I’m not worried about the prospect of a Hail to the Trump scenario and never have been. As far back as August, I opined that he has virtually no chance of becoming president. I still believe that. He lost to Ted Cruz in Iowa, just like I said he would. And I’m sticking with my prediction that he’ll be done by the Ides of March. Should Trump actually make it to the Oval Office, I’ll buy you all plane tickets to Canada, as promised.
That being said, the Trump phenomenon is certainly worth investigating. After all, how are we to explain the dramatic success of this heinous cretin? How could this man, who is not just a walking punch line, but also thoroughly repulsive in almost every way, be so popular, not just on a silly reality TV show with a dumb catch phrase, but also in the supposedly serious world of presidential politics?
As has been pointed out elsewhere, The Donald’s popularity is far from universal. He does poorly among women, independent moderates, the under-40 crowd, and the educated. He is almost universally loathed by minorities and Liberals. In particular, he is scoring high marks with the white working class, a category we need to understand in both social and economic terms.
More than nine-tenths of Trump’s supporters are white. Almost 85% are 45 or older. Almost 60% are male. Nearly half have no more than a high school diploma, while fewer than a fifth graduated college. More than 40% of them favor of bombing Agrabah, a fictional country from the Disney animated children’s film Aladdin. More than 60% think Barack Obama was not born in the United States; two-thirds believe Obama’s Muslim; well over four-fifths support Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims (as opposed a little over half of Republicans generally). Seventy-two percent are in households earning less than $100,000 per year, and a third are in households earning less than $50,000. [source]
It would seem that the cuff linked billionaire has surged to the front of GOP polls (if not its delegate count) by using populist appeals to attract white working class voters. But really, this is nothing new. There is a long tradition of populist politics in U.S. history, and it hearkens all the way back to Andrew Jackson. A brief recap of that tradition not only puts Trump into historical context, but can also reveal both the perils and possibilities of populism. Read more »