In this CBC TV interview, Henry Giroux explains that Trump's popularity can, in part, be attributed to at least three issues.
First, since 9/11, the US government has stoked a culture of fear that has given rise to a national anxiety over terrorists, mainly focused on the fear of Muslims. This culture of fear provides a disturbing breeding ground for a culture of hate and cruelty, which Trump has tapped into. Shared fears have replaced shared responsibilities.
Second, celebrity culture is now the dominating educational influence in the US, cheapening serious and thoughtful discourse and putting into play a focus on lifestyles and personalities. This has given rise to a mainstream media that devalue politics, treat politicians as celebrities, refuse to give them a serious hearing and are unwilling to raise tough questions.
Finally, the Republican Party has been telling its followers to be angry since the 1980s, but not about issues that matter. This has fueled a culture of bigotry, racism, hate, nativism and demagoguery. Donald Trump has tapped into such fears and anxieties and uses them to his own political advantage in driving the media while spewing hate and indulging in inflammatory commentaries.
As Timothy Egan has pointed out, Trump is keenly aware that the distinction between the ostensibly serious and the self-evident frivolous have collapsed. Everything is now a performance designed to inflame, shock and elevate emotion over reason. The latter is particularly important because it has allowed Trump to run a media-centric campaign using his celebratory status to drive the media, rather than the other way around. He has also mobilized the darkest elements of Republican Party ideology and has been able to put together a coalition of followers who hate democracy, tolerance and justice itself. By feeding off widespread anger, Trump makes clear that he is in exaggerated form symptomatic of a larger problem, which is an assault on democracy itself.