Donald Trump's brand of xenophobic patriotism belies basic values on which America was founded. Given the U.S.'s cultural sway, his election would weign on other countries facing similar issues.
BOGOTÁ — Donald Trump could very well be a clear and present threat to the American dream. His style, his values and his discourse have changed the tone and content of an immigration debate that is happening in many Western democracies, even as polls suggest he has become untouchable.
What the billionaire-turned-politician has brought to politics, quite shamelessly, are calculations that belong to the everyday world of business. That may not be new, but these values used to seep into politics more discreetly and gradually, so they would have both credibility and time to be embraced as "civic values."
Beyond the interests of big business and its drive to organize everything around it, Trump began fueling strong emotions among base Republican voters from the beginning of the campaign. He hopes to do the same now nationally, as the other far more boring and complacent candidates fail to have the same effect.
It's often been observed that Trump gives voice to the dreams and disgust of millions of innocent, isolated and fairly ignorant voters. He manifests himself in a boundless, disorderly fashion, like someone willing to say the things others have contemplated at some point but never had the opportunity or courage to shout out. Therein lies the success of his discourse and a momentum that is proving difficult to check.
Among the stands he's taken, Trump has said that he would be the only candidate who could close the borders and stop more Latin Americans from changing the country's composition and culture.
Moreover, he boasts, he would put the overconfident Russian President Vladimir Putin in his place, ensure that the European Union toes the American line, crush ISIS, force Muslims to stay where they are, silence Kim Jong-un once and for all. The list goes on.
His supporters have the impression that Trump would be the savior of the American Dream, believing that several generations will have better lives with him in charge. His message, characterized by the most basic and opportunist populism, has boosted his support and brought him to the brink of becoming the Republican presidential nominee.
From now on, it seems that all he has to do is seize on the hidden or barely hidden feelings of millions of American voters, regardless of party affiliation.
So far, all he has managed to do is to polarize. In a country founded by immigrants, he has managed to raise doubts about whether the United States should remain a welcoming place for migrants. He has forced rivals such as Ted Cruz to take even harsher political positions.
Trump's rise seems to be questioning the viability of the American dream — the right of all to pursue happiness and demand equal opportunity, regardless of race or origin. It's a dream in crisis in a country with a changing demographic.
But a dream based on optimism and enterprise can't be represented by prophets of doom. Falling for this calamitous discourse and hurtling in fear toward a society that discriminates and strikes at liberties may harm not just the United States, but also the world.
It's up to the American voters. They must choose how to react to the changes affecting both their country and their own dreams. To know the future, the rest of us are left to follow that other star of the electoral show: the polls.