The Republican Party establishment thought they had 2016 wired for success. Party bigwigs were desperate to avoid a repeat of the protracted and embarrassing 2012 GOP presidential primary, when amateur and/or extremist candidates (like Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum) frequently led the race well into 2013. This weakened the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, including by forcing him to take positions that were unpopular with the general electorate.
So, the Party changed the rules for 2016. They limited the number of debates and compressed the primary schedule in the hope that the new process would produce a nominee quickly, and one that was favored by the corporate-dominated GOP establishment and donor base.
Funny story. Donald Trump blew it all up. He has led the race continuously since early July. That’s four months! And, the candidate he may be losing that lead to is worthy of his own meeting, total political neophyte Ben Carson! Between them, Trump, Carson, and Carly Fiorina – three rank amateurs that have never even run for elective office – are pulling down more than one-half of likely Republican voters. Nothing like this has ever happened before. What on earth is going on?
Maybe not much. Maybe the Trump phenomenon is just a function of his celebrity. Or, perhaps GOP voters are merely waving a big middle finger in front of the Party establishment for a few months before settling on a real candidate next year. Or, maybe we have just reached a point where regular Republican voters have to throw a tantrum once in a while to remind the moneyed big boyz they still exist and have to be reckoned with.
I don’t believe these theories explain fully what’s going on, and neither do a lot of analysts I respect. There are a number of different theories of Trumpism’s (and Carsonism’s, for that matter – their rise is related.) appeal. But, they all conclude that this weird political moment is telling us something important about where the Republican Party is right now and where it’s going.
This week, I’ll do a series of pre-meeting posts with links to some of the more insightful analyses I’ve seen of the reasons behind Trump’s appeal. First up, is this man’s popularity “real” or just a blip?
FIRST LINKS – Is Trumpism “Real?”
- No, the polls are overstating his popularity.
- Not really, because his popularity is all a function of his extremely high level of news media coverage. When that fades, he will fade. Recommended.
- Trump is just filling (with bombast) the void created by the GOP establishment’s lack of ideas. Recommended
- Relax. Trump is not the first “know-nothing” to sweet talk American voters. He will fade away as others have.
Part II: Theories of Trumpism.
Post III: Trump, Carson, et. al., and the future of the GOP.
Post IV: Some more conservative POVs on all of this.