I recently had a conversation with a dear friend of mine who isn’t a mainstream GOP voter. He’s a libertarian with conservative “leanings,” and someone with whom I often find myself agreeing. Save for a few social issues and an occasional foreign policy tiff – we agree on almost everything. So when he came to me with a “serious” question about “crazy” Republican voters, I listened.
“How in the world could any GOP voter seriously be considering voting for Donald Trump?” he asked.
Now, if you’ve read my work with any regularity, you know that I’ve written over and over again about how Donald Trump is no conservative. In fact, he’s barely a Republican. So I have a bit of a bias against Trump when it comes to political considerations – he’s not a candidate that I could support or vote for. (Though I do generally agree with him on illegal immigration and the Common Core.)
So when I began trying to explain Trump’s current success, I had to start with the one thing that seems to bother RINOs and liberals the most: Trump’s willingness to offend, particularly on the subject of illegal immigration.
But that can’t be all it is, can it? Probably not, but John Hawkins at Townhall.com figures that makes up the bulk of it. Hawkins has a piece up at Townhall right now that gives 5 Reasons for Trump’s surge, and 4 of the 5 deal with Trump’s willingness to speak plainly (and a bit offensively) about illegal immigration.
Hawkins says Trump’s five strengths are:
- Being Authentic
- Tapping into issues people care about
- Sticking a thumb in the eye of the Establishment
- Being willing to Fight
- Listening to the Voters
It makes sense, doesn’t it’? Voters like Trump because he’s being himself – no handling, no lying, no sense that he’s trying to sell them a bill of goods. They like him because he’s speaking openly and honestly about issues that they actually care about, like illegal immigration and crime. They like him because he pisses off the squishy, moderate establishment that just wants him to quiet down. They like him because, even as he is being attacked from all fronts (and losing a ton of endorsement deal money), he won’t back down! In fact, instead of apologizing and bowing and scraping, Trump doubled down and even became more aggressive in his attacks. Lastly, the voters like him because they feel like he listens to them. Hawkins summed up this last important point in his piece:
On the presidential front, many people consider the “top tier” to be Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. Jeb Bush’s campaign slogan may as well be “Screw the Conservatives Who’re Voting for Me.” Marco Rubio ran ads attacking Charlie Crist for being in favor of amnesty when he was desperately trying to woo conservatives, but once he got into office, he led the charge for amnesty and open borders. How do you take him at his word on ANYTHING from abortion to gun control after that? Meanwhile, Scott Walker – who’s supposed to be the “conservative alternative” to those two – saw his team hire Brad Dayspring from the NRSC. Dayspring made a name for himself publicly smearing, sliming, demeaning and attacking grassroots conservatives on a regular basis. Despite a huge outcry from conservatives, Scott Walker’s PAC kept Dayspring on board. If you’re a conservative who thinks he can trust someone like that, you richly deserve the knife you’re going to get in your back if Walker makes it to the White House.
On the other hand, if you want evidence that Trump is paying attention to the voters, it’s not hard to find. If looking at the issues he’s talking about isn’t enough, look at his Twitter feed where at times it seems like he’s retweeted every single person in America who said something nice about him. As much as anything, Donald Trump’s numbers are going up because conservatives want to feel like someone with some juice in the Republican Party is listening to them. Maybe more than a handful of other Republicans should try that some time.
Look, as I told my friend, the Donald is not the best candidate for conservative voters to be hitching their wagons to, but… he’s the one taking advantage of his opportunity. Maybe if Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Walker, Jindal or another candidate were being more aggressive and vocal with the issues MOST important to the conservative voter, they might be the one’s riding this current wave of popularity instead of Trump. Perhaps they should learn the lesson that Trump is offering and begin incorporating some of these ideas, attitudes and actions into their own campaigns.