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Donald Trump just keeps stumping America. Many have predicted that his presidential campaign will eventually implode due to his own utter incompetence. Gallup found that Trump has been viewed as the most unfavorable presidential candidate – of anyone from either party – in the last 25 years.
Still he has managed to secure three-straight victories so far and has built up a lead in the national polls, all while knocking several of his opponents out of the race. It is thought that he may very well even sweep the Super Tuesday states and secure the Republican nomination “with ease.”
He’s given Republican and Democratic voters alike approximately a million reasons not to vote for him: he’s insulted Republican icons such as George W. Bush and John McCain, and has even picked a fight with, yes, the Pope. He’s been quoted in stating that the Black Lives Matter movement is “disgusting,” and that all Muslims (including American Muslims) should be barred from entering the United States.
As it stands, America has a pressing question on its mind: How the hell has Trump been so successful?
To put it simply, a political perfect storm and ample luck.
The conservative white voters of Middle America are outraged. Those who benefited from the post-World War II boom have dealt with an economic crisis now for years. They are not benefiting from globalization in this ever-changing world; factories have closed down and relocated to third-world countries, while their existing work hours have increased and the wages have not proven commensurate. They believe the government has done virtually nothing to help them for the past decade. The American Dream, as they believe, is dying out. They want someone to “stand up and promise them (however unrealistic it might be) that the privilege they once had will return again.”
For them, that person is Donald Trump, who has taken on the role of spokesman for the white Middle Americans on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Never mind the fact that in reality Trump is a trust fund baby who inherited $40 million from his father; he has successfully managed to convince white Middle America that he’s “just like them.” He plays on patriotism to ensure that he will indeed “make America great again.”
To his supporters, he appears confident and decisive. His answers often sound right, even if they are, in fact, blatantly wrong. (“I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”) Psychology Today states that people sometimes even prefer a narcissistic leader in times of uncertainty, as narcissistic tendencies work to reduce these apprehensive feelings, despite their toxic outcomes. He’s made claims that he will grow the economy by 6%, cut taxes for everyone, defeat ISIS and erase the national debt, to name just a few. What matters to his supporters is not these rash claims, but that “in politics, force of character can be as important as facts.”
Another major characteristic of Trump’s supporters can be summed up in a direct quote by The Donald himself: “I love the poorly educated.” He consistently articulates very simple, easy-to-understand solutions to problems in an authoritative manner. For example, building a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out or tracking Muslims in a database. In Nevada, 57% of his votes came from people who did not attend college. As Independent states, “like the best salesman, Trump keeps it simple and repeats himself a lot.”
A large part of Trump’s success in fact has nothing to do with him at all, and more to do with the aforementioned “political perfect storm.” According to NPR, Americans’ trust of the federal government is at an all-time low. Americans historically are more willing to vote for a drastic change when they are dissatisfied with the current administration. This occurrence can be likened to the desire for change after the Bush administration in the 2008 election. Judgment often becomes clouded by emotions when intense disdain exists for the existing political establishment. In point of fact, 70% of Trump voters in Nevada said they preferred an “anti-establishment” candidate over one who has experience in politics.”
Evidently, Trump has presented himself as an anti-establishment candidate at the most opportune time.
Perhaps the most concerning point of all with regard to Trump’s popularity is the notion that his views “aren’t necessarily on the fringe.” He says the things that many people have been afraid to say out loud for years. Some voters have expressed similar sentiments to Trump’s statements in that “political correctness has run amok” and that “America doesn’t win anymore.” In a Bloomberg poll, two-thirds of GOP voters stated that they supported Trump’s proposal to block Muslims from entering the United States. His views on immigration in general have attracted many supporters, particularly the white working-class people of Middle America that feel their jobs have been taken away by immigrants, leaving them trailing behind in economic progress.
Although it may seem as such, all hope is not lost. Should Trump secure the Republican nomination, he will likely have trouble given his high unfavorability ratings within both political parties. It is exceedingly important for former supporters of Bush and Kasich (who will likely suspend his campaign in the near future) to caucus against Trump, instead of declining to vote altogether. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have spent too much energy in their respective campaigns feuding against one another instead of against Trump. If either cares about the future of the Republican party or the general state of American politics, then it is time for both to start aggressively campaigning against Trump. As The New Yorker puts it, “Trump is running against campaigns that aren’t running against him.”
In essence, Trump’s success isn’t completely the consequence of the orange man himself. It perhaps illustrates not only his own dumb luck as the outcome of the perfect political storm, but the backwards thinking that continues to prevail in much of the country today.
Photo courtesy of NBC News