How does Trump do it?

As I travel Europe, my friends here are mystified. How does Trump say these things and still get nearly half the people behind him? Europeans get the same mainstream news that we all get worldwide, but there is something about the U.S. that is invisible to them — namely, they do not see the 24/7 blanket of right-wing talk radio in all 50 states (in addition to Fox news). Drive across the U.S. and at every point you can pull in 5 or 6 right-wing radio channels (not to mention conservative religious channels) all day long that have said for years said the same kind of things that Trump is saying now. It is that invisible blanket that has made this kind of talk normative in a way that is perhaps not quite fathomed by those outside of the U.S.

At least that’s one explanation. I welcome others.

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25 thoughts on “How does Trump do it?

  1. Here’s another explanation. First, the math. He hasn’t got the support of half if current polls are accurate. He has the backing of about three out of every ten. The US has a lot of racism. It’s our historical cross to bear, it is shameful, and we dislike admitting it even exists. Trump appeals to those who irrationally fear “the other”. Hispanic immigrants and Muslims are named as targets, but it’s really anyone non-white, non-orthodox Christian, or non-heterosexual. In that sense it is similar to the motives behind the Brexit vote, even though we aren’t facing anything close to the kind of refugee influx Europe and the UK have been dealing with.

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    • Interesting. That means either (1) my theory is flawed or (2) the UK has something comparable in effect to our (American) atmospheric blanket of talk radio. After six weeks in Germany, I don’t think there is a comparable media phenomena there or on the continent (although I’m a novice at German/continental media and culture). Or there’s always the chance (3) that you’re wrong and Trump wouldn’t make it in the UK. Was that UKIP guy anything like Trump?

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      • I’m sorry to say it, but I think your Talk Radio theory is flawed. Our UKIP (UK Independence Party) guy had some similarities to Trump. He wasn’t a rich celebrity like Trump, but he had a certain charisma. He spoke plainly, avoided political correctness, and always answered questions directly. Mainstream politicians make themselves appear untrustworthy by failing to answer direct questions with a simple answer in language people can understand.

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        • I see the similarities and see how mainstream politicians created the opening. I still think Trump/UKIP are exactly the wrong choice. And, of course, it hurts to see my theory losing ground. It’s hard to imagine that this 24/7 blanket of Trump-like rhetoric on conservative talk radio has not moved the needle domestically within the U.S. in some way.

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          • My guess: this talk radio thing is on commercial radio funded by adverts? If so, then the content will follow what the audience wants, not try to make them want something else. The talk radio stuff is simply pandering to the prejudices of “ordinary folk”.

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            • Like art, it partly reflects and partly shapes the norms. In this case, stimulate the baser instincts to stir up a constant sense of outrage and drive up ratings. (Trying to shape opinion is definitely a piece of the game, although you start with the prejudices that are already there. And there is definitely the commercial/advertising element as you note, but there is also a great deal of conservative think-tank machinery supporting this media infrastructure.)

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  2. Trump builds on people’s fears. Unknown makes unloved, or something like that. And the way he always gnarls back, can’t/won’t take criticism, always openly puts out a finger to place blame on people he disrespects, and eludes an air of power, I think a lot of people could and will fall for that. Many people feel the way he feels, but they lack the courage to say it like Trump does.
    Having said that, I sincerely hope he loses the elections.

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  3. Trump gives the “mass of men” a vehicle to express their hatred, which is often just a projection of how they feel about themselves. Naked hatred is never respectable. But the same hatred that somehow gets cloaked in the garb of a so called effort to “Make America Great Again” seems more palatable, at least to the person who hates.

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    • Very cynically said but I like it 🙂 (Living in a conservative part of the country, I know a few Trump voters. I think they’re making a big mistake but they’re not all reducible to “haters.” Still, I think you have a good bead on one the the darker threads holding the Trump cloth together.)

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    • Lots of good info in the Edsall piece. The only weakness is that like many Trump analyses it seems too academic. The Trump supporters I see among my friends and family in Louisiana don’t fit neatly into the “pro-authoritarian racist xenophobe” category that dominates academic analyses. Yes, those are the trump voters that drive the coverage (and drive the academic analyses), but I think for many it is simpler. They’re sick of politicians from both parties, they’re sick of political correctness, and they think Trump can close good deals as a negotiator. They don’t know or care about all the larger politics. (I say this by way of explanation and NOT because I’m a Trump supporter myself.)

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      • Those who “don’t know or care about all the larger politics” are generally unreachable at any level other than the most base populism, i.e., telling them what they want to hear, true or not.

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  4. Please don’t hate me, but Trump is voicing every man’s basic concerns, namely safety and security ( financial and physical). He is calling it as it is and it just turns out that our neighbors are in Mexico and our biggest (insane) threats is ISIS, which is clearly Muslim. The mainstream media has always leaned left so there is a tendency to focus on the non-issue of the real message. Calling everything racist or racism is always a good excuse to stomp out the real message, which is rampant, runaway illegal immigration and terrorism. America is a land of immigrants with all kinds of legit citizens if every shade. They are just as threatened. So, cut out the racism card and focus on the real issues that Trump is willing to stand up for and calling it it what it is. It is about time we say the emperor is naked.

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    • Although racism was not part of my original blog here, I agreed in my comments that racism does not explain as much of Trump’s support as his detractors like to think (although it’s one piece of the puzzle). I agree that Trump is appealing to safety and security (i.e., fear), but I think he’s doing it in a way (anti-Mexican, anti-Moslem) that invites the racism charge. Christianity has its wackos too (e.g., Westboro Baptist Church) but we don’t broad-brush the whole religion on those grounds. Anyway, I think my friends on the left need to understand the Trump’s appeal goes beyond racism, but I disagree with you (Karina) in that I think he would be clueless and dangerous as president.

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  5. I spend a lot of time in political discussions with various groups these days (my form of masochism I guess). And I have dealt with many Trump supporters (by the way I don’t support Clinton either). Some are well educated, some are not. Based on my anecdotal evidence I’ll stick with my overall theory. (for clarification I concede that some people will vote for Trump simply because he is a Republican and they vote party lines no matter the candidate. And some will vote for him because they cannot vote for a woman—-a recent article on religious groups asked the apparently sincere question: “whether God would want a woman president”). As Bukowski wrote “hatred is the mass man’s art.” It is where our lesser angels live. It is sometimes cloaked in religious garb. It is sometimes cloaked in nationalist or ethnic garb. Naked hatred is never cool. But cloak it in more respectable garb—“Make America Great Again”—and people will rally a around it as an expression of their own. There is a long history supporting this. The Catholic Church’s long persecution of Jews, for example, was never based on hatred, but rather was cloaked in religious arguments. Slavery was justified based on the biblical notion that blacks were descendants of Ham. So my anecdotal evidence: I have had a well educated (retired Colonel) Trump supporter reject my theory of hatred, claim he has no prejudice from all his years in the military and then in the next conversation advise that he and his friends jokingly call Obama’s daughters ” the little negrettes.” In another recent conversation a Trump supporter (lawyer) said to me in a heated exchange where he lost his composure: “I don’t oppose immigration I just don’t want any ragheads here.” These are not people who belong to white supremacist groups. But they are still filled with prejudice and hatred—and yes fear that the world does not look like them anymore. Prejudice exists on many levels. Most people will not admit or acknowledge their own prejudices, which we all have in degrees. It requires people to dig deeper into themselves than most are willing to do. I think Trump gives many of these folks, who naively claim they have “don’t have a prejudiced bone” in their body, a platform to voice their hatred, even if they don’t admit to themselves it is hatred. Fear and hatred often go hand in hand and fear is often an excuse, a fall guy, for hatred. A recent upswing in campus violence against foreign students cited in the WSJ might support this though it is too early to tell. As for the claim that he is the antidote to political correctness it stems, in my view, from a lack of understanding about what is and what is not political correctness. We cannot excuse every lewd, racist, xenophobic, or misogynist comment on the grounds that it is simply a rail against political correctness. Somethings are exactly that—racist, xenophobic, etc and nothing more. The system probably needs to fall or be revamped. I agree. But Trump is not the right flag carrier for this cause. He is as Thomas Sowell recently wrote: “a candidate for the title of the oldest man who has never grown up.”

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