What’s happening with this country? When I talk to friends, relatives, and colleague outside of Washington, I am asked this question more frequently these days. And the premise of the query often boils down to one subject: Donald Trump. How can an arrogant braggart who so explicitly relies upon hateful rhetoric targeting Muslims and immigrants—and who has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States—be faring so well? Surely, this is a sign that the country is becoming unhinged and that dark and ugly days are upon us.
Perhaps. But not necessarily so. Trump is an outsized media and cultural phenomenon, and the supersaturated press coverage he receives (justifiably, after all he’s been the GOP front-runner for months) could prompt one to regard him and his extreme pronouncements with even more significance than they deserve.
So to all of you fretting that a fellow who calls for the imposition of official bigotry is a leading presidential contender, let’s take a deep breath and look at some numbers. They show that Trump at this point is drawing support from a limited slice of the US public.