Donald Trump has struck a nerve with the Republican Party, the media, and many Americans. You might say he has mASS appeal. He’s brash, offensive and unapologetic. The Republican Party knows he holds the key to their possible victory or defeat in the 2016 election should he choose to run as a third party candidate. The media cannot try any harder to discredit him and his poll numbers only rise. Many Americans find him offensive but because he resonates with so many, he has to be take seriously as seen by his #1 standing going into and after the first primary debate.
I must confess, when Trump announced his candidacy and made the remarks he did about illegal Mexican immigrants being rapists and murders, I was shocked. I posted on Facebook that Fox News and anyone else who took him seriously after those comments would lose all credibility. I was wrong.
Love him or hate him there’s no denying he’s having an impact on the Republican primary and might do the same in the general election if he remains a strong presence but doesn’t win over the establishment as the nominee.
So why is “The Donald” commanding so much attention? I have a theory. In recent years there have been many television shows which have captivated American audiences such as Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, and Mad Men to name just a few. If you’ve seen these shows then you know you find yourself rooting for the bad guy.
In Breaking Bad, the lead character is Walter White, an unassuming high school chemistry teacher who begins to churn out crystal meth after he gets lung cancer. He does so to provide for his family and despite his downward spiral you root for him.
Jax Teller is the lead in Sons of Anarchy. He wants to follow his late father’s ideas to get his motorcycle gang out of drugs and guns. As he manipulates and kills, you still find yourself pulling for him because his ultimate desire is good.
Dexter is the lead in the show by the same name. He’s a serial killer who has learned to confine his psychopathic nature to only killing bad people, the kind that most people feel deep in their heart deserve the death penalty for their heinous crimes. You not only pull for Dexter you actually come to like him.
Much less psychopathic and not a killer, Don Draper is the lead in Mad Men. The ad man is a womanizer and heavy drinker with a past he tries to hide because it could land him in jail. You see a good side of Don shine every now and then and consequently you pull for him despite his character flaws.
In each show we don’t root for the bad guys because we agree with their antics but something about each stands out – we know who they are. We know they’re bad but each really does want something better for himself, his family and friends. By contrast, so many “good” people they come in contact with aren’t actually good and viewers find themselves repelled by their false veneers. In real life think about Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and many others who appeared to be good people until the truth was found out. It’s a classic case of the contrast phenomenon.
When it comes to politicians very few people truly believe any of them have our (Americans) best interest at heart. We’ve seen enough scandal (infidelity, drugs, bribes, etc.) that we see them all as having the false veneer covering a desire for power. We wonder when the next politician will fall because it’s only a matter of time.
With Donald what you see is what you get. When asked how he can disavow politicians who take large contributions after he’s made those political contributions, he’s candid when he says (my paraphrase) – “I know how the system works and paying money got me favors I would need down the road. But, I have so much money I can’t be bought.” That resonates with people because it’s truthful.
When the media attacks him and he corrects them for taking something out of context people love that because the media so often appears to look for ways to build up people then tear them down.
When Trump said McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured you’d have thought that would be the end. But it wasn’t and his numbers surged despite the media going after it from every angle.
In the end Donald Trump simply continues to be Donald Trump. Some people will love him and some will hate him but at least you know what you’re getting and I believe that’s his mASS appeal.