The Trump Love Affair Explained in Terms Even Beltway Pundits Can Understand

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke1/25/16
Donald Trump’s rise this election season has been historic, amounting to something heretofore unseen in the annals of American politics. Given this, it’s perhaps not surprising that many are still befuddled by the phenomenon. Pundit Charles Krauthammer is bewildered, saying that “for some reason” Trump “is immune to the laws of contradiction.” (In reality, Democrats get away with contradiction continually; the only difference is that the media actually report on Trump’s.) Also in the news recently is that some find his appeal among evangelicals “inexplicable.” Of course, it’s all quite explainable.

In an earlier piece — which I strongly urge you to read — I expanded on certain factors evident in the Trump phenomenon. Trump is

    • tapping into anger against the Establishment and over immigration and is a plain-spoken breath of fresh air.
    • sounding a nationalistic note in an age where treason is the Establishment norm.
    • not campaigning as conservative but a populist, which, almost by definition, tends to make one popular in an era of mass discontent.
    • a crusader against hated political correctness, which has stifled tongues and killed careers nationwide. And in being the first prominent person to defeat the thought police (at least for now) — and by not cowering and apologizing to them — he has become a hero.

And as I wrote, “[W]hen you have a hero, leading the troops in the heat of battle against a despised oppressor, you don’t worry about his marriages, past ideological indiscretions or salty language. You charge right behind him.” This is largely why Trump’s contradictions don’t matter. Yet more can be said.

I often mention the fault of “mirroring,” which most everyone exhibits and is when you project your own ideals, values, priorities and mindset onto others. It’s particularly amusing when pundits and politicians comment on the electorate and speak as if everyone is a politics wonk who analyzes issues logically within the context of a broad knowledge base (pundits themselves often lack erudition and reason; of course, they’re blissfully unaware of it when thus guilty and nonetheless consider those qualities ideals). But man is not Mr. Spock, and logic and reason play less of a role in people’s decision-making than most of us care to think.

This brings us to what Trump now has. It’s something all successful politicians have to a degree and that every iconic one has in spades: an emotional bond with his supporters.

Trump has been criticized for speaking in vague generalities and not providing specifics on the campaign trail. This misses the point. If advertising a product on TV, do you willingly provide mundane details about its ingredients or describe the intricacies of its manufacturing process? That’s more the stuff of documentaries, and, insofar as the vendor goes, would only be found on an Internet product-information page (tantamount to a politician’s policy-position page) provided for those interested. No, you say “Look 15 years younger!” or “Lose 20 to 30 pounds in 6 weeks!” Or think of the circa 2000 Mazda commercial with the young boy whispering “Zoom, zoom!” It was advertising an expensive, hi-tech machine but was invoking the unbridled joy of childhood, thus endeavoring to pique people’s passions. And that’s the secret: capture your audience on an emotional level and they’re yours.

Or think about affairs of the heart. If you’re truly bonded and in love with your wife, it’s not because you first looked at her and, rendering a logical analysis, thought “Well, she’s vibrant and seems to have good genes, so we’d likely have healthy kids; and she’s a darn good cook, and I relish a fine pot roast.” Rather, a true romantic bond is somewhat inscrutable, an emotional phenomenon, not an intellectual one. And it’s powerful enough to cause a woman to follow a man into a life of faith or a life of crime (Bonnie and Clyde); it explains the enduring good marriages — and the bad ones.

Likewise, playing on emotion is not the sole province of morally bad or good politicians — only of successful ones. Hitler did it and Churchill did it; Huey Long did it and Reagan did it. When a candidate stands on a podium expounding upon policy nerd-like or has little to say beyond touting his “accomplishments” (John Kasich comes to mind), they’re proving they don’t get it. Create an emotional bond with the people, and they’re yours. And they will remain yours in the face of others’ intellectual appeals for their affections, for, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift, “You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.” Note that while this relates the futility of trying to shake a person from passionately embraced error, people can also have an emotional attachment to correct beliefs, for the right or wrong reasons and with or without an intellectual understanding (e.g., Plato spoke of inculcating children, who are too young to grasp abstract moral principles, with an “erotic [emotional] attachment” to virtue).

And this is what Trump does so masterfully. When he repeats his slogan “Make America Great Again,” says we’re going to “win” under his administration or speaks of building a border wall and getting “Mexico to pay for it,” it’s silly to wonder why it resonates despite the lack of detail. He’s marketing, not doing R&D; he’s not trying to appeal mainly to the intellect, but the emotions. And you do this with the slogan, not by reciting the list of ingredients. Again, this isn’t a commentary on the validity of his recipe, only on the principles of effective campaigning.

Having said this, if a candidate is the real McCoy, he’ll also have a quality product with a list of ingredients (again, a policy-position webpage) for the discriminating shopper. But if he’s smart he’ll understand that most people are impulse buyers with relatively short memories and recognize the importance of branding himself. Coca-Cola has “Coke is it!” Nike “Just do it!” and Barack Obama had “Yes, we can!” (no, he couldn’t — but it worked). Now, can you think of a GOP candidate other than Trump identifiable by way of a catchy and popular slogan? And it’s no coincidence that “Make America Great Again” was also Reagan’s slogan in 1980.

Of course, stating the obvious, to connect with people emotionally you must capitalize on something appealing to them emotionally. Trump’s bold nationalism does this. What do the others offer? Jeb Bush is associated with saying that illegal migration is “an act of love” and John “Can’t do” Kasich with “Think about the [illegals’] families, c’mon, folks!” which might appeal to illegal migrants if they could speak English. And none of the others will even support suspending Muslim immigration — despite deep and widespread fear of Muslim terrorism — which certainly will appeal to Da’esh (ISIS).

It’s as if Trump is courting Lady America with wine, roses and his alpha-male persona, while the Establishment candidates are lead-tongued nerds promising a tent with NSA surveillance, a bowl of soup and squatters on a burnt-out lawn.


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15 Responses to The Trump Love Affair Explained in Terms Even Beltway Pundits Can Understand

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    That final conclusion certainly does a nice job of clarifying the varying appeals of the candidates. Note that Trump, despite his bluster, has a history of walking some of his incendiary comments back (such as his criticism of Carly Fiorina’s face) without ever admitting that he’s doing so. His heterodoxy is hardly complete, as witness his criticism of Kim Davis. Overall, this is a good summary of Trump’s appeal, without saying (as no one can know yet) whether this will prove to be good or bad.

    Incidentally, Bonnie and Clyde didn’t end up being buried together, despite her poetic prediction that they would be. (She was right that “someday they will go down together” as well as what it would mean.)

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Bonnie and Clyde didn’t end up being buried together, despite her poetic prediction that they would be.

      Old Bonnie was buried in a small cemetery off Marsh Lane between Valley View and Beltline Road, in Farmer’s Branch, Texas. Clyde wasn’t there. No one cared until the movie came out. As I recall, her grave stone was stolen once or twice thereafter.

      Today, progress has triumphed and suburbia sits on the site Bonnie’s stone previously occupied.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    “The ruling class is responsible for Donald Trump” — Rush Limbaugh

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Just as they were responsible for the Obamanation!!!

      They never learn.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        No one inside the Beltway ever seems to learn. There must be something in the air there that deactivates the brain. They do have a certain low cunning, but nothing more than that.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        They never learn.

        Arrogance. They need to hold onto their supposed position of intellectual superiority. That’s why they hate Sarah Palin. No hayseed can come out of the blue and know more than they do about things.

        StubbornThings heartily welcomes anyone coming out of the blue and knowing more than we do. Anyone who is here to hold onto cherished and narrow views in order to sit atop a pedestal is here for the wrong reason. But I think such people are few here, if any. Plus, many of us would be astonished if some basic core principles were overturned even if new information regarding particulars was presented.

        Where is NRO in regards to the culture war? They’re on FOX News giving interviews or at book signings. They are about profiting from being the supposed intelligentsia.

        But an intelligentsia and five cents still won’t buy you a cup of coffee. The intelligentsia, when push comes to shove, will tell you why actually doing anything about the problems that face us (immigration, for example) can’t be done.

        Hey, no wonder there was some affinity for Obama’s dishonest “Yes we can” slogan. Name your topic and the intelligentsia will tell you why it can’t be done. “The Party of No” is a dishonest liberal mantra. But it is true about the GOP Establishment. They are the party of no regarding conservative things.

        Trump isn’t saying it can’t be done. He’s saying “Let’s Make America Great Again.” Whether that is just a vapid slogan or not, outside of Ted Cruz, no Republican is honestly offering any answers. We know we can’t trust them when they say “I’ll build a wall.” We’ve done that. They won’t. Maybe Trump will. And we suspect he will do something because unlike the cowards at NRO and in the Establishment GOP, they are not cowed by the first push-back from political correctness.

        Jonah Goldberg, for instance, could have, and should have, made a principled stand for rational and traditional marriage. He didn’t. He caved. He caved in a very dishonest way. But it was probably good for him to track with the liberal culture rather than fight it. He’s a charter member of the GOP Establishment.

        Trump is a fighter. He isn’t likely to fight all of the fights that we want him to. He may end up fighting none of them. But other than Cruz, he’s all we have. Trump, as Rush said, is a product of the ruling class (of both parties). It’s humorous to see that ruling class make such asses out of themselves as their narrow-mindedness and blinkeredness is on display even as they purport to tell us rubes what is best for us.

        • Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

          TDS, for sure.

          The current state of our union and the vacuousness of our political system are broken and overloaded. Trump has marched out from behind the curtain and is taking some heat for honesty, but a huge majority not only don’t care about his flaws, but are refreshed that he is actually a human being and not an automaton like Romney-care, or a bald-faced hypocritical liar like McCain.

          I actually prefer Cruz, and hope he can weather the Trump storm. But if Trump is who we get, that’s OK by me. Either one will demolish the donkeys’ candidate with the greatest of ease.

          The part of this political season that I find most distasteful is the forceful implication that I’m not conservative, not smart, run on feelings, and am blinded by admiration for a celebrity. Well, they can bite me. What is not understood by a lot of commentators, ranging from Krauthammer to Bozell, NR, et. al., is that I’m not alone in my disgust with nearly all politicians and governance by treasonous idiots. I desire ferociously to hear the lamentations and cries of fear from the hucksters inside the beltway, and all their enablers. They need to go find a real job, build something, and leave me alone. Like I said, they can bite me.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            The complaints about Trump voters are similar to the standard liberal complaint about racist opposition to the Black God. No doubt there is some, but there’s a great deal that’s principled, and their harping on racism is intended to avoid dealing with most of the criticism. Similarly, there are undoubtedly Trump supporters for a wide variety of reasons (including celebrity), but their harping on those is often a way to avoid dealing with the reasons why so many disgusted voters reasonably think Trump is the answer.

            But I will say that the burgeoning personality cult around Trump is another matter. How many of his voters really qualify for this is a good question, but certainly some seem to.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            but a huge majority not only don’t care about his flaws, but are refreshed that he is actually a human being and not an automaton like Romney-care, or a bald-faced hypocritical liar like McCain.

            I quite agree, Tom. Trump does come across as a real human being, flaws and all (which is why he is human). If we look at the list of GOP candidates, you have.

            + The Milquetoast Technocrat (Bush)
            + The High School Debater Who Talks Too Fast (Rubio)
            + The Ball-Busting Feminist Pretending to Be a Conservative (Carly)
            + The Nice Doctor Out of His Element (Carson)
            + The Nutty Pseudo-Intellectual (Paul)
            + The Bluster-Baron Who’s Best Known for Hugging Obama (Christie)
            + The Minister Pretending to be a Politician pretending to Not be a Minister (Huckabee)

            And I like Cruz and Santorum (big government Santorum, he may be) so I’ll not characterize them. But this entire field is made up of plastic personas, Those Who Know Best, or just plain phonies.

            The GOP Establishment wants to demonize Trump as a “populist” but this shows their insider-group blinkeredness. It’s almost the mirror image of the Left whereby if you don’t downgrade America (claiming that it’s racist, sexist, etc.) then you’re a denier. For the GOP Establishment, if you are “popular” you, by definition, can’t be one of the erudite few who, if we are lucky enough, descend to earth, if we will but bow down to their superior intellect, and deign to serve us.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              For the GOP Establishment, if you are “popular” you, by definition, can’t be one of the erudite few who, if we are lucky enough, descend to earth, if we will but bow down to their superior intellect, and deign to serve us.

              May I remind you to think “Lords and Serfs”, when trying to understand the present situation. We are regressing.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Maybe someone can recommend a good book on the subject, historical novel or otherwise. But at least the serfs got something out of the deal: protection. The Lords supposedly were in charge of the security of the realm.

                The GOP Establishment can’t even secure the realm…the borders. So what use are they? We might indeed give way to a little bit of serfdom if we got something from the deal. But we’ve gotten absolutely nothing out of the deal with the GOP Establishment.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                This applies to the Beltway Bandits of both sides. I’ve been referring to them as the aristos for some time, and pointing out that the aristos never really care about the peasants. And there’s a reason I refer to Versailles-on-the-Potomac.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                There is a reason Ted Cruz has been saying there are two parties in the USA, the D.C. party and the rest of the country.

              • Rosalys says:

                “May I remind you to think ‘Lords and Serfs’…”

                “Maybe someone can recommend a good book…”

                How about thinking in terms of “Morlocks and Eloi” from The Time Machine?

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Morlocks and Eloi are a very frightening comparison, as I’ve noticed myself. Recall that the Eloi were basically nice, edible pets of the Morlocks. I suppose we could say that the liberal dream has third-world immigrants as the Morlocks (which may be why they don’t care about the misbehavior of Muslims), ordinary Americans as the Eloi, and themselves as the unseen masters of the whole society.

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