How 'The Trump Effect' is transforming the US

Donald Trump’s insurgent campaign is causing turmoil in America.

He has peddled fear, anger, outrage and contempt from a national stage.

The Republican presidential nominee has challenged accepted standards in public life – defying convention, decorum and at times, decency.

But the fallout from all of this is being felt well beyond politics.

In Mr Trump, millions have found a voice, and his popularity is shaking and shaping what this nation believes about itself.

Across the United States – on the streets, in schools, mosques, churches and communities – ordinary life is transforming.

It is “The Trump Effect”.


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As we travelled around the country to tell this story, the defining emotion in our interviewees was anxiety.

We spoke to children playing baseball at Sunday Little League in Tampa, Florida, who were frightened that their immigrant parents were going to be deported. 

One of them is Steven Cruz, and his face twisted in fear as I asked him about it.  

The eight-year-old’s mum said she saw a “darkness” around Mr Trump as she described the effect of the billionaire’s anti-immigrant positions on her family and community. 

Local teachers Val and Lora Jane spoke of how their students had become less tolerant of one another. 

Some children have taken to shouting “Trump” at Hispanic kids, laughing about deportation and using insults not heard in the playground for years.

In the cafeteria, Lora Jane noticed how students seemed to be separating themselves along racial lines. 

In corridors, an Indian child is nicknamed “Isis” and Trump campaign slogans are used as taunts.

Their school isn’t unusual.


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Maureen Costello, from civil rights organisation The Southern Poverty Law Center, gathered similar stories from thousands of schools all over America, and named this unsettling new dynamic “The Trump Effect”.

She said it was creating trauma for children who will take a long time to recover. 

She described how Mr Trump had “unleashed” something awful in this country.

When I asked her how she felt when she hears him speak, her eyes began to fill with tears.

She was as surprised by the sudden surge of emotion as I was. She apologised. 

“There’s so much at stake,” she said.

We felt the same sense of crisis in Muslim communities in Michigan, where women spoke of suddenly feeling like there was a target on their heads.

Others recounted being verbally and physically threatened. One woman whispered that someone had tried to run her off the road.

An elderly imam described Mr Trump as a “tragedy”, another said that he was scared.

In some ways, he is right to be.


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The SPLC has been tracking a spike in hate activity and crime. 

The director of the group’s Hate Watch programme said that Mr Trump had done more to energise and embolden hate groups than any politician in modern American history.

White nationalist Matthew Heimbach confirmed this when he allowed us to film him knocking on the doors of a trailer park in Kentucky.

He said he was relieved that Mr Trump was saying what he and so many of his supporters have been thinking.

Now he feels able to be more public about his beliefs, and his fight to stop the incessant march of diversity that threatens to make white people a minority by the mid-2040s.

Mr Trump, he believes, represents the working class white man’s last chance to hold on to power.

In a Minnesota church, therapist and psychologist professor Bill Doherty addressed the congregation as his minister watched.

The people gathered on the pews wanted guidance and reassurance about what is going on in America.

He didn’t have much of the latter, declaring that an emotional civil war is underway and “that Trumpism” represents a threat to public mental health.

One women confided that she believed Mr Trump had triggered her previously under-control depression.

Another admitted that she was anxious about Mr Trump because she thought he was not only affecting her family relationships, but also undermining American democracy.

He is, said Professor Doherty, a “human Molotov cocktail” being hurled at the establishment, and whether he wins or not, a lot of people are going to get burned.

:: Watch a special report from Hannah Thomas-Peter, The Trump Effect, at 11.30 this morning, and at 2.30pm and 9.30pm.

:: There will also be continuing coverage from the campaign trail throughout the day on Sky News. Plus every night this week, we will have a special programme – America Decides – from midnight with Jeremy Thompson.

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