What does Trump’s ascendance mean about America?

It is a sign of the times — the kind involving the seven-horned beast, and the rain of fire, and the end of days — that recent news has been dominated by Kanye, Stormy and the misogynist boor who is president of the United States. It would be a circus if it were not a crime scene, complete with credible accusations of financial corruption, obstruction of justice and campaign collusion with a hostile foreign power.

But in the dark, scary basement of our politics, more basic questions lurk concerning what President Trump’s ascendance means about America. Is Trump ultimately an aberration or the forerunner of a new, degraded politics involving a racially divisive, ethno-nationalist populism? And is it alarmist to go all the way and call Trump a fascist?

With due respect to my leftist friends, the charge goes too far at this point. In an email exchange, one conservative leader told me: “I do think it’s basically mere alarmism, yes. We have a president whose shallow malevolence is matched only by his bottomless incompetence. But that’s not fascism. It’s more weakness than strength.”