Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky's annual State of the World wrangle on The WELL

It's January, which means that Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky have returned to the WELL for their annual State of the World wrangle, in which, as Sterling puts it, we see who's "gonna collapse first: us pundits, or the World?"

These conversations have taken place every new year since Y2K and they never fail to be interesting (2016, previous years). This year kicks off with a long meditation on the assassination of Andrei Karlov, Russian ambassador to Turkey, gunned down in an art gallery by a dissident policeman.

As of today, it's veered into a comparison of the relative evils of the GOP candidates fielded in 2015, and about why some of them are actually worse than Trump (tldr: they have an agenda that's every bit as evil and have the competence to actually see them through, as opposed to merely lining their pockets while failing to administer anything to completion).

People worse than The Donald have been circling the Oval Office for years and years now. Carson, vastly worse than The Donald. Carly Fiorina, about as bad. Rand Paul, lots, lots worse. Mike Huckabee, much, much worse. Bobby Jindal, really bad, maybe not quite as bad as The Donald, but surprisingly, thoroughly bad. Scott Walker, merely somewhat worse.

They weren't all entirely and uniformly awful politicians: Kasich sort of okay, Rubio kind of interesting, Bush just a melancholy sign of the general political necrosis, but that's a Donaldless world. An extensively bad scene with deep roots in years of development. Even though The Donald is ludicrously disastrous, he's not some lone Frankenstein creature. He's part of the general texture of American rot. A society this extensively troubled, for such a long time, should probably shouldn't be pitying itself for electing a Donald. Better if it somehow finds the courage to confront its own deep inner Donaldness.

I think Trump's former (and current) Republican rivals are worse than Trump because their ideas are more pernicious, their intentions are commonly as bad as his, they're more fanatical than him and they probably could do a lot more practical damage to the American Republic than he can.

*Ted Cruz, for instance, is a smart-aleck, officious crank Texan lawyer who's also bitter, scheming and cruel. He has no friends at all. The Republicans who know Ted best hate him worst.

*Paul is a daffy one-issue Randite zealot who never learns anything, Huckabee is a lowlife Elmer Gantry schemer, Jindal completely wrecked his state through his sheer administrative incompetence, and Bush is a hapless born-to-the-purple guy really has no proper role in public life except for his genetics.

*I could go on, but I don't like to heap partisan abuse on people already defeated. I think most Republican voters would agree with me that they're not much good. Otherwise they would never have voted for an over-the-top game-show host like The Donald. But they choose The Donald, and if that choice was insane, well, they're half the American population. If we're really in a madhouse, what else can one expect but The Donald? How "bad" is it when you get what you deserve?

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