Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism

Summary: Slowly our leaders and political gurus realize that Trump represents powerful currents in American society. It is a new populism, unlike the faux populism of the Left. While their initial expectations of a Trump flame-out have proven false, they still underestimate him. Further surprises await us as we journey down this dark path.

GOP presidential poll, 17 December 2015

On August 6 Nate Silver published “Donald Trump’s Six Stages Of Doom” (the same week I wrote The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning). Here is the core of Silver’s analysis, with his 6 steps (slightly paraphrased).

“If you want absurd specificity, I recently estimated Trump’s chance of becoming the GOP nominee at 2 percent. …History’s lesson isn’t necessarily that Trump’s candidacy will go bust tomorrow, however. …The lesson, rather, is that Trump’s campaign will fail by one means or another. …{to get 2%} assume he has a 50% chance of surviving each subsequent stage of the gantlet.”

  1. Free-for-all. This is the stage we’re in now.
  2. Heightened scrutiny in mid-November or thereabouts, as voters up their level of attention to the campaign. Potential threat to Trump if polling support doesn’t translate to support from more-informed voters.
  3. Iowa and New Hampshire: February 1 and 9. Potential threat to Trump if he performs poorly in one or both, either in an absolute sense or relative to polls.
  4. Winnowing in mid-February through mid-March. Potential threat to Trump if other leaders gathering support as candidates drop out.
  5. Delegate accumulation in mid-March through June. Potential threats to Trump if he builds weak State and local organizations and gains little support from superdelegates.
  6. Endgame from June through Republican National Convention in July. Potential threat to Trump if the Republican Party’s leaders work to deny him the nomination.

The first hope of GOP leaders and political gurus was that Trump would self-destruct. However his outrageous statements appear to win him as much support as they lose (see the reason below).

Their second hope was that Trump would fail to build the necessary organization to get on the 50 state ballots — and win. Trump might disappoint them again. He was the first to file in the GOP New Hampshire primary. He was the first in either party to file in Virginia, despite it having some of the most difficult requirements in the nation. He has appointed leadership teams in Virginia (here and here), North Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama and Illinois, Florida and Texas, more about Texas, and Massachusetts and Mississippi.

Building an organization like those of his rivals is necessary for Trump’s success — but not the key to it. He employs the new tools of mass media far better than any of his competitors. Dave Helling at the Kansas City Star explains: “Donald Trump builds lead without the tools of traditional campaigns” — Excerpt…

“GOP presidential front-runner relies on media coverage and social outreach instead of ads and phone banks. Experts wonder if he can win the nomination with this low-cost approach. Other Republicans have relied on traditional strategies, with mixed results.”

Follow the money

Trump has built a commanding lead among Republicans while spending far less than his rivals. As of the Sept 30, the last filing, Trump had raised $5.5 million: 12th largest in the GOP race, behind Jeb Bush at $133 million), 72% of which was from small donations (vs. 88% for Sanders). See the NYT for details. Oddly, Trump’s “donations to his campaign go to him, personally.”

Bloomberg describes one way he has done so: “How Trump Has Neutralized Super-PAC Cash” — “The Republican front-runner has dominated his rivals in terms of free media coverage.”

My prediction is that Trump will have to raise large sums to win the nomination, even larger sums in the general campaign — and will do so easily. Americans love a winner. Our plutocrats are as susceptible to the bandwagon effect as the rest of us. Many or most donate in expectation of future benefits (hence so many donate to both parties). When Trump needs the money, he will have the money.

The populist revival

Trump has tapped the deep stratum of American populism: resentful, nativist, racist, egalitarian (within nativist and racial lines), anti-authoritarian, and anti-intellectual. The major parties absorbed and suppressed populists (the most recent outbreak was George Wallace’s run in 1968), much as they absorbed and suppressed populism (the most recent outbreak was John Anderson’s run in 1980).

Reform in America usually becomes possible only when they combine. The 1% win today because these two currents are sundered. The people in these two kinds of movements seldom not like each other, and so find it difficult to combine except under great stress.

Arnold discovered our weakness and folly

In these turbulent times outsiders can gain high office in America without relevant experience or party sponsorship, even when running for frivolous motives. In 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger showed the weakness of today’s parties and the fecklessness of American voters, as Michael Lewis’ interview with him in Vanity Fair reminds us…

If there had not been a popular movement to remove sitting governor Gray Davis and the chance to run for governor without having to endure a party primary, he {Arnold Schwarzenegger} never would have bothered. “The recall happens and people are asking me, ‘What are you going to do?’  … I thought about it but decided I wasn’t going to do it. I told Maria I wasn’t running. I told everyone I wasn’t running. I wasn’t running.”

Then, in the middle of the recall madness, “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” opened. As the movie’s leading machine, he was expected to appear on “The Tonight Show” to promote it. En route he experienced a familiar impulse — the impulse to do something out of the ordinary.

“I just thought, This will freak everyone out … it’ll be so funny. I’ll announce that I am running. I told Leno I was running. And two months later I was governor. … What the f*** is that? …All these people are asking me, ‘What’s your plan? Who’s on your staff?’ I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a staff. I wasn’t running until I went on Jay Leno.”

This is not how great nations run themselves. We can find competent leadership. Otherwise I believe America will have hard times in the 21st century.

Other posts about the new populism

  1. From August: The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning.
  2. Background: Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.
  3. Donald Trump leads us back to the future, to the dark days of US history.
  4. A New America arises, perhaps with Trump as its first leader.
  5. Two scary graphs about the rise of Donald. Fear fascism. Act now.
  6. Look to the Left to see the force powering Trump and Carson.
  7. The numbers about immigration that fuel Trump’s campaign.
  8. New York shows how Democrat-run cities & states contribute to the rise of Trump.
  9. Good news: we begin to see that we are sliding towards fascism.
  10. Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism.
  11. Important: Trump’s hope: a recession might put him in the White House.
  12. The four keys to a possible Trump victory.

For More Information

A rare mention (quickly dropped) in the major media that Trump is a populist candidate: “The Great Republican Revolt” by David Frum in The Atlantic — “The GOP planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war. Can the party reconcile the demands of its donors with the interests of its rank and file?”

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2 thoughts on “Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism”

  1. Trump through his carefully crafted ways of causing outrage end up having his enemies do the campaigning for him.

    Given that the media thinks that they could smear this man for saying this kind of thing or that kind of thing.

    But given peoples general distrust of media and the GOP establishment especially this only propels his popularity among Right-WIng people who are dissatisfied with the current political process.

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