As I watch and listen to political news, I find myself wondering why so many voters are drawn to the GOP candidate Donald Trump. He makes sweeping generalizations about various groups of people, he provides little to no details on his “policy”, and he resorts to personal and immature attacks on others who he deems are critical of him. Whether you like him or not, he currently has the most delegate count in the GOP race, appears to be leading in many polls (as Trump loves to remind us), and, while it is not a certainty, seems to be heading toward becoming the GOP nominee in the 2016 U.S. Presidential race . Not long ago, most did not consider him to be a serious candidate. He was viewed as “entertainment.” Certainly, no one anticipated that he, when he announced his candidacy in June 2015, would become the GOP front runner. As I recall, most news outlets were constantly warning of the impending and eventual “implosion” of Trump’s campaign. Now, it appears Trump has not only not imploded, he is leading in the delegate count. Along the way, he has made some outrageous statements about Mexicans and Muslims. More recently, he appeared to hesitate on disavowing the KKK. It is reported that his core supporters are mostly lower middle class white men with no college education. The support among this group is so strong that Trump has even commented that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and still not lose any of these voters. While I believe that this group represents the core of Trump’s supporters, Trump has wider support than some believe. His support seems to be growing. I suspect that as he wins more primaries, his candidacy will become more acceptable as “mainstream”, and he will gain more voters who previously might have been hesitant to support him. We can’t count out Trump, and I believe he will be here to the end. Having pondered Trump’s growing popularity for awhile, I have a few thoughts about why Trump is resonating so much with certain voters:
Frustration with the GOP “Establishment” – it cannot be denied that voters are sick and tired of the GOP leaders who, despite the GOP majority in both Houses, haven’t been able to achieve anything or stop Obama policies. I think there is a growing sense and in fact, a conviction, that the Establishment does not care about the things that the voters care about. At the very least, voters feel that the GOP is weak and feckless to accomplish anything. Many of these voters believe the Democratic Party abandoned them long time ago and have come to realize that the GOP does not or cannot represent their interests either. And, in comes Trump. Trump talks about building a wall, deporting millions of illegal immigrants, renegotiating unfair trade deals, banning Muslims from entering the U.S. To these voters, Trump is a person who can change things and who can represent their interests
Sense of Losing Ground – among Trump’s core supporters of lower middle class white males , I believe that there is real fear and concern that they are losing ground to other groups in society. I think there might be fear that they are losing opportunities to women, immigrants, minorities who they feel benefit from government policies. They feel they are losing economically and socially to these groups and that they are being left behind. Trump speaks of mass deportation of immigrants and more favorable trade deals which directly addresses these core supporters’ concerns.
Perceived Weak Obama Presidency– there is a strong perception among GOP voters that President Obama is a weak President. He has not been able to defeat ISIS. Many believe he is letting Russian President Putin have free reign in Eastern Europe and in Syria. Obama is in favor of allowing Syrian refugees to seek asylum in the U.S. In stark contrast, Trump wants no non-U.S. citizen Muslims to be permitted entry into the U.S. and says he wants to take ISIS owned oil fields, bomb ISIS and kill ISIS members’ families. He wants to bring torture back and says waterboarding is not enough. To his core voters, Trump presents a strongman persona in contrast to President Obama’s perceived weakness on the world stage. The above also appeals to Trump’s non-core supporters.
Trump’s Personal Style – I believe many of Trump’s supporters are attracted to Trump’s bombastic tell-it-like-it-is style. This explains why Trump’s support appears to rise after he makes a seemingly outrageous statement. His supporters see him as a winner. They like that he is not politically correct. They have seen Trump bully and power through his GOP Presidential opponents and come out ahead. They like that Trump never backs down. In fact, even under overwhelming criticism, he always doubles down. He never apologizes. Trump’s supporters respect this perceived show of “strength.” They have supreme confidence in him and feel that he will be able accomplish things that others wll not. They feel that, at the very least, he will “shake things up” in Washington.
I am privileged to be a witness to the 2016 Presidential race. While I am not old enough to vote in the upcoming election, I believe this is a one of a kind Presidential race. There are so many unique factors in this race, I will almost be sad when the election is over. I think the one thing everyone can agree on is the 2016 Presidential election will not be boring.