Magazine article The Spectator

How Donald Trump's Anger Is Sweeping Away His Republican Rivals

Magazine article The Spectator

How Donald Trump's Anger Is Sweeping Away His Republican Rivals

Article excerpt

'The Donald' is winning because he is angrier than his rivals


Ronald Reagan wooed America with sunny optimism. From the offset, Donald Trump has offered something much darker. He began his presidential campaign on 16 June by declaring that the 'American dream is dead.' He said that the country was being run by 'losers'. 'We have people that don't have it,' he said. 'We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain.' He insisted that only he, Donald J. Trump, had what it took 'to make America great again'.

This was not 'Morning in America'; more Midnight in America. Trump's pitch was gloom, insults and arrogance. Strangely enough, however, that turned out to be exactly what millions of American voters wanted to hear. By trashing the United States and comparing his country unfavourably to himself, Trump tapped into something deep and powerful in the American psyche. Now there are only a few days left before the presidential election process starts, and 'The Donald' continues to storm the polls. He probably won't be president, but it now looks as if he probably will be the Republican nominee -- the heir to Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower. It's a mind-boggling phenomenon.

In the early days of the Trump campaign, commentators on both sides of the Atlantic refused to take Trump seriously. They laughed at his vanity, his facelifts, his fake hair. Some said that he was running simply to promote his TV show, his businesses and his book (his earlier tilts at the presidency did appear to have been PR stunts). Others thought he was another Republican cabaret act; similar to Herman Cain, the pizza magnate who enjoyed a brief success in the 2012 race for the Republican nomination, but with extra ego on top.

Trump, however, soon recognised a weird link between his obnoxiousness and his popularity. Every time the commentariat thought that he had gone too far, he surged in the polls. He said that Mexican immigrants were rapists; his popularity went up. He made a sexist remark about a Fox News anchor's menstruation; his popularity went up. He mocked a disabled New York Times reporter, his ratings wavered. So he upped his efforts and called for a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the US. His polls rocketed. The experts kept telling people not to worry: political gravity would bring this joker down to earth. Nate Silver, the famous statistician, told the media to 'stop freaking out about Donald Trump's polls'. The Trump bubble would pop, he suggested, when it hit the reality of the election cycle, because voters in American primaries don't make up their minds until late. Others pointed out that in polls for the opening Iowa caucuses on 1 February, Trump had never been in the lead. But earlier this month, Trump moved ahead in Iowa. He is now on 35 per cent in the national polls -- at least 15 points clear of his nearest rival, Ted Cruz. The Republican establishment is finally beginning to accept the once-unthinkable idea of a Trump nomination. It's rumoured that, at a private retreat last week, Republican congressmen were given polling data suggesting that Trump would do better against Hillary Clinton than Cruz, who is associated with the Tea Party and the most toxic aspects of American conservatism.

The party cannot control the nomination process in the way that it did. The hierarchy's chosen candidate, Jeb Bush, son of one president and brother of another, has failed to make an impact. Their back-up options -- Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, John Kasich -- have also struggled. One by one, the comforting theories about how Trump's maverick candidacy might be stopped have been knocked flat. It was said, for instance, that Trump, a thrice-married New Yorker with wobbly views on abortion and gay rights, could not win over evangelicals in southern states. Yet he is now polling above Cruz, the son of a church pastor, across the south. …

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