When tycoon and self-proclaimed "good-looking guy" Donald Trump threw his hairpiece in the race for the White House, so many people never thought we'd reach this point.
"Sticking with my prediction," conservative analyst Bill Kristol tweeted in December 2015. "Trump will win no caucuses or primaries, and will run behind Ron Paul 2012 in IA and NH."
"Trump is generating a lot controversy, but he is not taken seriously as a potential president," a New Hampshire Republican insider told Politico in August. "I have heard from many people who say 'I love him! Love what he’s saying!' But when I ask if they would really vote for him, they say, 'hell no.'"
Yet ... we've watched together in shock as Donald Trump has said the most inexplicable things and continued his unfathomable rise to GOP frontrunner. Now, with his landslide victory on Super Tuesday, we've all been riding the same emotional roller coaster.
Deep down, you probably recognize this pattern of feelings. You don't like it, but you know it all too well.
It's called the five stages of grief:
Don't worry. It's normal to have these feelings.
The saving grace? You're definitely not alone.
And despite how it may seem after Super Tuesday, there's actually a serious, honest-to-goodness light at the end of the tunnel! For real!
Let's do this:
1. First, we were in denial.
When Donald Trump descended the gold escalator in a gold building adorned with his own name to declare his candidacy, we thought it was all a big joke.
It had to be a joke, right?
(This has to be a joke.)
Donald Trump couldn't really be running for president.
Donald Trump isn't really leading in the polls. No way. It's just a mirage.
He'll be gone in a month, we told ourselves.
Once they (whoever they are) figure out what a terrible businessman he actually is, he'll go away. After all, we're talking about the guy who sold his brand of steaks (steaks!) exclusively through a retailer best known for free massage chairs at the mall. The guy who could have been worth $10 billion more if he'd just taken the money he inherited and invested it in basic index funds instead of plowing it into failed real estate deal after failed real estate deal. The guy who is, according to some reports, exaggerating his own net worth by a full 100% — in part by valuing his own name at $3 billion.
Once they hear all the horrible things he's said about women, he'll disappear. Like the time he suggested Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever" after the first Republican debate. Or when he said his favorite part of the movie "Pulp Fiction" was when a male character told his girlfriend to shut up.
Once they hear all the horrible things he's said about minorities, we told ourselves, there's no way anyone would vote for him. This is a guy who tweeted a graphic that claimed 81% of white homicide victims were killed by black perpetrators — a totally baseless, pants-on-fire lie.
Once they hear about his fraudulent university — currently being investigated by the state of New York for scamming students — he'll slink away in disgrace.
Everyone within 50 miles of Manhattan knows what a joke this guy is, we told ourselves at night. The rest of the country will wise up soon enough once they get to know him.
We comforted ourselves with the knowledge that Nate Silver didn't think he had a chance, and that Nate Silver almost always get it right.
There is no way anyone could actually vote for Donald Trump in real life. No way in hell. The American people are rational and smart, we repeated to ourselves like a mantra. They won't be fooled. They'll get it.
We went back to sleep.
2. Then, we got angry.
Donald Trump won New Hampshire, and we were pissed. Royally pissed.
"Donald Trump won New Hampshire?" we asked incredulously. "Like, won won?"
(What the hell?)
Moderate, libertarian New Hampshire just voted for a racist who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States — as if the First Amendment is just a suggestion? For a con man who wants to build a wall along the border and promises — without a shred of evidence or logic — that Mexico will pay for it? For a preening narcissist who talks relentlessly about how nice his own hands are? (His own hands!)
How could anyone believe this obvious BS? How could anyone vote for him? It's infuriating! Why isn't everybody pissed off about this? We wanted — no, needed — to know.
"Wait, did Uncle Jim vote for him? He did, didn't he? Uncle Jim voted for Donald Trump?! Screw him forever," we said indignantly. "His invitation to the wedding just got lost in the mail!"
Donald Trump isn't qualified to run a Wendy's, we told each other. And yet, despite how many people lost money in his ill-conceived, often sketchy real estate ventures, despite launching a mortgage company in 2006 — just two years before the housing bubble burst — despite four of his businesses filing for bankruptcy, thousands of people actually believe he's a good businessman? Why? Because he fired Meat Loaf and Lil Jon on "Celebrity Apprentice"?
How could America be so blind?
That's it — if he wins again, we're moving to Canada.
3. Next, we started bargaining.
This was when we realized: Donald Trump wasn't funny anymore.
There had to be a way to stop him.
There ... has to be. Right?
Take him out, conservative billionaires! Ad blitz him into the ground, RNC! Destroy him, John Oliver!
Please? Anyone? We're not actually about to put Donald freaking Trump — former "Miss USA" pageant owner — in charge of our country, right? Right?!
We started to feel pretty desperate. "Just tell us what we need to do!" we said to ourselves. "If we're Republicans, we'll donate to whoever can beat him. If we're Democrats, we'll change our registration! We'll vote for John Kasich. We'll vote for Ted Cruz. We'll vote for a guinea pig!"
Just let it be a dream, we hoped.
Just make it go away.
4. Then, depression set in.
"Oh God," we thought.
This is happening, isn't it? It's really happening. Look at his numbers. Look how many states Trump just won on Super Tuesday. It's undeniable now.
"Donald Trump is probably going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States," we realized, as a giant, gaping pit of despair opened up in our stomachs. "There is now a 50-50 chance that Donald Trump is going to be the most powerful person in the most powerful nation on Earth."
Donald Trump. The man who called Mexicans who come to the U.S. "rapists." The man who refused to denounce the KKK when he had a chance. The KKK!
It is possible — likely, even — that a guy who was too incompetent and racist to successfully manage a beauty pageant could be in charge of hundreds of nuclear weapons less than a year from now.
Who can even stop him?
Hillary can't beat him, we worried. Too many people hate Hillary.
Bernie can't beat him either, we panicked. Sure, Bernie's numbers might look good now, but if he wins, it's going to be: "Socialist socialist raise taxes Stalin communist raise taxes USSR atheist socialist," 24/7.
It's over. It's all over.
Nothing left to do but go back to bed. Forever.
5. And lastly, we had to accept reality.
Now, with the dust settling on yet another massive Trump victory on Super Tuesday, only one question remains: Could we be OK with a Trump candidacy? Like, actually OK?
Yeah. Sure. Why not. It's not the end of the world, right?
Donald Trump might be president for the next four years? Fine. We can handle it. We can accept a lot of things. We can accept disappointment. We can accept the inevitability of our own deaths. We can accept Iggy Azalea—
But ... no. You know what?
We don't have to accept this.
Not in a million years.
That's right. Backing this train up. Back to anger. Before anger. Before denial.
Back to hope. Pure, blind, possibly naive hope. If there's one thing Americans do better than anyone else, it's hope, dammit.
Donald Trump is not America. Lots of people may seem to support him — for now, at least. But he's not you. He's not me. He's not even Uncle Jim, no matter what Uncle Jim thinks.
He can't be.
You know why?
America is still a country that doesn't discriminate against anyone because of religion.
America is still a country that allows everyone to marry the person they love.
America is still a country that believes in the words on the Statue of Liberty — a country that welcomes immigrants and refugees with open arms.
America is a country that doesn't have to be made great again. Because it already is great.
It's true. Today, Donald Trump is one step closer to the Oval Office than he was yesterday. There's no denying that.
But from now until November, the rational majority of us — Republican, Democrat, Independent — can work our asses off to make sure he never, ever, ever gets there.