The Corner

Culture

If It’s Not the Trumpism, What is It?

For a year now, I’ve heard a good number of friends, colleagues, peers, pundits and former-friends explain that Trump is catching on because of some Very Big Issues — and not just immigration and trade, but what those issues represent: culture, identity, the flaws of modern capitalism, etc etc.

I’ve always leaned more on a simpler explanation: Lots of people hate politicians and Washington and they like entertaining celebrities. When you can use the latter to flip the bird at the former, all’s the better. In some cases the appeal of an entertaining celebrity morphs into a kind of disturbing and objectively ridiculous personality cult, in other cases it serves as an invitation to marginal figures and movements to hop on board for a ride and claim the candidacy represents something it doesn’t. But in general, I think your typical Trump fan from the primaries onward simply feels personally connected and invested in him. 

And, as several folks have noted around here, we’ve gotten fresh evidence this might be the case. Trumpism got shellacked in primary contests this week by two members of The Gang of Eight. Trump’s mini-me’s — aping the crudity, the protectionism, the anti-establishment blather — are all going down in flames, as they did last month in Paul Ryan’s blowout victory.

Which brings me to a question for those who are all in on the idea that this is some kind of political revolution: Why? If Trump’s success is all about these Very Important Issues, why aren’t those issues working for anyone else? It’s an honest question.

I actually think Rush Limbaugh’s explanation for why Trump’s then-alleged flip-flop on immigration wouldn’t matter: Because Trump is such an outsider in the minds of his supporters, that they don’t judge him by conventional political standards. I think that’s right — but it’s also just another way of saying, they like the entertaining celebrity and the way he flips the bird at politics as usual.  But then Rush has never been all-in on Trump the way some others have. Maybe Sean Hannity can take time off from denouncing “The Jonah Goldberg Class” and explain it to me and my class? 

Recommended

The Latest