The same cannot be said for the millions of Americans who have looked to Trump to save them. These folks, at least the ones frequently reported on—the angry, white, blue-collar workers who are outraged or terrified that America has become some topsy-turvy multi-cultural nightmare where a hard-working man cannot make a decent living anymore—will emerge from this circus worse off than before.
They will likely be angrier—and more certain—that they are being dismissed, if not outright screwed, by a self-serving establishment. Some will be all the more convinced that their economic woes can be blamed on cheap immigrant labor and reassured about their general feelings of insecurity about Muslims.
This is what Trump has done over the last year: He’s whipped up the darkest, angriest demons in the electorate. He has not simply given people permission to indulge any racist, sexist, xenophobic, or religiously intolerant tendencies they may harbor. He has insisted—loudly—that such bigotry is only common sense and mocked anyone who refuses to see the danger presented by “the other” as a blind idiot. Those not sharing Trump’s grim vision are, by definition, suckers being taken for a ride.
Now, some might argue that Trump supporters could not be led in this direction if they weren’t already closet bigots. Maybe. Some of them. To some degree. Then again, it is human nature to want to blame someone else for what is going wrong in one’s life. Trump is, not coincidentally, the master of this.
And so the United States has reached the point where a chunk of Trump voters feel moved to let their freshly stoked inner bigot off the leash, be it on social media or at public events. This summer, The New York Times compiled a video montage titled, “Unfiltered Voices From Donald Trump’s Crowds,” which spotlighted the vulgar language used among Trump supporters at rallies. Then, toward the end of the clip, Trump fan Mike Wallace, a pale, skinny older guy who looked more worn-down than mad as he explained his voting choice, lamented: “I feel he’s the last chance we have to establish law and order and preserve the culture I grew up in.” Such is the core anxiety Trump has exploited in his followers.
There is little value in trying to figure out what portion of Trump fans are, say, hard-core xenophobes vs. casual bigots (now there’s a term) vs. voters merely disgusted with the system. Hillary Clinton, for her part, may have apologized for her “deplorables” crack, but some in the electorate share her frustration. And with every day that goes by, animus toward this group grows: How can you support this charlatan? Don’t you know what he said about X? Didn’t you hear what his supporters did to that protester in Y? And, my God, what about that kid in Virginia who yelled “Take the bitch down”?
Once the election is over (again, assuming Trump loses), there will be a mass sigh of relief as the nation begins laboring to pretend none of this ever happened. (If he wins, there will be a different kind of reckoning as followers realize he cannot bring back the 1950s America of their dreams. But that is a problem for another day.)