There's a lot to unpack here. What I'll say is that I don't think Trump quite grasps how much his words affect this stuff. He just knows that talking about illegal immigrants gets his base into a frenzy, and he likes the attention. I don't think Trump's a white supremacist, or Hitler-level discriminatory (though, let's be honest, there's some legit racism in there), but I think he's willing to use ambiguous or potentially inflammatory language that will play to his base, some of whom do see that as an endorsement of their own prejudice. The frenzy of hate speech that hit towns, cities, internet etc. right after the election was part of this as well.
So I think Trump is culpable for a lot of this, but not necessarily for the reasons people will point to, many of which you correctly criticize. The Charlottesville response from Trump was a great microcosm of this. No, I don't think he supports Nazis. But you could see him equivocating in his words, knowing that too much of a response in the other direction would be an abandonment to the left. But it became a celebration for the actual Nazis, who ate it up with glee.
He might also just be kinda dumb. For example, according to some White House aids, he apparently didn't fully understand the implications of rescinding DACA, which was the rare Obama-era action that has support on both sides of the aisle and would cost the country billions to get rid of (deportations are expensive af). He may have just seen the words "illegal immigrants" and "Obama" attached to it, and decided it needed to go. Which, again, is enough for some (but not all) elements of his base. But in all likelihood, he's not actually as anti-immigrant as rescinding it would make it seem.
No, actually. Pretty much all of my writing has been for various jobs I've had, which have been writing-intensive communications positions; collectively I've written hundreds of articles for magazines, newsletters (both online and in print) and for web use, but it's all fairly specific to those companies or industries. I was also a freelancer for a while to supplement my income, but it was again all business pieces for various companies' websites and such. I don't really write for myself. That may change, eventually. But I'm the rare professional writer who doesn't have an unfinished novel on his hard drive.
Before it folded, Grantland was another ESPN-owned site that had some great long-form stuff. They didn't do politics, but were my go-to sports and pop culture site. 538, great as is it with their empirical approach to topics, never quite replaced the quality of writing Grantland had.