Here is the thing about Donald Trump… His rise is, in no small part, not a reflection of the GOP, but a reflection of Obama. While Obama’s champions tout the current unemployment rate, most Americans don’t see economic prosperity when they look around. There are still a staggering number of people who are unemployed and undercounted. The U6 employment rate still stands at ~10%, which more closely resembles what people actually see than the rosy outlook of the 5% that discounts the struggle of WAY too many Americans.
Further, there are very serious and legitimate concerns that are FREAKING PEOPLE OUT, and the Administration, while thoughtfully approaching them, has done nothing to assure people that they are being handled. Everything from the threat of terrorism, domestic surveillance, immigration, the economy, police militarization, etc, is giving a LOT of people the nerve shakes.
Obama is not perceived as having a terribly solid bead on where things are going and an ability to correct them. Obama’s approval rate is currently hovering around 47-49% and the number of people who think the country is on the wrong track hovers in the 60% range. That is a lot of people not feeling good about things. A new poll on Obama’s handling of terrorism shows his numbers have tanked since the Paris attacks last week. The guy who “got bin Laden” is suddenly having trouble convincing people that he can protect them. Fewer than half of Americans feel the government is capable of keeping them safe. That is compounded by the significant majority that have been spooked by the plan to settle Syrian refugees in the US.
Then you have a guy like Trump, who talks tough, and projects confidence that he can solve the problems, and a frightening number of people are willing to give that a chance. He may have no policy other than “I’ll win”, but in times of turmoil, confidence is terribly seductive to some folks. People are willing to take a ride on the crazy train if the conductor projects confidence that they can get you there on time. There is a reason that the name for hucksters is con man. Con man is short for “confidence man”. They play on people by means of confidence, not only their own, but on giving confidence to the mark that they can win.
That is where Trump is succeeding. He is convincing a LOT of people that there are easy answers to very complex problems. Obama, by comparison, is convincing people that he is being very thoughtful about very complex problems – which he no doubt is. Unfortunately, in an age of global terror, marginalized rights, and fear, the con man starts to look really good – especially to voters who are unlikely to be educated about policy and likely to only turn out for Presidential elections.
In other words, Trump is the perfect storm of someone who projects the opposite of Obama – confidence, and forceful – to an audience that increasingly makes up its mind over questions like “Who would I rather have a beer with?“
Most rational, intellectual people believe that Trump will eventually implode. More and more, I don’t think that is true. I have come to suspect that Trump may actually convince enough Republicans to give him the nomination. The prediction of a Trump implosion has been made over and over for the last six months, yet fails to show any sign of being true. Pundits keep assuring us it will happen, then completely fail to be correct.
If nominated, Trump will use that same grift to earn his way into the White House. I’d like to think I am wrong, but history has taught us that times of turmoil make people look for both a boogie man and someone to protect us from it. Just as Hitler was a reaction to the fecklessness of the Weimer Republic, Trump is a response to the “thoughtfulness” of the Democrats. If a terrorist attack takes place on American soil between now and November, I suspect we’ll be swearing in President Trump in 2017.