Thursday, August 27, 2015

Trump's Staying Power

The week began with a frontpage acknowledgement in the "newspaper of record" (Michael Barbaro, Nate Cohn and Jeremy Peters, "Why Donald Trump Won’t Fold: Polls and People Speak") that Donald Trump is the front runner to win the GOP presidential nomination. After repeatedly dismissing the real estate mogul as a flash in the pan, a figure that would soon diminish in the polls after voters came to their senses, the organs of elite opinion have shifted their point of view to grudgingly accept that Trump's support is broad and comparatively deep:
In the command centers of Republican presidential campaigns, aides have drawn comfort from the belief that Donald J. Trump’s dominance in the polls is a political summer fling, like Herman Cain in 2011 — an unsustainable boomlet dependent on megawatt celebrity, narrow appeal and unreliable surveys of Americans with a spotty record of actually voting in primaries. 
A growing body of evidence suggests that may be wishful thinking. 
A review of public polling, extensive interviews with a host of his supporters in two states and a new private survey that tracks voting records all point to the conclusion that Mr. Trump has built a broad, demographically and ideologically diverse coalition, constructed around personality, not substance, that bridges demographic and political divides. In doing so, he has effectively insulated himself from the consequences of startling statements that might instantly doom rival candidates.
In poll after poll of Republicans, Mr. Trump leads among women, despite having used terms like “fat pigs” and “disgusting animals” to denigrate some of them. He leads among evangelical Christians, despite saying he had never had a reason to ask God for forgiveness. He leads among moderates and college-educated voters, despite a populist and anti-immigrant message thought to resonate most with conservatives and less-affluent voters. He leads among the most frequent, likely voters, even though his appeal is greatest among those with little history of voting.
That was from Sunday. Since then what we have seen is a circling of the wagons, as columnists decry Trump's divisiveness and analysts attempt to undercut the polling that puts Trump so clearly ahead in the hearts and minds of the citizenry of the "indispensable nation."

For an example of the latter, one can consult Nate Cohn's "There’s Evidence That Trump’s Polling Support Is Overstated." But really it is the headline of Cohn's article that is overstated. For after an interesting discussion of how election opinion polls work and agreeing with the hypothesis that Trump's national numbers are soft if looked at through the prism of repeat voters, Cohn concludes that "Over all, the data is consistent with the view that Mr. Trump’s support might be overstated by public polls. But he leads among voters who have participated in one or 12 elections. His challenge among likely voters isn’t necessarily unique. His lead might be modestly overstated, but it’s not a mirage." In other words, Trump is for real. (This is basically the gist of yesterday's frontpager by Trip Gabriel, "Test for Donald Trump: Turning Crowds Into Real Voters.")

Trump's Tuesday-night kerfuffle with Univision's Jorge Ramos offered an opening for tastemakers to cluck their tongues (see Michael Barbaro's "Testy News Conference Exchange Puts Donald Trump’s Quirks on Display"). And while this kind of public confrontation exposing Trump's pomposity might bear fruit in the future, I'm sure Trump will adapt and learn how to diffuse such standoffs.

Where Trump is vulnerable is how he has made his money. David Cay Johnston effectively skewers the Trump business model as being built on consorting with organized crime and refusing to pay subcontractors.

What will keep Trump in the contest is the public's disgust for the alternatives. In closing, keep this fact in mind from a story yesterday by Eric Lichtblau, "Bernie Sanders’s Success in Attracting Small Donors Tests Importance of ‘Super PACs’ ":
Super PACs supporting Mrs. Clinton have already raised more than $20 million, records show; on the Republican side, two super PACs backing Jeb Bush raised about $108.5 million.


  1. Trump is Bataille's Accursed Share deployed on the presidency. It's as if we've built up so much power and legitimacy in the presidency that our instinct now is to burn it all down, and Trump provides the perfect solution. What could be a more American response to the goody two-shoes problem of Andrew Sorkin's President Bartlet?

  2. Hear, hear. Here is to the innate pop wisdom of the American voter who would sooner blow up the cradle of the filth that is the U.S. duopoly by electing The Donald rather than voting for a Bush or a Clinton yet again. This appetite for destruction is the mighty engine of the Trump bandwagon, something too little acknowledged in the mainstream press.