Explaining Donald Trump’s Popularity

Donald Balboa

“Every sulfurous belch from the molten interior of the volcanic Trump phenomenon injures the chances of a Republican presidency.” Those are the words of George Will in a Washington Post column titled “The havoc that Trump wreaks — on his own party“.

The damage that Trump is doing to the GOP brand is a common theme among recent political commentaries. What is baffling plenty of political pundits is the exact reason why Trump has the amount of popularity that he has.

In a Weekly Standard blog post titled “Among the Trumpies“, Fred Barnes describes the Trump supporters in a focus group conducted by Frank Luntz: “They love the Trump swagger and attitude. Luntz asked what they liked the most, the Trump persona or his policies. Persona got 23 votes, policies six. Shown a video of Trump’s insisting that he would be the greatest president ever, they were untroubled by his boastfulness. Several said Trump was merely displaying his confidence.”

In his above-quoted Washington Post column, George Will gives a different description of Trump’s supporters:

Some supporters simply find Trump entertainingly naughty. Others, however, have remarkable cognitive dissonance. They properly execrate Obama’s executive high-handedness that expresses progressivism’s traditional disdain for the separation of powers that often makes government action difficult. But these same Trumpkins simultaneously despise GOP congressional leaders because they do not somehow jettison the separation of powers and work conservatism’s unimpeded will from Capitol Hill.

In a commentary for Real Clear Politics, Mark Salter has this to say directly to Trump’s supporters:

What the hell is wrong with you?

I don’t know for certain if Trump really is an aspiring Mussolini or a nut or a black hole of narcissism. I’m not a psychiatrist. He might just be taking advantage of the low state of politics in America to build up his singular if weird personal brand. But whatever he’s doing, he is clearly an awful human being. And if you can’t recognize that then there’s something pretty clearly wrong with you, too.

Politicians and pundits are making excuses for you. They say you’re so sick of bad government and polarized politics that you’re willing to take a chance on making Donald Trump the most powerful man on Earth. I say you’ve taken leave of your senses. I say you’re delusional. I say you’ve confused reality with reality TV. I say you’d rather sulk and bitch about America’s problems than help fix them.

Do you really think the dislocations caused by the transition from an industrial society to an information economy can be reversed with threats and tariffs? Do you really think rising urban crime rates, structural unemployment, failing schools, the proliferation of single-parent households, and the growing heroin epidemic can all be fixed by sealing our borders? Do you really think it’s even possible to round up 11 million people, the vast majority of whom are hard-working, decent folks, and force them out of the country? Do you really think that would make America better?

If you do, I say you’re looking for scapegoats, not solutions. I say you’re not patriots trying to make America great again. You’re fools prepared to hurt the country and the world far more than any political “establishment” has or would ever do.

This author proposes another reason for Trump’s popularity: He is a fighter akin to Rocky Balboa and Philo Beddoe.

So, why do fighters have such an appeal to certain people?

Social problems tend to be complex. Such complexity is often too much for the Human psyche to handle. So, Humans gravitate toward any politician who offers them simple solutions to their complex problems.

Fighting – or the use of brute force – offers people a simple solution, even if it really isn’t a solution.

Something about the human psyche causes people to seek a victory of some kind even if the victory is hollow. For example, American-style football is a popular sport because it gives spectators victories to cheer about should their favorite teams win games. However, does a football victory solve any problems? Does such a victory right a wrong? Does it preserve human lives or human rights?

No, winning an athletic competition doesn’t solve any social woe, but it gives people a feeling of euphoria. Donald Trump’s political fighting gives his supporters a feeling of euphoria, too. As Fred Barnes writes, Trump’s supporters “view Trump as different from all the other presidential candidates. He’s not just their favorite candidate. Their tie to him is almost mystical. He’s a kind of political savior, someone who says what they think.

If Donald Trump somehow makes it to the presidential super bowl, then it won’t be because he is offering sensible solutions. Instead, it will be because his supporters want a POTUS with the chutzpah to say “Right turn, Clyde.”

Yo, Melania!

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