He’s giving fed-up Republicans something other candidates are not.
Donald Trump has at least three things going for him.
One, the mood of the country remains foul and fed-up — and volatile to the point that conventional wisdom is hardly reliable. Two, Trump has turned invective and narcissism into an art form, and his simplistic putdowns seem to garner ever more attention even as they become more monotonous and banal — largely because they are directed at a despised media elite. Three, the Democratic party is in worse shape than the Republican party. Apparently Trump’s attacks can still safely be savored as long as the Democrats are imploding.
Trump’s successes have come about not because of a brilliant new Contract with America or because he is reassuringly conservative on the issues. His diehard supporters — and even those who would never confess that they derive a perverse and stealthy delight from watching him put down the New York/Washington political and journalistic elite — don’t care that just in the last decade he has flipped on all the issues. They apparently ignore the fact that Trump is often self-contradictory, as he wings his way through endless interviews and blustery press conferences.
What fuels his candidacy is attitude — in particular, disdain for those who undeservedly believe they warrant deference. Behind the bombast and the waving hands, he gives the impression of having contempt for the ruling class, of which he is so intimately a part. He winks at us as if to say, “I hang out with these people, and, trust me, they are even worse than you suspect.” His voice has the brash accents of the New York sidewalk, rather than a passive-aggressive Ivy League modulation. His narcissism is unlike Barack Obama’s serious sort (e.g., “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director”). Indeed, Trump’s egotism is a caricature of narcissism itself, in which the only adjectives are superlatives and the only measure of being “great” and “a winner” is net worth or celebrity. Yet somehow TRUMP plastered over everything does not bother people as much as Barack Obama’s faux-Greek columns, Latinate mottos, and promises to cool the cosmos.
After nearly seven years of Obama, the public is worn out by sanctimoniousness — by all the Professor Gates/Trayvon Martin/Ferguson lectures on race by an abject racialist, by all the sermons on climate change by a global jet-setter, by all the community-organizing banality by one who always has preferred the private school and the tony neighborhood, by all the us-versus-the-1-percent warfare by one who feels at home on the golf course only with celebrities and stock hounds. Given all that, the Republican base, at least for a few more weeks, wants someone to be unapologetically unacceptable — both to the liberal establishment that Obama ushered in, and to the wink-and-nod elite Republican opposition.
It is said that Trump appeals most to the pissed-off white man of yesteryear. Perhaps. But in the age of a multiracial United States it is more proper to say than he appeals to the infuriated targets of elite disdain, people who are tired of Democratic slurs about “tired old white men” — as the exempt white and (most of them) old Sanders, Biden, O’Malley, and Webb wait for a mature white woman to fade, while hoping that other old white men like Kerry, Gore, and Brown don’t wade in.
Trumpers are tired of a Republican establishment warning them — even if presciently so — that enforcement of federal immigration law is impossible because of the Latino vote, that even demanding a simple ID at the polling place may alienate the black vote, that stopping federal funding to the grotesque Planned Parenthood will lose the female vote, and that not rushing in to sanctify gay marriage will turn off gay voters. Rank-and-file Republicans are worn out from being lectured that no one can win without the Latino vote (10 percent of the electorate), the black vote (12 percent), and the Asian vote (5 percent ) — all on the premise that to speak in similar terms about getting a large chunk of the white vote (70 percent ) would be somehow racist. There is something Ajaxian, then — something of the Charge of the Light Brigade or the last scene in Breaker Morant — inherent in the Trump call to make America great again.
Telejournalists recycle the trite wisdom that with today’s electorate Trump must lose because he will not garner x percentages of y racial-block voters. They don’t have a clue that the Democratic party — in its worst shape since the 1920s — is in danger of nullifying such racial calculations by creating a white voting block not seen in the modern era. If it is true that Trump probably cannot win unless he takes somewhere around 62 percent of the white vote (depending on the particular state), it is also true that the next Democrat probably cannot win without 40 percent of it. Any of the Democrats is just as much in danger of not reaching 40 percent as Trump is of not reaching 62 percent.
#share#Trump’s trademark is venom directed against the “elite.” But is not Trump a member of the elite himself? Yes, but that is the point. The public has less problem with the brash, take-no-prisoners plutocrat than with the current feuding Hatfields and McCoys of the Ivy League–trained stable, the Medici-like intermarriages between D.C./New York politicians and journalists, and the hip world of the metrosexual that serves up our entertainment and news.
So a public far larger than just the Tea Party was ready for a populist grandstander. And Trump so far has managed to make real outliers — non-establishment political mavericks like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie, who were the choices of the Tea Party movements just a fortnight ago — look like Eric Cantor/Mitch McConnell company men. That such gifted conservative politicos are considered functionaries is abjectly unfair, but it is nonetheless the jaded perception so far of much of the Republican electorate.
Trump sized up a favorable landscape in 2015–16, and he grasped that the dissatisfaction arose from more than Obama’s profligate borrowing, amnesties, no-growth economic policies, lead-from-behind and reset foreign policies, and hands-up-don’t-shoot racial posturing. The populist furor was also fueled by style. Voters are tired of the DNA of professional politicians, the 24/7 politically correct equivocation, the “I take full responsibility” media pseudo-apology, and the Pajama Boy nasal snarkiness.
Trump has had the skills to turn the primary campaign so far into a war of raw emotion. He channels General George S. Patton — who practiced his facial expressions in front of the mirror and whose line about preferring to kill rather than die for your country Trump recalibrated in his tasteless attack on John McCain. Trump understands that an army really does not march just on its stomach, but is fueled by its emotions.
Recently I asked three quite different Americans — who, on ordinary calculations, should not like Trump — what they thought of him. The first s a local Mexican-American barber. He could offer no logical rationale for his enjoyment of the Trump candidacy other than that Trump is a “jefe” — a big man who gets things done by any means necessary, a crew boss to the world. I sensed that there was also an embarrassed weariness with illegal immigration.
We talk of Latino voters as hating Trump, and some may. But some Latinos are at Ground Zero of illegal immigration. Whereas their elite leaders see profit in millions of Mexicans trekking into the United States, the less well connected see only their local emergency rooms overwhelmed, their jails full, their social services breaking under the influx, and their schools turned into remediation in both English and Spanish.
Another person I quizzed about Trump is a seasoned, though cynical, PhD. His take? Trump is Maximus, and the primary campaign is his arena: We are all thumbs-up/thumbs-down spectators who enjoy the blood sport.
This man plans to jump ship, but not until Trump’s ship is capsizing and there is a nice raft alongside.
The third is a middle-aged professional woman, nominally a Democrat, whose attitude can be summed up as “touché.” The reactive Trump is quite savvy in his selected feuds with supposed untouchables, whom the public occasionally would like to see touched. John McCain started that attacks on Trump, and previously had waved the bloody shirt a bit too much; Megyn Kelly is a bit more than a fine professional journalist and capable legal scholar, at least in the way she dresses and preps for the camera; and Jorge Ramos is a hipper version of an obnoxious Howard Dean, snickering and bloviating ad nauseam. Trump, then, is leveling the playing field for the exhausted TV viewer. His welcome attacks turn our attention away from his own considerable liabilities — as long as he can continue to select objects and methodologies of attack that entertain.
All the above is no reason to become enthusiastic about Trump, but no reason to turn him off quite yet either.
Then there is Trump himself. Any businessman who can become or even remain a billionaire in today’s climate in any field other than banking, trading, or insuring is necessarily talented. Most stars cannot sustain a TV reality show for more than a year or two, much less 14 — proof that Trump has both acting talent and entertainment savvy. It is easy to mock Trump’s hair and sprayed-on tan, but at 69 he seems healthier and more robust to the eye than many who are ten years younger. We forget his age: If he were elected in 2016, he would be the oldest president to be inaugurated and the first since Dwight Eisenhower (whose prior politics likewise were murky) to be elected to the presidency without having held political office before. The supposedly far more seasoned, and slightly younger, Hillary Clinton in comparison comes across as inept, crabby, sarcastic, and a decade older. In other words, in terms of the political assets of our wired age — money, media savvy, celebrity, showmanship, looks, and vigor — Trump is a fit for the times.
For a few weeks longer, Republicans can safely enjoy Trump even as pundits and politicos gnash their teeth in terror that his no-brakes locomotive has too much momentum to be sidetracked. But remember that, so far, the front-running Trump is not fearing an indictment, avoiding reporters, calling his political rivals terrorists, or evoking the Holocaust through references to boxcars — and the alternatives, like Rubio, Walker, Carson, Fiorina, and Kasich, are not socialists unregistered in the Republican party. Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole are not waiting in the wings. So Trump can snort and rampage through the china shop, because much of the merchandise is still tottering on the shelf. In the Democrats’ case, the shards are already on the floor.
If Trump brings catharsis for the smoldering anger of the base, if the other candidates appropriate some of Trump’s slash-and-burn style but accompany it with a coherent agenda, if Trump gratuitously slurs yet another race/class/gender icon and confirms he is more a bully than a truth-teller, and if Hillary’s legal problems disappear, then Trump may go back to The Apprentice. But for a while longer that still seems a lot of ifs.
25 thoughts on “What Makes Donald Run?”
A comment about the many assertions that Trump has completely changed his stance on certain issues which he held in the past. As an example, How many of men/women, after going through a divorce, have utterly and completely change their stance and opinions on what they would look for , and find admirable in a future mate. People change their opinions on many issues, after finding out that their previously held views “Simply do not work” in reality. Remember Ronald Reagan was first a democrat.
The only problem is Trump has changed his opinions like most people change their underwear! I don’t see any coherent evolution of thought like you would find when studying Reagan’s transformation from a Democrat to a Republican.
A while longer? Hopefully not.
The other thing about Trump is that he is a salesman. Who else had the sales savvy to make his run for President about “Making America Great Again”.
He’s got ya with that. And, you’re in for the ride.
He reminds me of Patton…and dangerous to the status quo. If he becomes any more of a threat toward the finish line, I fear for his life. His adversaries, threatened, will stop at nothing. Scary for me to think of it. I think he is wonderful to behold at this point. Just what the country needs: someone saying what so many of us are thinking. Not perfect but better than the stale nonsense which you articulated so well.
They most likely got rid of Andrew Breitbart!
I can’t find any mention of Ted Cruz in your repeated listing of alternative candidates. How does he qualify for exclusion, in your view?
VDH, you are beating a dead horse! Trump has a style that is different then you define as congruous for political leadership. The narcissism you claim is not there. Trump brags about what he has accomplished and Obama lies about his accomplishments. Obama is an empty suit, where Trump IS successful and proud of it. The comparison is not even close! Trump obviously loves his country and Obama disdains it!! Stick to the issues that Trump stands for–stay away from the tenor of his voice and his demeanor and you might have the possibility of influencing thought!
It’s not bragging if you can do it.
Signed a tired, old, pissed-off white man of yesteryear (who has paid taxes for half a century and never had so much as a parking ticket his entire life).
On Trump’s flip flops, the issue there is not that we trust him, it is that every Republican has lied. Trump might do what he says. Of the more trustworthy Republicans, such as Walker, there isn’t a sense they fully grasp the importance of immigration. As you say “presciently,” the reality for young people such as myself is we will watch conservatism die if immigration isn’t restricted and illegals deported. The demographics are destiny. Trump is sort of our last shot, and if he and the Republicans fail again, secession and other types of options will replace electoral politics among young conservatives.
Dear God, he’s almost 70? That *is* an accomplishment to appear two and a half decades younger and more sprightly. If Trump squares off against Sanders, I wonder how similar the public’s reaction may be to the famed Nixon v. Kennedy televised debate, where Kennedy won on looks alone.
Your previous hit piece was better.
LOL. Is Dr. Hanson getting “trumpnotize”? Wonder why the professor continues to “associate” The Donald and his supporters to some source of psychological disorders, from catharsis before to narcissism now?
You know if there is a compendium of Professor Hanson’s finest essays (now that would be nice!) this has to be in it. A sharp look-see at the damn the torpedoes full steam ahead great American Trump Dream Machine.
And speaking of that great observation that Trump’s voice has ‘the brash accents of the New York sidewalk, it sort of reminded me that indeed he, as a modern day ‘Mugs’, is a pied piper together with his Dead End /East Side kids like ‘Glimpy, ‘Sniffy’, ‘Skinny’ and ‘Skid’ sticking out their tongues to the posh ones with their ‘ejikashun’ and all. I think he’s found much to mine from urban history of the classes.
And from the looks of it Trump would appear to love being ‘Emperor’ here under the SPQR banner as the crowds regale him and his ‘orations’. At this point, he certainly is a package of ‘bread and circus’ all in one.
The ‘plebes’ apparently love him while the patricians sneer.
Trump is the first Conservative to figure out how to use the Leftist propaganda machine to his advantage. He shows no fear and welcomes their misrepresentations of him. Instead of being defensive he uses the media firestorm to promote popular ideas that are condemned by liberal oligarchy. The silent majority enjoys his defiance of our politically correct establishment.
Exactly. I hope we are witnessing the transition to a new level of combat in the dialogue sphere, in order to deal with the deviousness and dirty tricks of an Alinsky educated media elite. In the same way that boxing and wrestling transitioned into the MMA, conservative thinkers dialogue styles need to transition into a different style, less debating team, and more street.
As John says, Trump takes the “no platform” attempt of the media and turns it on its head, using it to promote discussion of those topics previously deemed verboten.
His eviction of Jorge Ramos was excellent, and had all the hallmarks of a teacher telling a naughty schoolboy to sit down, then making him stand outside the classroom for 5 minutes. The thing that made it was his nonchalance, saying “I don’t mind if he comes back, frankly”. He’s obviously used to the cut and thrust of a normal daily life, and its hard to imagine other political leaders doing that.
It would have been even better if he’d referenced the enclosing frame of the dialogue, and asked “Whose meeting is this?”, since it is a universal convention that the person who arranges a meeting has discretion over it, and Ramos was free to arrange his own meeting, if he wanted.
It would have also been nice to highlight that Ramos’s behaviour was an exact replica of the issues Trump was trying to fight. Trump wants to see law applied in the US, and in the press conference; Ramos rejects both. At least Ramos is consistent, but it would help us all if he were to produce a list of all the laws and conventions that henceforth, according to him, are to be ignored – otherwise we just don’t know where we are with him.
For me, Trump is a combo commentary on political reality.
First, conservatives ENABLE Progressives by eating their young in the name of infinitesimal ideological purity. Trump’s broad brush is suited to countering this, because enabling is not confronted with a fine touch.
Second, if Obamacare can be passed by busing Somalis to the polls in Minnesota, perhaps the so called loyalty to Obama may simply be action based upon the true perception of changing US demographics. Would illegal aliens care if Progressives have no respect for our security, law and Constitution? What difference does it MAKE if I wiped the server?
The trouble the likes of Jeb, Marco, Rand, Scott, John, and even Ted have against Trump, is that he makes them look like — oh what’s the family-friendly form of word? — wimps. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Wimps. Not to mention palaverous panderers, pusillanimous windbags, or thinly-disguised errand boys for their big-money donors. IOW, regular, run-of-the-mill, everyday politicians. Carson and Fiorina are the only ones not in that box.
The funniest thing of all is, the guy has a real shot, Lord save us.
Well said. Not sure about Ms. Fiorina though. Pretty “active” w/ the political process since her stint at HP.
Let us be a little focussed about this. Do you prefer the brash, noisy, impolite, unPC outsider Donald Trump, or the ultra-Establishment John Boehner, the man who defies Nature by showing that it is possible to stand upright without a backbone?
I don’t see that you have any rational choice but Trump. The Establishment candidates will NOT DO what is necessary, in defending America, in advancing American interests abroad, in immigration, in keeping out plague (rat Obama did his best to import Ebola!), to advance the economy. But Trump might.
And that is the choice. Those who would not, and the one who would likely attempt, and, in attempting, would have some success.
The horrible government of rat Obama has had two, intended, bad effects. The first is by the direct attack on various elements of the US economy, especially on the fuel supply. The second, more difficult to measure but perhaps even more severe, is by attacks on American morale. Rat Obama isn’t on your side. You know that he will trip you up, and laugh at you as you stumble and fall. And instead of giving you a hand to support you, he will go off and play golf. Somehow that doesn’t sound to me what Donald Trump would do.
So savior generals can be total drunks and dirtbags that society doesn’t understand yet needs and now Trump is just a temporary expression of our summer malaise? History tells us that unsavory times call for unsavory characters but all of a sudden there’s no there there? So you support Trumps policies as long as you get to describe them in your own words? I’ve been following you since Autumn of War and suddenly you are not so confident in your own rhetoric of how the exceptional define the moment.
Dr. Hanson, you have a such eloquent way to say The Donald and his supporters are a bunch of crazy people through the “association” w/ some source of psychological disorders, from catharsis to narcissism. But that is o.k. at least about 25-30 percent of the people have been called worse, not in a nicer way though. So what’s next in the psychological disorder you want to catalog these folks that you have in mind? This enquirer mind wants to know. He sure does look good for a guy that age. But I guess when you don’t do alcohol, smoking, or caffeine will help you a lot.
How about an article on Trump’s current positions. Perhaps Trump is smart enough to embrace conservative solutions for today’s problems. Perhaps you, the great VDH, can have an audience with Trump, and explain in great detail what you believe would be the proper corrective actions to take to put this country back on track to be great again.
I never thought I would see someone like Trump running first in the race for president.
But then I never thought I would see the United States on her knees.
Much of the American electorate — left and right — are finally tired enough of the stuff and nonsense coming out of Washington that they are swooning over the guy who just stands up and yells, loud and clear, “Bullshit!” I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Although I like other candidates better, I have not a moment’s doubt that a Trump presidency would be better for the country than a Hillary, Bernie, or Crazy Uncle Joe presidency.
My favorite moment in the Ramos-Trump encounter was when Ramos asked, “How are you going to build a 2500-mile wall?” Trump just turned to him and said, “I’m a builder.” As a member in good standing of the Academic-Media-Politician complex, it obviously had never occurred to Ramos that there are people around who actually DO things.
While I might prefer Ted Cruz for president, I don’t think he is electable.
Contrary to current wisdom, it’s still Hillary’s to lose. Any Democrat nominee starts with 230 to 240 electoral votes. It only takes 270 to win.
Election fraud is worth at least six percentage points for Democrats in the popular vote. Republican election / balloting referees are too scared of being called racists to enforce voting laws.
As someone who is sick and tired of watching the Republicans trying to fight boxing matches with street fighters ( with predictable results ), a Republican candidate such like Trump who doesn’t curl up in the fetal position quivering in fear when some Democrat or member of the mainstream media calls them a bad name is refreshing to say the least.
Hillary’s political fortunes rest as much, if not more, with Obama and the Justice Department than with anything any Republican can do. Obama will let her twist in the wind through the various investigations until he gets agreements signed in blood that she will keep quiet about what she knows about his disgraceful handling of his presidential duties.
There are three ways Hillary can lose this election:
– By dropping out for health reasons. She is not well.
– Obama, through his Justice Department, takes her out for spite.
– Trump self-destructs.
If nothing else, Trump is showing the rest of the Republican bench that you can ” fight like a Democrat ” and not only survive, but thrive.
When attacked, fight back.
Go on the offensive.
Hit below the belt.
When you get hit, hit back twice as hard.
Don’t worry about what the other side might do. Make them worry about what you might do.
Be proud of what you represent.
Sure, Trump is arrogant, pompous, brash, overly self-confident, and vain.
But it is refreshing to see a candidate from either party so unabashedly pro-American.
Because I am convinced that Trump will do something serious about immigration, and make America a business-friendly country again, I will take my chances with this blowhard for now.
Now to sit back and enjoy the show. . . . . .