I’ve never been as fascinated by the political process as I am right now. My fascination has more to do with how the process has been flipped upside down by people like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
In August I wrote a post on Donald Trump’s mASS Appeal where I shared some insight into why so many people might be attracted to The Donald. My basic premise was that he was more “real” than traditional political candidates. If you want to find out more about fake candidates read The Adjustment Bureau of Politics and Persuasion.
As the primary races continue, I’m amazed Trump continues to have such mass appeal. Quite frankly, his rhetoric scares many people and some have equated his rise to Hitler’s in Germany because he says things that have been labeled as bigoted, racist and intolerant. Many politicians have said more benign things and seen their careers go down the toilet but Trump is unapologetic and only seems to increase his support.
How does he do it? Trump’s support is not as big as you might think. While his support seems to be greater than any other candidate at this point consider the following:
- Roughly half of the citizens vote Republican in presidential elections. If there were 100 possible voters that means about 50 would identify as Republican and maybe vote in the Republican primaries.
- Good voter turnout would be about 60%, so of those 50 possible Republican voters only 30 would actually vote in the primaries.
- Up to this point Trump has been getting about 1/3 of the Republican vote in a large field of candidates leaving the others to fight for the remaining 2/3. If one-third of 30 people voting go to Trump that means he get support from 10 people.
- Now consider this – on the whole Trump is appealing to about 1 in 10 people. That’s not a big number but it’s enough at this point to make a big difference in the process.
Why is Trump’s message resonating? We get more and more “politically correct” but that doesn’t mean people believe in the things espoused or like them. What do I mean? Everyone has views on polarizing issues like faith, gay marriage, guns, race, immigration, terrorism, and wealth distribution to name just a few. While we all have views many people stay silent because they don’t want to go against the perceived majority.
You may or may not like what Trump says but when he speaks his mind he doesn’t care what people think. His frankness gives voice to many people who’ve felt silenced by political correctness. In other words, Trump is only saying what many people already think and feel.
In the end I think Trump’s success, whether or not it leads to the presidency, says as much about us as Americans as it does about candidate Trump. We may want to believe there’s no place for a person like Trump in American politics but obviously there is a place because we’re witnessing it.
While America is more tolerant than ever before maybe in the end Trump’s rise shows we’ve not come as far as we believed. And perhaps this is a wake up call to keep the dialogue open so we can learn and grow instead of smiling and nodding but disagreeing on the inside. As Samuel Butler wrote, “He who complies against his will is of his own opinion still.”