As Donald Trump's positions on Muslims got more extreme last week, he didn't take a hit in the polls. I was so shocked that I traveled to Iowa to talk to supporters at a rally. And I brought my video camera along.
What I found was, at first, not surprising: As polls suggested, his supporters agreed with his Islamophobic proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from traveling to the US. A supporter named Jeanette told me, "I’d like to have the borders a lot more secure so I can feel safe, so my kids can feel safe."
They were also realistic, acknowledging that Trump's fantastical proposals probably wouldn't really happen. One supporter said of his proposed temporary Muslim ban, "I don’t think it’s plausible he’s going to get that through."
But what surprised me was that the fear and anxiety about Islam displayed here seemed to cut deeper than simply what Trump proposed, or even Trump as a candidate.
In some cases, Trump supporters were torn about the different candidates but were confident others would still push for the same anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideals.
Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. As my colleague Max Fisher has written eloquently, Islamophobia in America goes much further than Trump. And policies that act out our deepest fears and anxieties are nothing new for the US. One Trump supporter even likened the tenor of today's anti-Muslim fears to Japanese internment during World War II — positively: "[FDR] did what he thought was best for protecting the United States," he said to me.
It's crucially important that we don't laugh off Trump's bombastic, hateful words. He represents a dangerous and recurring theme in American politics, and the current majority against the proposals he suggests is a lot more fragile than it might seem.
To get a sense of what that looks like, and feels like, watch the video at the top of this page or over on our YouTube page.
Trump supporters, in their own words