Is "terrifying" too strong a description for this election campaign?
Maybe. But "disturbing" sure isn't strong enough, for the campaign or for Republican candidates' behavior.
For a while, you could find some humor in the antics, particularly those of Donald Trump. A bit of entertainment you figured would disappear when the public - and party elders - got a grip and pushed back. But no.
So here we are today, with people who want to be president acting in ways none of us would permit in our children. The insults, the name-calling, the lies, the hatred and hostility, the divisiveness, the anger... the racism and sexism.... all of this is thriving. It's ruining the reputation of the party of Abraham Lincoln. And rather than being appalled, voters are endorsing it.
A few media analysts have suggested that this kind of behavior could cost Republicans control of the Senate. A month or so ago, I would have agreed. But based on the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, I wouldn't bet on it.
Trump won in two of those tests and came in second in the third. The alarming Ted Cruz is one of Trump's only two real competitors, and the other, Marco Rubio, seems only slightly more palatable in terms of temperament and maturity.
Well, maybe all those folks are just poorly educated Fox-News-indoctrinated know-nothings.
Apparently not: Take a look at the numbers in a Quinnipiac poll that was released last week.
The nationwide survey asked Republican and Republican-leaning voters which Republican candidate they would vote for right now. Trump led in almost every area. He led in all age groups. He led among both men and women. Cruz beat him among very conservative Republicans and among Tea Party Republicans, but Trump led the pack among less conservative Republicans.
Trump would get the votes of 30 percent of those with a college degree. Rubio: 24 percent. Cruz: 16. The more thoughtful, less angry - more polite - Jeb Bush and John Kasich were far behind. On every question, and in every category - including college educated voters.
Sixty-four percent of the Republican and Republican-leaning voters had a "favorable" opinion of Rubio. Trump and Cruz: 62 percent each. (Trump's "favorability" score was only 55 percent among college-educated voters. But Cruz scored 61 and Rubio 75.)
The difference between Republicans and Democrats is interesting: In the same poll, Barack Obama was viewed favorably by 84 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters - and by 91 percent of college-educated Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters. (Bernie Sanders: 82 percent; 90 percent college-educated. Hillary Clinton: 74 percent; 75 percent college educated.)
It's probably way too early to make many assumptions about what will happen in this election campaign. And polls aren't infallible, as they keep proving. But we have seen and heard for ourselves what the Republican candidates have been doing. Voters in the first three statewide tests have expressed their opinion about it. And apparently, they don't mind the insults, the outright fabrications, the racism and sexism and appeals to fear and hatred. Or, worse: they're applauding it.
It's troubling that college-educated voters are so willing to embrace rumors and lies over facts. And as someone whose older family members included a fair number of born-again Christians, it's troubling to me to see voters in that category embrace the hatred and the insults of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. (But then again, some of those family members were shockingly racist; it's not unusual for Christians of all varieties to pick and choose as we read the Gospels.)
Maybe we're just seeing frustrated voters lashing out at political establishment leaders, blaming them for the very real problems this country faces. Maybe as we get closer to November, the anger will be spent and Americans will come to their senses. But then I look at those numbers in the Quinnipiac poll. Terrifying, honestly.