Trump ‘winning’ by preying on worst liberal and conservative instincts

March 16, 2016
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up at a town hall campaign event in Hickory, North Carolina. March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Donald Trump at a town hall event in Hickory, North Carolina. March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Trump is trouble. That became clear on Saturday when Donald Trump decided to shut down a campaign rally in Chicago after he said violence had broken out. But it did not seem to do Trump a bit of harm at the polls three days later. He virtually sewed up the Republican nomination with victories in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina.

Now Trump is talking about the possibility of riots at the Republican National Convention if he is denied the nomination. The obvious conclusion: Many of his supporters are asking for trouble.

A group of conservatives is meeting in Washington this week to plot strategies to deny Trump the nomination if he fails to win a majority on the first ballot at the Republican convention in July. Even if Trump has more delegates than anyone else. If the party tries to take the nomination away from him, a Trump supporter warned, “We’ll burn the place down.”

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks about the results of the Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri primary elections during a news conference held at his Mar-A-Lago Club, in Palm Beach, Florida, March 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Donald Trump speaks about the results of the Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri primary elections at his Mar-A-Lago Club, in Palm Beach, Florida, March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Trump is a crude populist. That doesn’t say very much because populism is not any one thing.

There’s left-wing populism, which targets wealth and privilege (“country-club conservatives”). That’s Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with his relentless criticism of Wall Street and “the 1 percent.” There’s right-wing populism, which targets the snobbery and self-importance of the educated elite (“limousine liberals”). That’s Ben Carson with his relentless criticism of political correctness and the contempt of the well-educated for traditional religion.

Trump combines both.

Trump a left-wing populist? His attack on free trade is the same as Sanders’. Despite his wealth, he has no love for Wall Street (“The hedge fund guys are getting away with murder”). Nor they for him. Wall Street believes Trump would be a disaster for markets and the economy. The titans of Wall Street are spending millions of dollars on anti-Trump ads to try to deny him a majority of convention delegates.

Trump a right-wing populist? That would be his attacks on immigrants, minorities and women. Plus his embrace of old-fashioned isolationism where the United States avoids foreign intervention unless U.S. interests are directly threatened. Then we bomb them to smithereens. His strategy for dealing with Islamic State: “We bomb the shit out of ’em.”

Trump’s support cuts right across ideological categories. He does best among non-college-educated white voters, particularly men. That’s yet another element in Trump’s populism: the desire for a strongman. In 1959, the great sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset wrote about “working-class authoritarianism” — the predisposition to intolerant, extreme and undemocratic attitudes among “lower-class persons.”

Trump has expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said on MSNBC. As for Putin’s methods, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”

Trump’s latest Putinesque move is to deny access to his events to news organizations that have been critical of him: The Des Moines Register, Univision, Fusion, The Huffington Post, National Review, Mother Jones, Buzzfeed and, most recently, Politico. It’s the same message he delivers to protesters at his rallies: “Get ’em out of here!” In his victory speech on Tuesday night, he made sure to call the media “disgusting.”

Many Americans seem to want a strongman for the very reason Trump gave. Because no one in government can get anything done. Washington is mired in gridlock. Trump promises to get things done his way, which he doesn’t bother to explain except to promise that he can “make America great again.” He doesn’t even bother with experts and advisers. (Asked whom he is consulting on foreign policy, Trump answered “My primary consultant is myself.”) He wants to do it his way. Alone.

Why is Trump winning the Republican race? Keep in mind that the United States is the most populist country in the world. Next to the United States, the rest of the world is Saudi Arabia.

That’s because this country was originally settled by runaways from authority — oppressive governments, established churches, closed economies. Distrust of elites is a deep-seated value that runs throughout American history. Ever notice how rich and powerful people — business executives, politicians, bureaucrats – are portrayed in U.S. popular culture? Usually as incompetent, corrupt or worse.

American politics, like the American economy, is highly entrepreneurial. Where there is a market, there will be a product. If there is an unpopular war, there will be an antiwar candidate. If voters are unhappy about high taxes, there will be an anti-tax candidate. If the public is fed up with politics as usual, outsiders will suddenly spring up to carry the anti-politics banner, like Ross Perot in 1992. And now Trump.

Exit polls reveal that the one characteristic that best defines Trump supporters is anger. Asked “Which best describes your feelings about the way the federal government is working?” most voters who say “angry” — rather than “enthusiastic,” “satisfied” or “dissatisfied — are voting for Trump.

What are they angry about? Two things: economic decline and the loss of cultural influence.

Trump does best among voters from the declining sectors of American life. A study by the New York Times.The Geography of Trumpism” found that Trump does best in places with high percentages of whites with no high school diploma and low numbers of ethnic and religious minorities, “old economy” jobs like agriculture and manufacturing and low labor force participation rates. Appalachia, for example.

They are Americans who have been left out of the economic recovery, whose jobs are threatened by foreign trade, who are declining demographically and whose traditional religious and cultural values are under challenge. They’re an angry resistance movement, and Trump is their resistance leader. Ideology? They hate liberals like President Barack Obama with their snobbish condescension. And they hate conservatives like Mitt Romney with their heedless rapacity.

If the conservative effort to stop Trump fails, there will be only one thing standing between him and the presidency — Hillary Clinton. It may pose an agonizing choice for many voters. Two well-known figures, long in the public eye, both negatively regarded by a majority of Americans. Trump more so than Clinton — which is what gives Democrats hope.

Americans can all look forward to the first debate between Trump and Clinton on Sept. 26 in Dayton, Ohio. Sparks will fly. And the viewership will set records.

NOTE: This piece has been updated.



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The most significant part of this election so far is the absolute failure of existing media channels to demonstrate any form of influence. Right or Left, no one cares what they think. Virtually anything that Hillary tries that is old-media comes out negative, and virtually nothing that Trump says is regarded by his followers as anything but positive. And the net affect of commentators is nada.

Information Breaks Down Hierarcies. Mass access to the internet is now 20 years old.

Posted by DavidHume | Report as abusive

Academics from the “media studies” department are sure to be anti-Trump to begin with. Academics have very little real-world experience and view the world through rainbow glasses.

The media and academia have lost all credibility due to their explicit left bias.

Posted by GetReel | Report as abusive

This idea that Trump appeals to anyone on the left is wishful thinking on the part of conservative chatterboxes. Trump is anti-environment, anti-woman, anti-minority. That he opposes trade deals with China is more a reflection of his racism than his support for labor. He sent thousands of jobs overseas in his own companies. His “Make America Great” hat was made in China.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Great article. Except for the last paragraph.

I still believe the nominees will be Kasich and Sanders. It IS still March, and us Left Coasters may very well vote yet too.

*Unless Clinton can escape indictments. I’m pretty sure the Libyan fuse has been lit. Not Benghazi, Libya.

But that may depend on what the definition of “is” is.

Posted by k2d2 | Report as abusive

Like him or hate him, he stands for change in America. Uneducated voting for him? I think not, a lot of highly educated white people are welcoming his position on a lot of issues. It’s discusting the power the elite have over the media. Their negative views of Trump are not stop. Middle class America has been unrepresented for decades and now may be the time.

Posted by cheeze | Report as abusive


Yes, we should completely discredit highly knowledgeable academics and the media…unless of course they support right-wing idealogy. Especially the right-wing populism exemplified by Trump.

Why? Because just like all despots, he can’t tolerate criticism. And apparently that goes for his supporters too.

Look at any dictatorship in the world and you’ll see suppressed or eliminated intelligentsia and media. Oh yeah, American will be great again.

Posted by distancematters | Report as abusive

cheeze writes: “a lot of highly educated white people are welcoming his position on a lot of issues…”

I don’t know any “highly educated” people voting for trump. Listening to AM radio talk shows all day, and getting yourself paranoid about brown people, does not constitute an education. Try again.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

“[T]here will be only one thing standing between him and the presidency — Hillary Clinton. It may pose an agonizing choice for many voters. Two well-known figures, long in the public eye, both negatively regarded by a majority of Americans. Trump more so than Clinton”

The author’s political bias is showing. There are millions of people for whom Clinton is a first choice and millions more for Trump. They are the two top candidates. There were other candidates to vote for.

I’m a Clinton supporter but if Sanders wins the nomination, I’ll vote for him. I don’t even have to “hold my nose”.

But I’ll offer this opinion: If Trump wins the Republican primary and the establishment Republicans obstruct the will of their voter base with a brokered convention, all hell will break loose.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

I know 9 people who are voting for Trump. Not one of them graduated from college. 4 are meth addicts. 3 are white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. 2 of them have severe brain trauma from past accidents.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Dump Trump

Posted by PersonFromEarth | Report as abusive

I was a Rubio supporter along with several others I know and now are voting for Trump since the Republican establishment has made many attempts to oust Trump. A CNN show today stated that there are so many crooked politicians in Washington and that is why they do not want the gravy train to end. So now we are voting for Trump.

Posted by bonjovi | Report as abusive

Media has lost all credibility due to its descent into tabloidism and blatant prog/liberal bias.

The more they smear DT, the more popular he becomes.

Posted by GetReel | Report as abusive

Trump explains his comments that American POW’s are not real heroes. “What I meant was that I’M the real hero. Look at my gold toilet.”

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

There is no excuse for voting for trump. Dump the chump trump, he’s dumb as a stump.

Posted by Whipsplash | Report as abusive

We all know what the trouble is Billy- Blacks shooting each other, not raising their kids correctly, their kids not going to school, then blaming Whites for their issues.

Personal responsibility will fix all of this and Trump is the only one talking personal responsibility.

You media Liberal mouthpieces care more about transvestites and mentally ill people like Bruce Jenner than fixing the broken segment of society.

Posted by UgoneHearMe | Report as abusive

Adults and normal people cannot get themselves to vote for lying valor thief like Hillary “Bill’s doormat” Clinton. “I ran from sniper in Bosnia”.

She needs to apologize to all Bosnia veterans.

Posted by UgoneHearMe | Report as abusive