Demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
How closely does Donald Trump fit that description? Any less so than Hitler, Milosevic, or Netanyahu? Hardly.
Yet we still discount him. I shudder.
A few months back, most progressives were gleeful about Trump’s popularity, because they thought it spelled doom for Republicans in 2016.
I put up a few Facebook posts cautioning against that sentiment.
Have things changed on that front? A little perhaps, but not much. MSNBC still is covering him 24/7 as a means of denigrating the Republican Party.
This is crazy. Discounting a demagogue is a dangerous practice. Trump is a case in point? He’s shown us that nothing he says puts a dent in his popularity. He’s shown us that he can speak without regard to the truth.
All of the predictions about his demise are winding up false. We’ve seen how every time the so-called experts predicted an outrageous remark would sink him, they’ve been wrong. But now we’re seeing that his support is not limited to a small slice of the Republican Party.
If anything, the polls underestimate his support. Think of it as a corollary to the “Dinkins effect,” where poll respondents don’t want to admit they’re voting against a Black guy. In Trump’s case, they don’t want to say they support a racist But they do. I’ve had family members share with me that they would vote for him. They don’t take the racist stuff seriously. Just like some of Germany’s Jews in the 1920’s didn’t take Hitler’s anti-Semitism seriously.
We’re still hearing how Trump will get clobbered in the general. Surely, Democrats and Independents won’t support him, right? Wrong.
Do I think Trump, as the Republican nominee, could win next November? Actually, no. What worries me is how close he could come.
And how the table is being set for the next demagogue who comes along.
All of the ingredients for disaster are in place. An illiterate populace? Check. Extreme inequality? Check. A significant minority who feel threatened, angry and resentful? Check.
Throw in an unsuccessful “centrist” presidency for the next four years, a painful recession, and four more years of record-breaking assault weapon sales, and the explosion of 2020 will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced.
Don’t discount demagogues.