I believe the key to understanding the situation with Trump is to begin by realizing that, US insularity not withstanding, he is merely one (admittedly unusually stupid, vile, and repellent) example of a global phenomenon. Brexit, Orban, Babic, Bolsonaro, PiS, the AfD, Erdogan, et al are democratically elected tyrants undermining their countries and all former norms. So why is this happening around the globe, all at the same time? Why is Trump be merely one of dozens of similar outrages against civilization?
It’s because, pace Plato, democracy always must end in tyranny. For a couple of hundred years representative democracy stumbled and lurched along, deeply flawed and causing huge amounts of self-harm, but people were largely shielded from understanding its weaknesses by (a) a lack of intellectual context, and (b) very sparse reporting. Today, in contrast, there is a lot of (false) context and an always-on 7/24 media storm desperate for the sensation du jour. Thus people are perpetually confused, afraid, angry, and as always under these conditions they are desperately looking for a “strong” leader with simple answers to lead them to salvation. Our evolutionary hardwiring makes us both eager to embrace what we believe to be group norms and follow a “strong” leader and simultaneously unable to cope with complexity. As our modern world is very complex indeed, the appeal of simple-minded sound bites and stupid memes cannot be under-estimated.
Thus the world is falling to tyrants because they unhesitatingly exploit our hardwired weaknesses. Those who see what is happening have no means to stop it, while those who don’t see what is happening eagerly cheer it on. And all the government drones are “just doing their jobs” by tearing children from parents, pushing people into concentration camps, eviscerating the justice system, ignoring laws, suppressing the free media, and all the other hundred-and-one things tyrants always have their lackeys do at their behest. ICE and the Border Patrol are little different from the Gestapo in that they both behave in inhumane ways and both claim that “we’re only following orders.” Meanwhile the DoJ is a travesty and will become akin to the prosecutors in Stalin’s show trials.
This is how it always happens, and this is why there’s no way back. Only horrors and darkness lie ahead.