This.

This one essay by former Marine Corps officer Jake Cusack offers an empathetic and no doubt authentic explanation for both Donald Trump’s popularity, and why we should defeat him at all costs.

Since you know you’ll be obsessively following the election all day, add this to your reading. I’ve been stretching my imagination to try to figure out why, how on earth anyone could even be considering voting for Trump and Officer Cusack offers the best explanation for the frightening phenomenon yet:

“I can appreciate the frustrations of Trump’s base. Values they hold dear now seem smugly derided as quaint. The mainstream media comments on them but does not represent them. Even when reporters deign to visit middle America, the stories often seem written as a subtle inside joke for the coasts. It’s no wonder that people in the heartland have slowly turned to right-wing media, preferring to get their news from sources that do not treat them as dumb country cousins at a metropolitan gala…[] Scroll through the constellation of fear mongering sites that orbit conservative media and try to recognize the America you know in those stories. It makes sense that Trump supporters can believe so wholeheartedly that the country is on the verge of collapse….[]These and other concerns with legitimate roots turn some of my friends and family towards Trump’s aggressive stance and anti-establishment voice, even as they are fully cognizant of his massive personal flaws.”

Ooooh. I can see now. But what makes this essay great is the author’s personal experience in Iraq and elsewhere:

“But what they don’t see is how tenuous it all is. I’ve spent my life since Iraq in and out of conflict zones and fragile states. I’ve seen educated, wealthy communities descend overnight into ethnic cleansing. I’ve seen family men turned into butchers. I’ve seen a charismatic reformed warlord, surrounded by capable technical advisors, steer his country irretrievably into the abyss.I was traveling across Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, and Sierra Leone when Trump escalated his comments suggesting that he’d try to put Hillary Clinton in jail and doubled down on his assertion of “rigged elections.” People there knew exactly what he meant, because they have heard that rhetoric before. This is the language of lands without strong institutions, bereft of the mutual trust that glues our democracy together. It’s the language of civil wars.”

His conclusion?

“Our choice of leaders matters. Our respect for institutions matters. Trust in the democratic process matters. Freedom of the press matters. An independent judiciary matters. And it matters that America continues to believe itself a country that welcomes “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.””

Read the essay, it’s worth a few minutes, it’s an excellent piece.