As friends across the country, and in fact across the world, call these days the first question they ask is “what do you think is fueling the Trump feeding frenzy in the political arena?” It is complicated, as is the political process itself, and history tells us that those who ride a wave of early media and public attention to the front of the pack often end up in the back of the pack by the time actual votes are cast. Of course, those failed early front runners usually didn’t have the celebrity status that Trump brings to the table, nor the ability to raise their political funds almost exclusively at the Anytime Teller Machine!
Nevertheless, there are several reasons why Donald Trump is proving to be a phenomenon with staying power at this point. And those reasons are why political experts are now taking him seriously as a potential Republican nominee and maybe even President of the United States.
First, this is clearly shaping up as the year of the outsider. Trump is the most obvious example, but the other Republican candidates with the most momentum right now, including Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, all have the same appeal to voters looking for someone who is NOT a politician with the political characteristic of talking but not really saying anything nor taking a firm position on any issue. (Yes, Cruz is a U.S. Senator, but he has had no qualms about sticking it to the Establishment in word and deed and is therefore the top OutiderInsider.)
And it is not just Republicans. Democrat/Socialist Bernie Sanders is giving Hillary Clinton fits because he is “not Hillary” and is also perceived as a guy who is not a captive to the special interests and “business as usual” of Washington, DC.
Second, Trump IS a celebrity. His appeal to a lot of voters goes beyond just name recognition because he has been in their living rooms for years. They FEEL like they know him, just as viewers feel like they know their local news anchors even if they have never actually met any of them. Trump is larger than life, and he acts like it. For those who don’t think celebrity can translate to votes, just remember Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Al Franken, Senator Jesse Ventura, Congressman Sonny Bono, and on and on. Oh, yes, and former movie star PRESIDENT Ronald Reagan.
The danger for all the other Republican campaigns at this point is that Trump is starting to translate that celebrity from intrigue, to interest, to support and increasingly to fanatic and enthusiastic devotion. An even bigger danger to his competitors for the GOP nomination is the fact that a new CNN poll shows that “The Donald” not only leads the pack as voters FIRST choice but also leads as their SECOND choice. In other words, as other campaigns fall to the wayside Trump is likely to pick up more than his fair share of support from the columns of the campaigns that have ended. And as resources run dry for other candidates, they WILL fall by the wayside…some sooner than later.
Finally, a lot of American voters feel like they have been dumped on for the past decade or so. Dumped on by the economy, by their bosses, by politicians who don’t seem to listen or care, by their spouses, by a life that has failed to fulfill their hopes and dreams. The list goes on. Many of those voters have no choice but to “take it”, and suffer in silence.
So along comes Donald Trump who “don’t take nothin’ from nobody’.” Who tells it like it is and lets the chips fall where they may. No doublespeak; plenty of doubling down. Who promises to Make America Great Again, and who is helping get people enthusiastic about their country and their own prospects again. Politicians in the past have promised “hope”; Trump seems to actually embody it with a no nonsense, “we ain’t gonna take it anymore” appeal. Will he disappoint them? Perhaps. But for now, he has tapped into the Reagan style promise of restoring America, and our people, to past glory. And until somebody offers a credible option of something better, Trump will continue to play well with the American public, regardless of party or political ideology.
Steve Gill is a former nationally syndicated radio host, an attorney and political/business strategist in Nashville, Tennessee. His website is www.gillreport.com. This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun.