Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Reason Why Trump Draws Huge Crowds



Donald Trump's rallies are true political phenomenons, drawing the kind of crowds normally reserved for rock stars. But the reason why 10,000-20,000 people wait in line to see him isn't because they're hungry for a detailed policy speech by one of America's great thinkers.

Nor are they coming to see him, contrary to much speculation among the punditry, because they're so "angry." MSNBC's Jacob Soboroff interviewed Trump supporters at a recent rally but these 'great American patriots' couldn't even intelligently articulate why they're so enraged. One exasperated woman sighed, saying she's "Tired of all the lies we've been told...and I believe everything Donald Trump says..." I guess she missed the Politifact study illustrating that Trump tells the truth just 1% of the time.

So what is it then that's driving this unprecedented attendance? It's simple: Trump's rallies are as hot a commodity as Jerry Springer tickets. His "fans" are there for the spectacle not the substance. They want the hockey fight, not the game itself. The game bores them. They just come for the brawls and bloodshed. And Trump gives 'em plenty of both. "Don-ald, Don-ald, Don-ald!" 

It's the same reason why MSNBC, CNN and the rest of the mainstream media lavishes so much free airtime on Trump, hanging on his every word and covering his rallies live like they're U2 concerts. Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and all the other GOP hopefuls are lucky if they get a 20-second clip, while Trump's on the tube 24/7. He's a ratings bonanza, guaranteed to do or say something so outrageous and offensive that it would make even a train wreck wince. Racism? Sexism? Xenophobia? Bullying? It's all part of the daily Donald Trump Road Show. 

To be sure, the media can't get enough of Trump. And neither can the simple-minded citizens of Smalltown, USA, for whom Trump is likely the biggest celebrity they'll ever see up close. Let's face it, when you're in Ames, IA, Hampton, NH or Hilton Head, SC, going to a Trump rally just might be the most exciting thing you can possibly do. 

But bracing the November weather to vote, however, is an entirely different commitment. History and statistics show that come election day these fired-up Trumpites will likely stay home, click the remote and simply switch to another salacious reality show.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

If Trump would get the nomination and win in Nov. 2016, we as a country is doomed. Thanks to the repubs we have been rotting from within for the last 35+ years. If only left leaning voters realized that if they would vote in the midterms too, we could have the progressive country that they so want.

Anonymous said...

I do not feel that Lowell, MA has small minded citizens. You are completely ridiculous!!! Your article was a JOKE.

Brian Schmidt said...

I disagree. Below is a piece I wrote last month about Trump's rise:

Instead of writing a passé condemnation piece on Trump, I thought I’d give a serious attempt at explaining his rise in the Republican field. With a few notable exceptions, there has been a pervasive failure in the mainstream press to adequately explain Trump’s success.

The common narrative attributes Trump’s appeal to his reality star status—a master of the media, and while this is partially true, it’s a narrative that is easy to push and an analysis that is very surface. In actuality, the underlying fundamentals of Trump’s platform have been brewing for decades, so it was inevitable that at some point they would boil over. What came as a surprise to almost everyone was the perfect storm of events that allowed a shrewd opportunistic billionaire to exploit this pent up political pressure.

Trump’s ascension to front-runner is more about policy than the GOP establishment or pundit class would like to acknowledge and there seems to be a sense of denial about it.

In a generation, Reaganism has matured into a conservative orthodoxy of corporatism and austerity, and while Republican voters were initially enticed with a new wave of conservatism – lower taxes, less waste, less of their money given to lazy “welfare queens” – they were never truly on board with the ends of this orthodoxy. This same umbrella of conservative doctrine also brought in largely unpopular policies like “free” trade agreements which resulted in the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs and the prospect of looming privatization or cuts to Social Security.

Increasingly, and particularly with the advent of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, wealthy donors’ influence over candidate’s messaging and platforms means politicians have to more strictly adhere to economic policies that favor tax cuts for the wealthy and less investment in infrastructure and social programs. These hard-line policies often are at a disconnect with voters who would prefer a more modest form of fiscal discipline, but big money in politics typically ensures these platforms don’t get voiced, at least not on the national level. To facilitate Republican victory, candidates often have to rely on wedge issues like abortion or immigration to pick up some of the slack of their economic policies. Behind the scenes, the donors are largely pragmatists, not idealists, and generally favor robust levels of immigration as it plays a role in maintaining higher levels of consumption and construction activity, props up real estate values, and deters upward wage pressure. Beholden to the donor base, often when elected, politicians grandstand but do nothing serious to advance their tough talk on immigration.

Brian Schmidt said...

Part 2:

It shouldn’t be that surprising that the Republican establishment house of cards, which ignored a whole subsection of its electorate, was bound to come undone at some point.

The average white, middle-to-retirement age, middle class worker knows things aren’t going in the right direction. It’s harder for them to secure a job or get a raise. And lacking any comprehensive understanding of economics or politics, they’re susceptible to blaming it on immigrants and people of color because that’s what they’ve been told not-so-subtlety by the GOP. They see infrastructure crumbling around them while they’re working hard to pay their taxes and know America has never been like this. Seeing their politicians not want to repave roads was never part of the conservative deal--after all Eisenhower built the highway system. All in all, they feel betrayed and understand - correctly - that no one is listening to them on immigration or budget priorities or outsourcing of jobs, and that America left behind or sold out an entire section (often less educated and living in rural areas) of the population.

Meanwhile, the country is rapidly changing around them. Tremendous advances in technology, growing ethnic diversity, increased cultural and religious heterogeneity, and a liberalized social and family structure result in a growing sense of detachment from the American society they once knew. According to a September 2015 Reuters/Ispos poll, 58% of Americans “don’t identify with what America has become” and 53% “feel like a stranger in their own country.” This is the first generation, perhaps in the history of the world, where change happens so quickly that a way of life becomes obsolete by the time of someone’s retirement age.

Brian Schmidt said...

Part 3:

Understanding the mindset of this group, it isn’t so hard to see why Trump is so attractive. As an excellent opinion piece in The Week recently put it, “These are the voters who hate modern, tight-suited, Democratic-style liberalism not because it offends God, but because it is "killing" the America they knew. It threatens their jobs with globalization and immigration. They hate tassle-loafered right-wingers who flippantly tell them to get retrained in computers at age 58, and warn that Medicare might be cut. They built their lives around promises that have been broken and revoked over the past two decades. Trump looks like their savior. Someone who can't be bought by the people who downsized them. Or at least, he is their revenge.”

Trump, of course, knows exactly how to position himself and provide a mix of positions that don’t otherwise get advocated alongside each other and he knows how to play on fear more than anyone. For all the tough talk on terrorism and the need for security, Trump is speaking to broader insecurities with economic undertones. His close-minded supporters are fine with keeping out a group of people with whom they are unfamiliar because it might threaten their way of life and make it harder to find a job. I suspect, generally, the need for “security” is a guise for broader xenophobia. To underscore this point, consider the inverse relationship between the consumer confidence index and the proportion of citizens who feel immigration should be decreased in the graph below.

The policy fundamentals behind Trump’s success should not be overstated, however. He is doing well to an extent because of his loud-mouth anti-politician persona--a breath of fresh air to a broad spectrum of the public who are sick of candidates who speak elegantly but accomplish little. It’s clear Republican voters want an “outsider,” and while Trump is the most vocal outsider, he isn’t the only one. Ben Carson’s appeal, while in a completely different form, is also one of an outsider, non-politician. In the chart below, look at how Trump and Carson’s support ebbs and flows almost lock-step from August to early November, as if Republican voters were saying “anything but the establishment.” But the “outsiders” - Carson (who I believe will continually decline) and Fiorina - have crashed, and Trump’s polls have undoubtedly benefited. Trump’s staying power as the outsider suggests, apart from his omnipresence in the media, a deeper policy explanation, which returns to my original thesis.

Every other candidate has nothing new to offer on economic policy. It’s the same establishment trickery: flat tax, (regressive) tax on consumption, cutting spending on infrastructure, cutting Social Security. A loud mouth who peddles gutting Medicare and replacing it with something worse (shades of Chris Christie) will not go very far because voters do want substance, not just style. Furthermore, they understand a candidate who accepts big donations from powerful interests are bought and sold--a topic that would never be brought up in the GOP debate if not for Trump. Voters believe Trump when he says, “I’ve been on the other side of [donating to politicians] my whole life, and I know how the game works.” The ironic thing, however, is in our broken campaign finance system that in order to not accept money from the wealthy, you have to already be wealthy.

Anonymous said...

Every article I read from liberals is attacking the conservatives as being the uneducated and non-thinkers. This article points to fans who cannot speak. Why do you not write about the TV interviews of Democrats in the streets in Baltimore, Ferguson, and other Black Live Matters events. The stats show that the lowest educated folks in America come from minorities, and come mainly from urban areas. Yet, writers like this column want to say that the ignorance is with all the white folks.