Who’s responsible for the rise of the Trumpire?
You’ve read National Review‘s “Against Trump” editorial issue. In fact, you’re perusing pretty much every article and social-media post imaginable that affirms your distaste for the Donald. He must be stopped and the latest pundit might have a good idea on how to pull it off.
“If only people would be reasonable and think,” you’ve said, “Trump wouldn’t have a chance.”
Oh, I’m sorry. What part of politics have we geared toward encouraging people to be circumspect and friendly in their approach to solving the various challenges we face?
For a generation, we’ve let one political leader after another play to our fears, make us suspicious of our neighbors, get away with canned talking points and generally act as if they’re a B-list celebrity rather than a public servant.
We didn’t beg our leaders to inspire us. We didn’t ask them to take us to the moon. We weren’t looking for someone to lift our spirits and bring us together. We simply settled for politicians who would fight the other guy…all the time…on every issue…regardless of whether common ground actually exists. Pragmatism became a dirty word and a hackneyed purity test took its place.
Before you rush to blame the political class, keep in mind that they meticulously poll-tested the daylights out of each political advertisement, talking point and attack. Politicians want to win elections, and the evidence routinely suggests that emotionally provocative fluff is more important to winning our votes than demonstrated ideas and effective leadership.
Still, we’re surprised that Trump is absolutely destroying his competition on the national stage. It doesn’t look close. While it’s true that polls aren’t always accurate, they routinely provide a sense of political momentum. If all the polling support for Rubio, Bush, Christie, Kasich, Fiorina and Santorum fell behind one of those candidates, he or she would still lag Trump by 12 percentage points according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Sure, it’s possible a candidate could pull a Santorum and win Iowa after polling at 4 percent just two weeks out.
But put Iowa in context. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee won the state in 2012 and 2008, respectively. If that’s any indication, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, should easily secure Iowa over a candidate like Trump. Yet it’s Trump who still carries the polling lead. That’s particularly significant because it shows his popularity with the Republican base.
If Trump is able to win Iowa, there’s little standing in his way.
Even if he loses, he’s far from done. So many “reasonable” conservatives simply can’t accept that Trump could be the nominee, but it’s looking increasingly likely. Many of the same Republicans who find Trump so offensive fostered a political climate where emotion is king and partisan war is evergreen. Why should we expect voters to want anyone other than a candidate who masterfully woos their feelings and fights with just about everyone?
“Reasonable” Republicans built the foundation for the Trumpire just in time for a candidate to come along who knows a thing or two about building. They cleared the site by defining our politics in terms of friends and enemies and rejecting the complexities of our problems. Political pandering and bellicose sound bites were the cinder blocks. Fear and insecurity served as the mortar. It didn’t matter what foundation emerged because they mostly liked the results. “Reasonable” Republicans didn’t denounce the tactics; they embraced them.
Then things started to change.
Most average Americans don’t trust any of their political leaders, and they’re fed up. They don’t want to be reasoned with or sold another political plan. They want to fight. For them, it’s no longer morning in America; they see our nation careening into the darkness of night.
Many of Trump’s supporters aren’t scrutinizing his policy, consistency or vision. They’re simply looking for someone who won’t go gently into the night that so thoroughly terrifies them. Borrowing the words of poet Dylan Thomas, many want a candidate willing to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Right now, Trump fits that description better than anyone else running for the presidency.