Right after the Republican debate, I received a call from a family member who has been a Fox News die-hard for years. She didn’t honestly call to get my thoughts on the debate; she called to air her grievances about how Fox News handled the debate. This was after Donald Trump had launched his assaults on conservative sweetheart, Megyn Kelly, which I thought wouldn’t work. If anything, I thought the attacks would backfire. However, the call from my aunt revealed the opposite. She was about to call her cable company and cancel her subscription to the network.
Rattling on about the unfairness of the debate and line of questioning Trump was subject to, I thought she had to be kidding me, but no, she wasn’t. She was coming to Trump’s defense and reiterating all the points he had been making in the press, minus the blood. I was surprised, but then came a call from my father, another Fox News and Megyn Kelly lover with the same complaints and threat to boycott the news channel. It was clear. Trump was not only resonating, but he was building allegiance.
The popularity of Trump has been mystifying to most of the political elite. Every week they point to something Trump did or said and proclaim that his days are numbered. Yet, Trump maintains and continues to build support from voters and intrigue from the media.
While many New York and Washington prognosticators scratch their heads and reason that it’s because Trump taps into the anger of the far right wing on issues like immigration, it’s not just that. That is an oversimplification and does little to make sense of Trump’s rise.
Overheard in the local coffee shop and in conversations with farmers in north Texas, whom have never voted in a presidential primary but declare they would for Trump, it’s clear that it’s more than anger issues. It is something more powerful—the ability to identify personally with Trump.
You might ask, “Now what does a New York City billionaire have in common with a simple Texas farmer?” Well, it’s the ability to say what they think, the confidence to not be afraid to call stupid out, and a vision and hope for what could be.
When Trump comes up in conversations, these locals immediately go to the personal aspect. “He says what I am thinking.” One Austinite expanded on this by saying, “Trump is “blunt, honest, and doesn’t care who likes what he has to say.”’ He then went on to say, “Kinda of reminds me of myself.” In an overly sensitive, politically correct world, where politicians are scared of the repercussions of every word, Trump is a breath of fresh air. He isn’t afraid to say what he thinks or take stand (or change it) on particular issue and the public is accepting because they see and hear an authentic Trump. There are no poll tested messages or positions coming from his mouth.
Behind Trump’s words are his motives, and they are perceived to be different than his opponents. “They don’t run for office to get the job done. They run for President because it’s the next job on the political ladder,” said one of the farmers. Trump doesn’t need to run for President. He’s a billionaire and a celebrity. Therefore, Trump’s intentions to set the nation on the right path are seen as pure and not just in the political outsider sense. In addition to that, he has the business background that many believe is needed to get this country’s economy going again.
Trump and his campaign have many dumbfounded, but when you boil it down it’s the perception of why he is running, coupled with the ability to connect personally and his hopeful message, “Make America Great Again,” that is fueling the rise of Donald Trump. All together, this is a tough pill for Beltway insiders to swallow.
While some have and will continue to write him off, this formula has worked before in modern politics. Most recently by a young Senator from Illinois who ran as an outsider on a message of ‘“hope and change” and could connect personally with voters. Whether Trump succeeds or not, will largely depend on his ability to keep the momentum going and become a credible candidate that can provide plans and policies to back up his vision.