In the 17th century, poet John Milton called it a "goblin word" - a sobriquet so low that it was reserved for only the most insidious of rabble-rousers - yet in the last few months, any number of observers, from GOP presidential also-ran Rick Perry to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, from the Economist to, most recently, The New York Times, have crossed a rhetorical line in our politics by calling Donald Trump out as a "demagogue."
Until recently, I've resisted it. As the author of "Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies," I have been asked countless times in recent years whether Trump is a demagogue, and have always responded - indeed, thought - that he was not. Clearly, though, with his escalating effrontery toward the American creed, he is now.
This is not a matter of mere semantics. In the same way that precision should be used when issuing a terror alert, the term demagogue, properly applied, should be a tocsin of democracy - deployed judiciously and ringing loudly to foretell a singular menace to our republic.