You can call him a blowhard if you want, but — to the consternation of the conservative elite and to the surprise of just about everybody else inside the Beltway — Donald Trump won’t blow off.
The press mocked his rambling, hour-long speech at the launch of his campaign, in which he disparaged Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” Few thought he could remain popular after saying that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), imprisoned for more than five years in Vietnam after his plane was shot down, was “not a war hero.” Political scientists forecast that Trump would fade.
But as the summer of Trump lingers into autumn, the real estate magnate remains the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary. The political establishment is flummoxed, and at least one of its members has concluded that Trump’s supporters are just insane.
“What he did was, he fired up the crazies,” McCain said after Trump held a rally in Phoenix.
From a psychological perspective, though, the people backing Trump are perfectly normal. Interviews with psychologists and other experts suggest one explanation for the candidate’s success — and for the collective failure to anticipate it: The political elite hasn’t confronted a few fundamental, universal and uncomfortable facts about the human mind.
We like people who talk big.
We like people who tell us that our problems are simple and easy to solve, even when they aren’t.
And we don’t like people who don’t look like us.
Most people share these characteristics to some degree, but they seem to be especially prevalent among Trump’s base. Trump’s appeal certainly has other sources, too, such as the nostalgia he so skillfully evokes, his financial independence from special interests, and the crucial fact that he had his own reality TV show. Some Republicans like Trump’s anti-establishment approach. And many support Trump because of his substantive positions — his views on immigration, his antipathy toward China, his defense of Social Security, or his opposition to tax deductions for wealthy bankers.
But given the gap between public support for Trump and elite opinion, it may be worth thinking about the ingrained predilections for confidence, simplicity and familiarity that are just a few of the reasons that psychologists gave when asked to explain exactly how Trump got yuge.
On the other hand, much can be said about class and education. A preponderance of Trump supporters appear to be “working class” and polls and statistics tell us that their level of academic achievement is below that level of a Clinton supporter.
What does all of this mean? Are there generalizations to walk away with? Is Trump anti-establishment? You betcha. He lacks political experience. That attribute is one of the big criticisms of President Obama. It seems like cherry- picking faults. Obviously people are not holding both men to the same standard.
There appears to be a great deal to say for the notion that people like “tough talk.” Trump likes to “look large.” Trump also boils down issues into very simple answers–simple answers for very complex issues. Why bother to analyze when one can simply fit a solution into a sound-byte.
Finally, is it really true that we don’t like people who don’t look like us? History would definitely say yes. Many of us try to not fit in to that mold. Or do we?
Finally, since he first announced his candidacy, Donald Trump has made outrageous, obnoxious remarks about people and groups of people. Each time, common thought was that he had finally shot himself in the foot. Not so. It doesn’t seem to matter how outrageous Trump is or how insulting he is to women, Mexicans, blacks, Muslims, Gold Star parents, war heroes, or any number of people who have been on the business end of his barbed surliness. It appears the more obnoxious Trump becomes, the more some people like him. Perhaps he truly is the mouth-piece for the unempowered or those who simply lack the courage to say these things themselves.
Notice the date. Nothing much as changed at all.