One problem with preening, egotistical demagogues is that sometimes a lot of people listen to them. Another problem is that, because they tend to be buffoons, a lot of other people complacently dismiss them. Few saw Senator Joe McCarthy coming until McCarthyism had already arrived.

Now we have Donald Trump. Trump is different from most other demagogues in that he seems to be utterly without conviction, save his grandiose conviction in himself. His cynicism is breathtaking. He so far seems willing to say anything, no matter how hateful, ignorant, or dishonest, that will gratify his narcissism. A significant segment of the public is eating it up, the more appalling, the better.

Realted: A Time for Discernment 

In Trump, the impulses of the dark side of American populism are finding a rallying point, and there is good reason for alarm. It is not Trump himself that is the problem; it is that the malevolence of his message has become so widely shared. It is a very old message and a very old strategy. When people are fearful, insecure, and angry, you give them a scapegoat, a target for their resentments, and a few simple formulas that, no matter how stupid or hateful, promise a solution. Immigrants are a tried and true target of this kind of resentment, and so are religious minorities. There is real cause for alarm in the bigotry, violence, and persecution now being aimed at American Muslims. It is bad already, and it might well get much worse.

Related: When the Monks Met the Muslims 

Below is a post by an American Muslim woman I came across on Facebook. Her post had more than 77,800 shares on Friday morning. It speaks well to our current state of affairs.

Dear Non-Muslim Allies,I am writing to you because it has gotten just that bad. I have found myself telling too many…

Posted by Sofia Ali-Khan on Monday, December 7, 2015

[This story was first published in 2015]

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