There’s not much that conservative and progressive intellectuals can agree on. But one thing unites thinkers across the culture-war divide these days: Why do so many people like Donald Trump? Fred Barnes at the conservative Weekly Standard visited a focus group of Trump fans to find out. Maybe the answer lies deep in the heart of American culture and history.
For those of you who are just emerging from under your summer rocks, Trump has grabbed everyone’s attention with his successes in recent presidential polls. He has uttered outlandish statements, calling Mexicans rapists, implying that women reporters can’t handle the job, and ridiculing John McCain’s war record.
Conservative pundits have scrambled to distance themselves—and conservatism itself—from Trump’s brand of schlock. Erick Erickson disinvited The Donald from a GOP debate. George Will has denounced “[e]very sulfurous belch from the molten interior of the volcanic Trump phenomenon.” Crunchy conservative Rod Dreher has scratched his head in bemusement as he’s watched the emergence of “Trumpenstein Monster.” As Barnes asks, what is it about Trump that attracts people?
The twenty-nine assembled fans like more than Trump’s policies. They like Trump. As Barnes puts it,
Their tie to him is almost mystical. He’s a kind of political savior, someone who says what they think.
Will such Trumpies stick with the Donald all the way? Of the assembled group, most said they’d stick with Trump if he ran for president as head of a third party. They viewed Trump as a non-politician, someone who tells it like it is regardless of the consequences.
Maybe it isn’t so difficult to understand Trump’s attraction. People on both sides of the political spectrum have always rooted for brash, in-your-face candidates. Those who know their history can’t help but think of Huey Long, the governor, senator, and sometime presidential candidate from Louisiana. Long’s antics put The Donald’s to shame. Has Trump ever gotten beat-up in the bathroom of a bar for attempting to urinate between the legs of another gentleman? Has Trump ever greeted a foreign ambassador wearing nothing but silk pajamas?
The more outlandish the behavior, the more people like it. The more offensive the ideas, the more people respect them.
Does Trump stand a chance at becoming president? I’ll say it: No. This sort of behavior plays well in primaries, but in the end, Americans still prefer boring presidents.