How did Donald Trump become bulletproof? What’s his secret? How does a guy become more popular with each lie, each insult?

What’s fueling this trance that a large segment of our voting population seems to be under?

The frontrunner for the Republican Party nomination is the antithesis of a presidential candidate. He insults women, minorities and his own party leadership, yet his popularity grows. He picks a fight with other candidates and insults their wives but still there is no dent in his support. He confidently claims that he can do no wrong and his followers will support him no matter what he does.

And he’s not wrong — not entirely.

Trump is the Pied Piper of those who walk today on shifting sands.

I’ve never been much of an alarmist, but for the first time in my adult life I’m truly worried about the future of this country. It’s not so much a worry that Trump will actually get elected or even his lack of credibility on virtually every issue. Do we really believe he’s going to build a 1,900-mile wall in four years? Or eight? I-35 from Waco to Temple will take longer than that. No, I’m quite certain Washington would chew up The Donald and spit him out just as it has the 45 before him. He’s a political ripple, not a tide.

My bigger concern is the caustic atmosphere we’ve created in this country that makes a President Trump even a remote possibility. Those conditions aren’t going away any time soon. Trump rose to political prominence by feeding off the chaos we’ve all helped create. And while he may be a sideshow, the next one might not be. Trump is clunky, bombastic and shallow. The next candidate running on the chaos ticket may be slick, calculating and sinister. Will we care? Probably not till it’s too late.

We’re a nation at war from within, a cauldron of hate, fear and suspicion, unable to compromise on even the most noble idea or issue. How did we get like this? More importantly, is it too late to reverse course?

My children have a much more hopeful view of the future than I do. To them, constant change is normal. Their generation adapts and pivots with ease. Our kids learned how to walk on those same shifting sands that have confused and angered so many of us.

Change has always happened, but never as quickly as it does now. Technology shrank our world and now it’s speeding it up. Some of us feel like we’re on a treadmill set one speed higher than we can run.

We don’t know what happened to our way of life, only that “they” took it from us. We’re dying and “they” are not sharing the cure. To borrow the premise of a very good book, someone moved my cheese.

Our family lost its patriarch last year. And the hospice care professionals were amazingly helpful. They told us that it was normal for a person who is getting ready to pass from this life to withdraw from the surrounding world. They gave us literature that explained the long process of death and how the body, mind and soul prepare for it. As death begins to approach, they stop learning. They close off their minds to new ideas and fresh input. Their world shrinks, shutting out or severing ties with the less familiar first, those closest to them last.

Is that where we are as a country? Have we begun the process of passing from this earth? It certainly seems that way. We seem to have stopped learning. We’re not as open to new ideas or information as we once were. We have distanced ourselves from those less familiar to us and our world is most definitely shrinking.

Unless we wake up and recognize that there is no “they,” only we, I fear the atmosphere that’s given us Donald Trump in 2016 will produce something, or someone, far worse further down the American road.

Steve Boggs is editor of the Tribune-Herald. Email sboggs@wacotrib.com.