So the return to economic populism is likely to be less effective in 2018 than the same message was in 2016. And then at the same time the wink to the conspiratorial extremes, the japes about body-slams and punching protesters in the face, have met the thing most likely to make them a political liability: actual far-right violence.
The idiosyncratic nature of lone-wolf attacks makes it a mistake to draw a line of direct responsibility from Trump’s rhetoric to the would-be pipe bomber and the synagogue shooting. And the oft-repeated claim that the Trump era has produced a general surge in anti-Semitic violence seems dubious or wrong.
But the events of last week are still a strong reminder that the politics of vilification and the paranoid style work darkly in darkened minds, and that having a president embrace both is simple wickedness, not just the WWE-style game that Trump may believe himself to be playing with his rhetoric. And voters who decided to forgive Trump’s demagogy in 2016, or treat it as performance art, have just been given a visceral reason to punish him for it instead.