The Republican Party had no hesitation gearing up for the 2016 Presidential Election after former Governor Mitt Romney lost to incumbent President Obama. What many assumed would be a traditional conservative primary election cycle has since unraveled into one of the most diverse and publicly watched pool of candidates of a primary election in the United States. And there can be only one reason for it: Donald Trump.
Donald Trump, prior to his announcement, had his time in the political spotlight on numerous occasions, but nobody had ever taken him seriously. On June 16, 2015, that all changed. Mr. Trump isn’t the ‘normal’ candidate, in fact he’s everything opposite. He’s not afraid to say what he wants, no matter how offensive his comments may be. He’s not afraid to boast to 24 million viewers on national television that he’s personally ‘bought’ politicians off, including the very ones he’s running against. Trump has become a force to be reckoned with. Some of his opponents brush him off, and characterize him and his campaign as political reality television and nothing more, but numbers don’t lie: with every offensive and aberrant comment or move that he makes, his numbers in the polls go up.
Why is this? What makes Donald Trump so attractive? Why do people pay attention to him? In the simplest of answers, he has no political filter. Americans are tired of the phrase dubbed ‘political correctness’–calculated rhetoric that avoids offending specific groups of people in society. People are tired of politicians dodging the issues, taking big donations from large companies, lobbying firms–people are tired of what they perceive to be political corruption. This is why candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders and Trump have a sweeter taste than ones like former Governor Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Most candidates come off as owned by the top 1%–they come off as puppets of big business, not social servants interested in bettering the lives of the average American.
Trump says, literally, what he wants, when he wants. And with every comment that the media portrays as a scandal, his polls rise. While prominent public figures, like retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, criticize political correctness and claim to be honest and direct, none of them truly come off that way–they never go the full mile. However with Trump, his comments, while offensive to some, are honest and unfiltered. And that’s why he is so appealing. He’s struck a chord with the voters.
And the worst of it all for his own party is that he’s successfully hijacked their primary. Trump has the Republican Party in a death grip. Not only does he have the support of roughly a quarter of the party’s followers, but he also hasn’t ruled out a third party run in the event that he doesn’t secure the nomination. This has put the party leadership in an extremely difficult position. If they come out against Trump and attack him from within the party, they alienate a huge amount of their voters, simultaneously hurting the party’s image itself. If they manage to force Trump out, he may very well run as an independent and without doubt hand the next four years to a Democrat. Whether he planned this out or not, it is a perfect position for him within the primary.
Can the political climate change in twelve months? Of course. But as of late, any politician’s nightmare, Donald Trump, remains the frontrunner of the conservative side.
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(Copyright 2015 James Phelan)