Perhaps the most shocking thing about Donald Trump's unexpectedly durable frontrunner status in the Republican presidential race is the sheer volume of racist ideologues it's lured out of the woodwork. Trump supporters routinely make headlines for their aggressive behavior at the businessman-turned-presidential-hopeful's rallies. Their latest target? CBS correspondent Sopan Deb, who was covering a Trump event in Reno, Nevada, when an attendee casually accused him of ISIS affiliations.
"A Trump supporter just asked me at a Reno event if I was taking pictures for ISIS," Deb tweeted. "When I looked shocked, he said, 'Yeah, I'm talking to you.'"
Deb went on to describe how the man continued to heckle him, even after he explained that he worked for CBS and asked the man to desist. Rather than apologizing and backing off, the man proceeded to film Deb as if to catch him in the act of treason, and warned him that "this is America... be glad you're here." And apparently, this isn't the first such incident Deb has encountered on the Trump campaign trail.
This is far from atypical of Trump's support base, which is fast building a thuggish reputation for itself. On Friday, a Muslim woman was ejected from a Trump rally for silently, peacefully standing up during Trump's discussion of Syrian refugees; as she was being escorted out, crowd members jeered with shouts of "You have a bomb, you have a bomb."
A few days before that incident, a man at a Lowell, Massachusetts, event became so enraged by the "America's Already Great" signs held by two Trump dissidents in the audience that he attempted to rip the signs out of their hands. Others joined in, tearing the signs to bits before the two men were escorted from the premises by security.
Then there was the time when, at a Birmingham, Alabama, rally in November, a handful of white Trump supporters descended upon a black protester who interrupted Trump's speech by yelling "black lives matter." Several in the pro-Trump crowd helped bring the man to the ground, punching and kicking him while he was down.
And before that, back in October, a Trump proponent spit in the face of a Latino protester at a Richmond, Virginia, rally, the crowd taunting other protesters with taunts of "Go back to Mexico" as they were removed from the venue.
Trump is best loved by a demographic made up of "less affluent, less educated" Republicans "concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North," according to the New York Times. He is popular with white supremacists and those who would see the country's Muslims logged in a national registry. But he has also won the allegiance of many who, regardless of their previous political affiliation, are simply fed up with silver-tongued politicians and appreciate a candidate who simply says what he's thinking, no matter how offensive his unedited opinions may be. Trump's transparency matters more to them than the particulars of his rhetoric.
But his rhetoric is what's important. Trump has made countless openly racist statements since announcing his bid for presidency; among the people he's targeted in offensive comments are women, Asians, African-Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, prisoners of war, the people of Iowa, many of his fellow candidates for president and, of course, Muslims. Together, they comprise a hefty segment of the national population.
It's not surprising that a candidate who disdains so many groups within his would-be constituency attracts the support of similarly minded masses for whom making America great again seems to mean making America white. It is, however, a distressing thing to see in a leading candidate for the Oval Office, to say the least.