Thursday, September 10, 2015

by Reed Galen

Days Until Iowa Caucus: 142

Quote by A Smart Person: "You don't get unity by ignoring questions that have to be faced." Jay Weatherill

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Why the Singularity?

•    The presidential nominating process is one in which everything, large and small, is sucked into its gravitational maw, allowing nothing to escape its grasp as events pass through the campaign cycle’s event horizon.
•    There is no more singular political experience on the planet than electing the President of the United States.
•    The United States is still the most free, most prosperous and brightest beacon of hope to billions around the world.

Every action and reaction feeds into this black hole of press coverage, donor reactions, voter sentiment and activist opinions. Nothing goes unnoticed and nothing is forgotten. Legions of reporters, bloggers, opposition researchers, trackers, social media monitoring services, vacuum up every last syllable.

Every week we’ll take a look at the campaign as it unfolds, and how events reflect the campaigns, the issues of the day and the country at large. Have a tip, piece of advice or something to add? Email me – reed@jedburghs.com

Week 25: Ummm, Is Donald Trump the GOP Uniter of 2016?

Donald Trump came upon the Republican presidential field like a tsunami – swamping campaigns and candidates alike. His fiery, simple rhetoric has catapulted him to the top of early state and national surveys. His support cuts across political and demographic lines. Those whom have chosen to take him on – head on – have been swept aside like so many sailboats in the wake of a battleship.

Nuance is not Trump’s forte, and that is a huge part of his appeal. Where professional politicians pick and parse their words, ensuring that every last syllable is ultimately defensible, The Donald wades fearlessly into fights – without concern or any apparent forethought.

But this style, referred to by many as “brash,” is having a magnetic effect on otherwise disparate groups of Republicans specifically and voters generally. The fact that his policy platform, if one can call it that, is so schizophrenic, means that voters can pick and choose the juiciest piece of Trump they want off the lazy Susan and chow down as the wheel goes around.

For the Republican activist class – be they Tea Partiers or hardcore conservatives, Trump won their hearts with his broadside on immigration the day his campaign began. His unapologetic nativism on the issue channeled their frustration and anger in a way that other candidates before him wouldn’t and since, cannot.

And though Establishment Republicans have plenty of choices this season, Trump’s relatively liberal stances on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage allow them to keep the door open to his candidacy. He may be larger than life, but he doesn’t scare them like Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum whom they see as backward and believing they’d have women back in the kitchen if they had their way.

For younger voters, Donald Trump is someone they’ve been watching on “The Celebrity Apprentice” since they were in middle school. He transcends politics and fits perfectly into America’s 21st century celebrity culture – one with his own reality show, to boot. As the Millennial generation navigates the waters in which many older voters are just trying to stay afloat, Trump brings a weird bizarro-optimism. Sure things suck now – but we’re going to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Trump’s unabashed promotion of his own success also returns something the electorate hasn’t experienced in a while – aspiration. The Donald has done great things, made lots of money and doesn’t apologize for it. And what’s more, he wants you to do the same thing! Where Mitt Romney couldn’t get out of the old white plutocrat box not matter how hard he tried, Donald broke the glass and walked out onto the stage waving the hammer over his head.

For disaffected lower and middle-class White voters, Donald Trump is the siren song they’ve been waiting for. Rather than having to scream at their television sets while they watch Wall Street zillionaires get richer, Trump does it for them. He gives voice to their long-simmering frustration. The balance of the Republican field looks like just so many guys in suits – spouting poll-tested talking points. Trump tells The TRUTH. He tells it like it is. He tells us what we need to hear. He tells us our leaders are stupid – and we agree!

Then there are the waves of people – voters of both parties and non-voters as well, who helped the first Republican debate last month garner an audience of more than 24 million. Why? Because they wanted to see what Donald Trump had to say. They wanted to see the show. Did all of them agree with him? Not by a long shot. Did half of them? Maybe. But he doesn’t need all or even half of them. If he can bring new voters to the fold with his bravado and belief in the country, he may create a new, one-time coalition – one that only Donald Trump could compose.

Donald Trump leads the Republican field by a wide margin. And on any given day, somewhere between 60-75% of the GOP primary electorate wants someone else. But that may not matter. If there are (my prediction) 11 candidates in the Iowa Caucuses or New Hampshire primary, Trump could walk to victory in both with just 20% of the vote.

Many of the smaller candidates would be left without what little oxygen they had left. Some of the bigger campaigns would be scrambling to identify a new rationale for their candidacies after Trump victories.

Is all this likely? We’re five months away from anyone casting a ballot. We’ve seen in the past November is the month where the eventual winners of early state primaries start making their moves in polling. Unburdened by the need to spend time raising money and enjoying complete and total domination of the earned-media space, the SS Trump may ultimately hit an iceberg, but we’re in for one hell of a ride while we wait for it.

Note: This piece originally ran in IJReview. The original link may be found here.

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Posted
AuthorReed Galen