Hillary Clinton will succeed?

Former White House advisor David Axelrod has coined “The Obama Theory of Trump”, whereby he posits that Trump’s attraction to Republican voters is because he is the polar opposite of the sitting president.

“(Obama’s) deliberation is seen as hesitancy; patience as weakness,” Axelrod says. “His call for tolerance and passionate embrace of America’s growing diversity inflame(s) many in the Republican base, who view with suspicion and anger the rapidly changing demographics of America. The president’s emphasis on diplomacy is viewed as appeasement.

“So who among the Republicans is more the antithesis of Mr Obama than the trash-talking, authoritarian, give-no-quarter Mr Trump?”

Some have said that Trump’s extremist rhetoric is just that, and he will tack more toward the moderate centre once he secures the Republican candidacy. Indeed, he seemed to adopt a more conciliatory tone following Cruz’s concession. “We want to bring unity to the Republican Party,” he said. “We have to bring unity.

“This country, which is very, very divided in so many different ways, is going to become one beautiful loving country, and we’re going to love each other, we’re going to cherish each other and take care of each other…”

This from the man who started his political career as a mouthpiece for the “Birther” movement, a thinly-veiled racist campaign to spread the lie that Barack Obama was not born in the US and was thus ineligible for the presidency.

This from the man whose unique selling point (apart, obviously, from his comedy hair) is his xenophobic plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.

This from the man who told the New York Times last week that, by the end of his first 100 days in office, he will have enacted a blanket ban on Muslim immigration.

God bless America, and the genius of its founders’ separation of powers. President Trump will surely test the US constitution to its limits.

When talking about Donald Trump, a few things are important to remember. The first is HL Mencken’s truism: “The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots”. Another is Godwin’s Law (“As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1”). Finally, there is what the German-American philosopher Leo Strauss called “Reductio Ad Hitlerium”, the association fallacy whereby one attempts to undermine an opponent by comparing them to Hitler.

So, all of that accepted, I’ll leave you with this newspaper cutting:

“But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic as a bait to catch messes of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic and in line…

“A sophisticated politician credited Hitler with peculiar political cleverness for laying emphasis on anti-Semitism, saying ‘You can’t expect the masses to understand or appreciate your finer real aims. You must feed the masses with cruder morsels and ideas like anti-Semitism.”

So said the New York Times on Tuesday, November 21st, 1922. That was the first time the NYT ever noticed Adolf Hitler. It’s fascinating to observe, almost a century later, that sensible people assumed all those years ago that a demagogue extremist couldn’t possibly be sincere in his mania.

After all of that, I need cheering up. I think I’ll follow the example of my young neighbours. I’m away to see how much sugar I can eat.

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