I have written about Donald Trump before—and have, predictably, experienced the schadenfreude of witnessing the GOP disrobed, exposed to its stark, naked, xenophobic, far too tolerant of racism and violence self. But I wasn’t afraid of a Trump presidency.

I have also wished for, though haven’t gotten, many more public mea culpas from the GOP elites and opinion leaders for allowing decades of racist-tinged messaging to benignly co-exist within their party. But I still wasn’t afraid of a Trump presidency, neither of his actually winning nor how bad things might get if that happened.

Finally, I have watched and been horrifically entertained by Trump’s ascent as the first reality TV personality to become the presumptive GOP nominee for President of the United States.

And still again, not afraid—until earlier this month when one of the political TV stations played this clip of Ted Cruz as he desperately attempted to confront some avid Trump supporters.

Why should this make me afraid? Have you seen it? Before I continue you need to know that since the beginning of the primaries I always felt that Ted Cruz would, in fact, be a more devastating choice for our country. His absolute unctuousness aside, he is also uniquely knowledgeable of U.S. Constitutional Law, thus making him all the more lethal in pursuing his extremely regressive ideological, evangelical agenda. He is also as focused and as mean-spirited as a starving bull shark, with equally tough skin, impervious to pain and criticism. In short: one potentially medieval dangerous dude.

And there he was in that news clip, on the eve of the Indiana primary, attempting to “communicate” with some of Trump’s rabid fans. I’ve put quotation marks around the word communicate because Ted Cruz mostly orates, without really being open to what he hears back—all in the service of promoting his steadfast message: everyone short of his version of what it means to be an evangelical is headed directly to hell unless you basically stop the government in its tracks and follow him. Period.

Perhaps we can assume that all politicians out stumping are not very interested in communicating, per se. But it was the nature of these Trump fans that struck me. That frightened me. At the risk of sounding reductionist, let me simply say that I have rarely seen political supporters physically embody such a proudly anti-intellectual stance.

Compared to the monosyllabic retorts they uttered, Cruz suddenly seemed… reasonable, nearly moderate, clearly articulate. Keeping his famously reptilian cool, Cruz tried to explain some of the crass inconsistencies, if not out and out lies, that their hero, Trump, had spouted. But to this crowd any and all words coming from Cruz were of zero relevance for the simple reason that Cruz and all the rest of the candidates from both sides of the political aisle were dreaded, never-to-be-trusted politicians.

“You are the problem!” one of the Trump fans growled. Presumably a huge swath of the public of all political persuasions has shared this sentiment before the primaries. But these folks certainly felt emboldened after their leader not only confirmed their thoughts but also held himself up as someone who freely bought and sold politicians on a regular basis!

Thus their logic was clear, simple and shockingly resonant: All politicians are untrustworthy liars, especially “Lyin’ Ted.” And when someone shouted “Lyin’ Ted!”—that nifty moniker Trump effortlessly disempowered Cruz with—the crowd suddenly surged alive in a mob-like fervor as though Manchester United had just scored a goal. It was a self-satisfied collective; they knew who their enemies were and the one person who wasn’t. And Cruz at that moment was their targeted pariah. The situation teetered perilously close to turning violent.

Trump was that one TV reality star that could be trusted. After all, for eight seasons he was straight talking to those other attractive landed-class folks—and giving them a bit of the ol’ humiliation that “the rest of us” already knew about: You’re fired!

Suddenly, I had the sense of an irrational lynch mob in action. A controlled collective insanity, all the more justified in its single-minded atavistic opinions and logic because their leader was a very rich white man who gave them license to feel and express their fury.

And of course their fury is real and alive and well—and exists on all sides of the political spectrum: the sense that the world, especially the United States, is an uncontrollably speeding train heading out toward a better world without them, without most everyone who can’t make enough money to hang on board. Things are not getting better, they feel. Living and working conditions are getting worse. More work, less pay, higher costs for everything… and a haunting sense of utter humiliation for somehow missing the boat… in comparison to the airbrushed landed-class passing them by as they emanate from the TV, Internet and magazine covers.

Except Trump.

Trump was that one TV reality star that could be trusted. After all, for eight seasons he was straight talking to those other attractive landed-class folks—and giving them a bit of the ol’ humiliation that “the rest of us” already knew about: You’re fired!

When I say I was suddenly afraid of a Trump presidency, let me be clear: I was, for the first time, actually seeing an ugly, angry, potentially violent aspect of America being harnessed, sanctioned and given agency by a mercurial shape-shifter who, in my mind, has only given the public reason not to trust him.

CNN commentator Jake Tapper, among others, has pointed out that Trump has made numerous remarks that quite clearly condone and/or encourage violence against those who protest against him. “I’d like to punch him in the face,” and “knock the crap out of him, would you?” are just a couple of examples.

He’s even gone so far as to offer to pay for any legal fees that his truculent defenders might incur during scuffles with Trump dissenters. Trump routinely blames anti-Trump demonstrators, inferring that they deserve any beating they might receive, stating: “We have some protesters who are bad dudes. They have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous. We had a couple big strong powerful guys doing damage to people.”

Plato argues that as societies become increasingly free and diverse, there’s a natural progression toward otherwise traditional values being upended. A seething chaos reigns and then there’s a craving for order—usually in the form of a strongman leader, someone who becomes a dictator.

Even knowing all this, I wasn’t afraid of a Trump presidency. But something about the abject disdain for any and all discourse by those Trump fans with Cruz… turned me. And then a day later I read a fascinating New York Magazine article by the conservative social and political pundit Andrew Sullivan, called “Democracies end when they are too democratic.”

Sullivan references an aspect of Plato’s Republic in which Plato argues that as societies become increasingly free and diverse, there’s a natural progression toward otherwise traditional values being upended. Parents act like children; children have no respect for parents. All authority and government is highly distrusted and ignored. Sexual mores become hedonistic. A seething chaos reigns and then there’s a craving for order—usually in the form of a strongman leader, someone who becomes a dictator. And it happens almost seamlessly, as an extension of the will of the people.

Enter Trump with his famous statement, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” And his urging attendees at his rallies to raise their right hands and swear that they will vote for him— an eerie reminder of World War II-era German fascist salutes.

And suddenly a shudder of fear passed through me like the aftershock from a sonic boom. Between Trump’s angry mob in the Ted Cruz news clip and Sullivan’s article on the preconditions needed for a society to willingly elect a potential dictator, I found myself infected with the level of fear mongering that, ironically enough, Trump himself trades in.

That Trump will actually be elected is still a long shot. Even if he is, that he will continue to act so irresponsibly erratic and condone violence as he pushes his paranoia-filled hate rhetoric… is also not that likely. But even if he became downright centrist, post-nomination, to win over the general electorate, don’t forget that he was still the one responsible for seeding doubt that our current President was not an American citizen.

I find that kind of behavior unconscionable. Someone whose character is capable of that kind of pernicious, divisive manipulation simply does not deserve to ever be given the public’s trust.

And the thought that an angry mob like the one in the Cruz clip would be further unleashed and given more validation under a Trump-in-Chief is a scary notion indeed.

Learn more about author Loren-Paul Caplin here.

Love it? Hate it? Share your thoughts below...