What if everything you thought you knew about politics was wrong, or at least open to question in ways you could not have previously imagined? I mean it wouldn’t stop us from having opinions because people have opinions even when they are based on nothing. But when so much conventional wisdom, the stuff those who consider themselves better informed rely on, doesn’t yield the kinds of outcomes we expect, then what?
Yes, I’m talking about Donald Trump because, you know, who isn’t?
The Hill reports today that polling experts are saying they have never seen anything like Trump’s candidacy, which leads them to “question whether everything they know about winning the White House is wrong.”
The shocks have come in quick succession, with Trump first rocketing to the top of national polls, and then taking double-digit leads in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
In another act of political magic, Trump managed to flip his favorability rating from negative to positive in one poll during the span of a month — a feat that Monmouth University’s Patrick Murray called “astounding.”
Sure, okay, we’ve all seen what’s going on and many of us have pet theories about it.
The only thing that makes sense to me is that Trump’s candidacy is a perfect distillation of what we have seen with the rise of the Tea Party and right-wing populism in general stoked by anxiety over waning American military and economic power in the world and what people think that means for security and the standard of living at home. Whether those who support Trump are right about who or what is to blame is beside the point as long as they are getting an answer they think they can understand, which is “whatever it takes to make America great again,” even if the offering is only empty phrases and threats.
It’s simple in a way and we all more or less saw it coming, or should have. What we didn’t see is how fast it could take hold.
I’m still with those who say Trump can’t win the GOP nomination, let alone the presidency. But Americans are insane if they think his royal Trumpness created the phenomenon he is so expertly riding. He’s just the expert salesman selling people what they already want. And what they want is a kind of ugly politics not new in the history of the world, including with an out-group, in this case immigrants, on whom to focus their hatred, and other countries laughing at our military impotence and economic weakness, needing to be taught a lesson by Uncle Sam.
I agree with the professional pundits that we have never seen anything quite like this in America, and that’s starting to scare the crap out of me.