Deconstructing the Appeal of Donald Trump

Trump O

He’s boorish. He’s inarticulate. He’s graceless, crass and ego-maniacal. He seems to believe insults like loser, clown and scum, are adequate substitutes for a cogent policy argument.

Historically he has been more ideologically aligned with Democrats than Republicans and has had lots of nice things to say about Hillary Clinton over the years. He doesn’t seem to understand why universal healthcare is a bad idea, or to have any intellectual curiosity about conservative ideas. And . . .

Donald Trump is the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for the White House.

Most longtime observers of the American political scene were expecting the Donald Trump fad to have passed by now. It hasn’t. He continues to outpoll all other contenders for the Republican nomination by a substantial margin.

I laid out some thoughts about Trump’s appeal in a previous post but would like to expand upon them now.

To understand the stubbornly resilient levels of support for Donald Trump, it’s necessary to view it as a braided rope with five strands. Those strands—the good, bad and ugly—are:

  1. Celebrity
  2. Novelty
  3. Immigration Frustration
  4. Politician Fatigue
  5. Strongman Appeal

Allow me to briefly unpack each of these strands.

Celebrity

apprentice

Donald Trump has been a household name since the 80s. His television shows The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice have been fixtures in living rooms for 12 years.

As I pointed out in my previous post, name ID is a huge component in political polling. Of course, you would be hard pressed to find a person in this country who hasn’t heard of Donald Trump. But it goes deeper than mere name recognition.

We live in a celebrity worshiping culture. For many people, celebrities are viewed as the demi-gods of our age—a smarter, better brand of human being. They’re not, of course. But it doesn’t change the fact that Miley Cyrus has nearly 25 million people following her on Twitter.

Novelty

For a certain segment of the culture, novelty is a big selling point. People who rarely if ever vote will turn out for the novelty candidate. Former professional wrestler Jessie “The Body” Ventura became the governor of Minnesota with only about 36% of the vote in a three-way race—in large part on the strength of novelty appeal. (See: Franken, Al)

Immigration Frustration

climbingborderfenceAs I mentioned in that previous post, Trump has tapped into a deep, powerful current of frustration among regular Americans about illegal immigration. Much of Trump’s traction derives from his tough, unapologetic, refreshingly un-PC proclamations about how illegal immigration is weakening our nation.

Following the Paris massacres by Islamic extremists, Trump gave voice to what millions of Americans were saying around water coolers. Namely that it’s madness to import, en masse, tens of thousands of refugees from Islamic nations without careful screening.

He was mocked relentlessly in the press and by the standup comics, but millions across the nation silently nodded in agreement.

Politician Fatigue

The plain-speaking, tough-talking non-politician candidate from the world of business always has appeal for a significant segment of the populace (See: Perot, Ross). Conservative voters in particular are sick to death of sending men and women who say the right things to Washington, only to see them turn into spineless compromisers the moment they start drinking the inside-the-beltway water. (See: Ryan, Paul)

Trump—undiplomatic, unnuanced, blunt, pugnacious, profane—is the anti-politician. Most office seekers weigh every word carefully, so as to avoid offending prospective donors and/or voters—most of whom are hearing of them, and from them, for the very first time.

Trump-the-billionaire, on the other hand, has nothing to lose, thrives on negative attention, and therefore says, unfiltered, whatever pops into his head. And exasperated Americans, weary of watching their great nation dismantled piece by piece by left-wing know-nothings, are eating it up.

StrongMan Appeal

chavezOf all the factors driving Trump’s appeal, this is perhaps the most troubling to me. History reveals that in times of crisis or societal disintegration, people are prone to clamor for a powerful, even brutal, figure—the strongman—with a iron will to put things back in order.

It’s not at all surprising that Trump has spoken admiringly of Vladimir Putin in recent days. Putin’s repeated reelection to the highest offices in Russia and that nation’s steady drift toward dictatorship is a classic example of the appeal of the strongman.

Putin follows a long line of democratically elected leaders who steadily morphed into tyrants while in office, including Erdoğan, Chavez, Peron, Pinochet, Mugabe and many others throughout history. Both Hitler and Mussolini were elected fair and square.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not predicting that a President Trump would be a new Hitler. I’m merely pointing out that Trump is benefiting from the kind of populist unrest that tends to get men elected who have no business leading a nation.

Trump and Social Conservatives

I’ve been mystified to see numerous evangelical leaders fawning over Trump over the last few months. Make no mistake about it, he is no friend of social conservatives. He is, however, a consummate salesman. Neither his private life nor his public statements give us any reason to believe he gets, at any level, the principles that animate us. His occasional attempts to speak the language of faith on the campaign trail have been at once comical and condescending. Naked pandering.

In a fairer world, the following nine-minutes of pure, unfiltered Donald Trump would have destroyed his candidacy—disqualifying him in the minds of all but the lowest common denominator voters.

I wish any Christian considering throwing his or her support to Trump would watch this video carefully. This rambling stream-of-consciousness was delivered at a rally back in November when Trump’s closest challenger was Ben Carson. Here Trump is mocking Carson’s testimony of being transformed from street thug to surgeon through the power of Christ, as outlined in his autobiography:

Clearly, the evangelical concept of redemption and change through faith—the core of Carson’s narrative—is utterly foreign to Trump.

Everything that makes Trump an ugly candidate and a awful prospective president is on display here in those nine minutes.

The Irony and Tragedy of the Trump Candidacy

The stakes in this election are extraordinarily high. After the eight-year catastrophe of the Obama presidency—which will leave our nation weaker and more vulnerable than at any time since the Carter years—it is vital that America gets skilled, savvy leadership with unswerving conservative principles.

The Republicans were blessed to be facing a deeply flawed, profoundly vulnerable Democrat candidate in Hillary Clinton. And they fielded one of the most attractive, qualified, conservative crop of candidates in Republican history.

Carson, Perry, Rubio, Walker, Jindal, Cruz, Fiorina are all intelligent, accomplished and fundamentally conservative. Of course, not all are rock solid on every single issue. The perfect candidate doesn’t exist.

But Trump’s entry into the race and the media’s all-consuming hate/love obsession with him has consistently sucked all the oxygen out of the room for the other candidates. Three great candidates—Perry, Walker, and Jindal—have all fallen by the wayside. Other campaigns are on fundraising life support.

And the self-funded Trump circus rolls on. He’s an expert marketer. But I’m not buying it.

 

. . . On Donald Trump

Photo Credit: Kenny Bob

Photo Credit: Kenny Bob

I’ve been itching to share a few thoughts about the Trump candidacy and today I finally find myself with an opportunity to scratch.

Trump has been atop the Republican polls and surveys for weeks now, despite the best efforts of the other candidates and Fox News* to erode his support.

Four things to keep in mind here:

  1. Polls at this point are almost completely about name recognition. Hillary and Trump are by far the most well known names for their respective parties so they poll the highest. It’s as simple as that. In fact, Trump is more than well known. He’s a bonafide Celebrity. And we live in a celebrity-worshipping culture. At this point in the election cycle eight years ago, Rudy Giuliani had a big lead over all the other Rs in the polls. Why? Name ID.
  2. The liberal media is conflicted about Trump. In one sense they hate him in the same way they hate all Republicans and conservatives. But they’re obsessed with celebrities and can’t resist providing maximum coverage of every utterance and appearance. As a result, Trump gets more mentions and and more minutes of coverage than the other 157 Republican candidates combined.
  3. Trump is a New York Republican—not a “fly-over country” Republican. Republicans in New York state sit frequently to the left of Democrats in Texas-Oklahoma on the ideological spectrum. They are typically pro-abortion, agnostic on gay marriage, and often quite comfortable with big government and nanny-statism. (See: Bloomberg, Michael) Trump fits comfortably in this mold. He’s even on record as viewing single-payer health care (a.k.a. socialized medicine) favorably. When asked about it in a recent debate, he pointed to Canada and Scotland to defend his views, saying that Single Payer “works incredibly well” in those countries. (Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t.)
  4. Trump has tapped into a deep, powerful current of frustration among regular Americans about illegal immigration. All of Trump’s traction flows from his tough, unapologetic, unvarnished, refreshingly un-PC and quite accurate proclamations about how illegal immigration is killing our country. Huge segments of the tax-paying population have been desperate for a politician with the huevos to speak the unvarnished truth about this slow-motion invasion. It’s not surprising that he’s energizing a lot of people. And as long as he gets to focus solely on that one issue, he will continue to do so. It’s when he has to talk about something else, as with that debate question about health care, that Trump becomes vulnerable.

If you’re a single-issue voter and illegal immigration is that issue, then Donald Trump may very well be your guy. And I get it. Immigration may be the most important issue there is right now, it terms of the survival of our civilization.

But if you also care about a lot of the other ways the Obama presidency has weakened our nation—for example “the weaponization of the federal bureaucracy” which I wrote about in this blog post— you can probably do better than Trump among the large and largely impressive current group of Republican contenders. (I’ll share some thoughts about who I like in a later post.)

The “Big Money” Rs Want Open Borders

The divide over the illegal immigration issue doesn’t break down cleanly between Republicans and Democrats or conservatives and liberals. The fact is, a lot of “country club” Republicans are pro-illegal immigration because it drives down labor prices for  corporations.

And there are some Democrats who haven’t imbibed the multi-culti Kool-Aid so deeply that they’re blind to the fact that open borders and lax enforcement are crushing the working poor. Some labor unions also seem to be aware that importing 50 million individuals willing to work for a lot less and to accept a much lower standard of living isn’t exactly conducive to keeping wages up.

On the traditionally Republican side, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal are both long-time champions of open borders and minimalist enforcement.

Here’s the conundrum for the current crop of Republican contenders . . .

Most of the fat-cat Republican donors are of this WSJ-U.S. Chamber variety—that is, they they stand to be further enriched by lots of importation of cheap labor.

In a field of candidates this large, it’s going to take money to break out of the pack. But any candidate that takes a hard line on illegal immigration isn’t going to attract that money. But that doesn’t matter if you happen to be a celebrity billionaire.

It seems only someone as rich as Donald Trump can afford to be vocal about these things because he doesn’t need their money.

If some other candidate does manage to break out, my hope is that he or she is paying attention to the energy Trump is generating around the illegal immigration issue. Even more, I hope he or she truly recognizes it for civilizational threat that it is and has the courage to stand against the powerful, greed-driven interests that care nothing for our culture or civilization.

 

 

* I’m ordinarily a fan and defender of Fox News but the reason the network is anti-Trump is that it is pro-immigration. You’ll almost never hear an anti-illegal immigration voice on FNC other than the occasional Ann Coulter sighting.

Hey @CBS11, Someone is Being Politically Incorrect on Facebook Again . . .

. . . Shouldn’t you guys have @StevePickett11 and a crew at her house trying to gin up a shame storm?  Maybe try to run her out of business? Go all Memories Pizza Indiana on her? Provoke a bomb threat or two?

Coverage [of Facebook] You Can Count On

Coverage [of Facebook] You Can Count On

Confused? Allow me to explain.

A troubling line was crossed here in Dallas-Fort Worth—in a lame and ridiculous sort of way—this week. The news department of the local CBS affiliate dispatched a reporter to a local woman’s business to ask her about something she posted on her Facebook page.

No, it wasn’t a bomb threat. Nor did she post the formula for a cancer cure. This woman is not a politician or an entertainer.

Dallas business owner Cheryl Rios found a camera in her face for sharing . . . wait for it . . . her strong lack of enthusiasm for the prospect of a female president.

That’s right. Cheryl prefers that her presidents come with a Y chromosome, an Adam’s apple, and a five-o’clock shadow. And she said so brazenly right there on her personal Facebook page (to her friends, relatives and former high school classmates).

(Now stay with me here. I’m not making this up.) Somewhere in the bowels of the CBS11 Newsroom—a real, honest-to-goodness news department in a major American city—someone thought this was newsworthy. Seriously.

Thus “Emmy-winning journalist” Steve Pickett sallied forth to see what this monstrous freak of nature had to say for herself. And we got this . . .

In other news, a YouTube commenter got snarky!

In other news, a YouTube commenter got snarky!

Now Cheryl obviously agreed to this interview. She could have declined to talk to these nincompoops and she would have been doing them a tremendous favor if she had—because they embarrassed themselves. But they did more than that.

They crossed a line.

You see, the moment news organizations start getting comfortable with making the off-the-cuff social media comments of private citizens fair game for news coverage—coverage which can get national traction on social media and prompt a vicious hate storm, as happened with Memories Pizza in Indiana a couple of weeks ago—then freedom of expression for conservatives and Christians is as good as dead in this country.

That’s why we really can’t allow these media enforcers of political correctness to get away with this kind of thing. If we don’t push back here it will only get worse.

Along these same lines, NationalReview.com’s Ian Tuttle took note and posted this: The Shaming of Cheryl Rios. I recommend it.

Here’s the email address for Channel 11’s news department. news@ktvt.com

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to head over to my Facebook page and post something wildly reactionary and out-of-step with the spirit of this age.

And hey, CBS11, I’m in the book if you want to chat. I have plenty to say.

The Wendy Davis Slime Machine

Wendy Davis Slimey

I’ve been following politics and studying elections most of my adult life. I’m also an avid student of history. And if there has ever been an uglier, more vicious, more dishonest media campaign for political office than that of Wendy Davis for Texas governor, I’m not aware of it.

Even the left-leaning Washington Post is now recoiling in horror. (“Wendy Davis is Running One of the Nastiest Ad Campaigns You Will Ever See“) A writer for hyper-liberal Mother Jones magazine called her latest ad, “offensive and nasty.”

The fact is, those adjectives accurately describe the entire campaign–which has received massive out-of-state funding, particularly from liberal coastal elites who fell in love with Wendy the state legislator when she conducted an 11-hour filibuster on the floor of the Texas House against a bill that restricted late-term abortions. When Davis’ filibuster–which was accompanied by pro-abortion supporters hoping to pelt Republican legislators with tampons, condoms, bricks and jars of urine and feces–became a widely covered national story, she became the darling of the Left and Big Abortion.

Thus out-of-staters have poured millions into the Davis campaign. And those dollars have funded a relentlessly negative, misleading and ubiquitous television ad campaign. Her campaign has been carpet bombing the local airwaves for weeks.

Meanwhile, the Greg Abbott campaign has barely bothered to respond to the stream of ugly accusations in the Davis ads. In fact, he’s hardly bothered to advertise at all–which tells you everything you need to know about what Abbott’s internal polls are saying about the election.

And explains why the Davis campaign is plumbing new depths of sliminess as election day approaches. May that day come quickly.

Update:

Forgot to mention that the campaign media company that created Davis’ latest ad is the same one that crafted the attack ad against Mitt Romney that falsely suggested a woman died of cancer because of him. So . . . lie down with dogs . . . fleas . . . and all that.