The most disturbing thing for me about the Donald Trump phenomenon is not just his arrogant, toxic disregard for truth or his constant media attention or the failure of the Republican establishment to remove him from the spotlight, as Senator McCarthy was finally removed. What bothers me is the fact that he has generated millions of followers and supporters to whom he panders. They make him a national embarrassment.
Like all demagogues, Trump appeals to the self-interest and fear of many people who are understandably confused by the threat of terrorism to this country and the challenge of refugees. He allows these people to vent their anger, based on fear; and in this sense he serves a purpose. But the time for this public display of venom to end has passed.
What Trump-ism reveals to me is the power and appeal of hate: how much easier it is to hate than to love. Love takes effort and attention to someone other than the self; it takes patience. Hate is easy: it bubbles to the surface when fear turns into anger, as when issues of injustice in race, gender or ethnicity arise. The powerless feel empowered by hating; they feel important, and so they attack what they resent or fear.
The fact is, people enjoy hating, and the world-wide media enjoy covering the frenzy of Islamophobia unleashed by the Trump candidacy. His followers feel better--temporarily. But citizens probably felt the same way in the 1930s, when fascism took hold in Europe.
We know where that led. That's why the most disturbing thing for me in today's news is that millions of seemingly rational Americans agree with the fear-based hatred represented by Donald Trump. To dismiss him as a clown is to undervalue the dangerous impact of his appeal.