The Appeal of Trump


Donald Trump’s recent victory in the New York primary has revitalized his campaign. By all the normal standards, Trump’s campaign should have collapsed a long time ago. His boorish behavior and the violence at his rallies used to be the sort of thing that would kill a politician’s career. Not any more. Trump once boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” When you think about it, this was actually an insulting thing for Trump to say about his supporters, yet his popularity didn’t suffer as a result. It’s as though, at the end of A Face in the Crowd, Andy Griffith calls his supporters idiots, but they continue to support him anyway.

Murray Kempton once observed that Americans tend to think that someone who uses profanity must be telling the truth. I think there is something similar at work with Trump. Because he says hateful things – things that aren’t “politically correct” – some people assume he must be “telling it like it is”. This is flawed logic, of course, but some people do seem to think this way.

There is speculation that once Trump gets the Republican nomination tied up, he will move back to the political center. If this is true, then what Trump has done is amazingly audacious. He threw away the dog whistle and brazenly appealed to the far right, and by doing so he steamrolled the other Republicans candidates. However, he will have to walk back a lot in order to move back to the center, which may lose him some of his original supporters. And polls repeatedly show that most Americans don’t like him.

So I’m guessing that Trump won’t be our next president. Don’t quote me on that, though.

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