In other words, we must understand why Trump’s CPAC performance was rational from his perspective before we can begin to understand how to deal with it. And that means taking Trump, his supporters and his “undignified” performances seriously.
A textbook demagogue meets four tests. First, he identifies as a man of the masses, usually by attacking elites. Second, he creates great waves of passion. Third, he uses that passion for political benefit. Fourth, he tests or breaks established rules of governance. Taken together, this approach enables the demagogue to create a state within a state — a massive cult — that follows him alone.
Trump is the first demagogue to actually become president, but American history has seen a lot of them, whether the segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace, the Wisconsin senator and communist-chaser Joseph McCarthy, the Louisiana governor and senator Huey Long, or the Detroit “radio priest” Father Charles Coughlin. World history has seen Mussolini and Hitler and, more recently, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus.