The revolt of the public and the rise of Donald Trump

The revolt of the public and the rise of Donald Trump, by Martin Gurri, a former foreign media analyst for the U.S. government. Trump is an empty vessel, an accidental instrument wielded by the public:

A meticulous study of Donald Trump’s biography, statements, and policy “positions” will reveal no hint of political direction. It’s not that Trump is contradictory or incoherent. He’s ideologically formless. His claim to business competence is nullified by inherited wealth and several bankruptcies. His supposed nationalism consists of complaining about countries in which he has invested his own money (“I love China, but…”). He’s going to make America great again – yet that’s a wish, not a program. A run at the US presidency has been concocted out of a disorganized bundle of will and desire.

… the dizzying rise of Trump can best be understood as the political assertion of a newly energized public. Trump has been chosen by this public,  … and he is the visible effect, not the cause, of this public’s surly and mutinous mood. The right level of analysis on Trump isn’t Trump, but the public that endows him with a radical direction and temper, and the decadent institutions that have been too weak to stand in his way.

Democracy is fraying:

The American public, like the public everywhere, is engaged in a long migration away from the structures of representative democracy to more sectarian arrangements. … the democratic nation has devolved into a “society of distrust.”  … the sense of being betrayed and abandoned by “protected classes” is shared across large majorities of mutually hostile persuasions. The landscape in a society of distrust tilts steeply toward repudiation:  everyone, at all times, wants to stand against.

Trump as the response to Obama?

To [President Obama], the democratic process is legitimate if, and only if, it promotes the advancement of progressive ideals.  Otherwise democracy is really manipulation. … By shrinking democracy to partisan dimensions, the president has extended an invitation to mayhem that far more radical characters than Barack Obama could hardly refuse. Among them are the social justice warriors who have sought to budge the president leftward and now incline to Bernie Sanders.

The logic of the moment, however, more fiercely agitates Tea Partiers, evangelists, “alt conservatives,” and others on the right who find the status quo intolerable.

Too many views and people have been silenced by PC:

As for the specific issues under debate in the primaries – immigration, the economy, terrorism – their importance to the public is uncertain.  Exit polls have jumped all over the place. … My guess is that they are tokens of distance – of that sense of betrayal and abandonment by the institutions of government.

Ordinary people, for example, are not allowed to maintain that immigration might be connected to crime, or job loss, or terrorism.  Such opinions are condemned as racist and placed beyond the pale of political discussion. If you happen to hold them, you are effectively silenced. A majority of Trump supporters agree with the following statement:  “people like me don’t have any say in what the government does.”

Part of a world-wide phenomenon to bring down the elites:

The transcendent aim of the revolt of the public, everywhere around the globe, has been to smash the elites and the institutions down from the protected heights, by whatever means necessary, regardless of the consequences.

Why Trump?

The media fixated on Trump for a pretty straightforward reason:  he represented high ratings and clickbait. … In American politics, Trump is a peacock among dull buzzards.  … The one discernible theme of his life has been the will to stand out:  to attract all eyes in the room by being the loudest, most colorful, most aggressively intrusive person there.  …

He also sounded different from other politicians. … His competitors speak in political jargon and soaring generalities. He speaks in rant. He attacks, insults, condemns, doubles down on misstatements, never takes a step back, never apologizes. Everyone he dislikes is a liar, “a bimbo,” “bought and paid for.” … Such rhetorical aggression is shocking in mainstream American politics but an everyday occurrence on the political web, where death threats and rape threats against a writer are a measure of the potency of the message.

Commenter Lee Kelly:

Imagine a candidate expressing Trump-like sentiments, but more politely and without the prior fame. The political and media classes would have shouted him down and shut him out. It had to be Trump, or someone very much like him. Trump was entertaining, the clickbait candidate – fun to keep shouting down. But he was also dismissed as a joke, a clown, who had no real chance of winning – no need to shut him up.

Commenter Ashman:

The 65% “OtherThanTrump” primary vote on the GOP side encourages me. The fact that it looks to be coalescing around an imperfect vessel, Cruz, who advocates a returned reliance on the Constitution and is hated in D.C. encourages me.

The fact that it looks like this may be turning into a “Anybody but Trump or Hillary” election encourages me. Cruz v Sanders would be “a choice, not an echo” election…and that prospect encourages me.