Don’t Get Trumped by Donald Trump’s Poll Numbers
First, in the spirit of full disclosure I was apprehensive to discuss the news surrounding Donald Trump because I find little value in adding to the growing number of articles ripping him apart. I don’t think it benefits our community by taking the same exact stance, for the same exact reasons, as the rest of the world. As if there is another side to take. Plus, I don’t think any of us needed Donald to clarify his stance on immigration or tell us his definition of war hero for everyone to know he is certifiably insane
So, why are you writing this?
In politics there are many different ways for the American people to communicate their feelings. Often times, we rely heavily on polls as a way to check the pulse of society on a particular issue. However, history has taught us that polls rarely tell the whole story of why surveyors made the choices they did. In some instances the polls might even tell us one candidate is definitely going to win, only for the opposite to be true.
In 1948 Gallup polls showed Thomas E. Dewey defeating Harry Truman in a convincing 49.5% to 44.5% victory. The New York Times, Chicago Daily Tribune and Life Magazine all had Dewey 5 to 15 percent ahead of Truman. Consequently, as you probably learned in high school we have never had a president with the last name Dewey.
So polls are unreliable, right?
Not so fast. The point here is to highlight how important it is for us to strip away the decimal points and percentage signs and to examine the voices behind each number. Sometimes, micro level details are best understood by seeing how they fit within the macro-level picture. Let’s take a look…
According to Fox News polls, Donald Trump is leading the pack with 18% of likely Republican primary voters saying they would vote for him. This is up from 11% in June and 4% in May. The most recent ABC News/Washington Post polls, following Trump’s John McCain war hero comments, show him sitting at a comfortable 24% among Republican and Republican-leaning Independents. Meanwhile, Scott Walker is holding down second place with 13% and Jeb Bush in third at 12%. According to the numbers, Donald Trump has shot up over 20 percent in a matter of weeks! In May, analysts were wondering if we would even see Trump on TV for the August 6, 2015 Republican Primary Debate – now they are wondering who is going to challenge The Don.
We know Trump is picking up steam with Republican primary voters, but we don’t know why.
If you are more liberal, you are probably thinking that Trump’s racist comments about Mexican immigrants are indicative of the beliefs held by the entire GOP. Many liberals will turn to the poll numbers showing Trump surging to the top, immediately following Trump’s bombastic comments, as evidence of Republican primary voters endorsing Trump’s racist beliefs.
Alternatively, shortly after Donald Trump claimed John McCain was only a war hero because he was captured by the enemy, most Republican candidates were quick to distance themselves from Trump. Conservatives will highlight how the majority of Republicans have publicly denounced Trump and don’t believe that he represents the core Republican values. Or there is the Scott Walker approach, summoning his inner Ronald Reagan and refusing to say a negative word about the other candidates.
There is a third group that believes that Donald Trump’s rise in the polls can be chalked up to name recognition and media buzz. Hell, Bernie Sanders is drawing bigger crowds than any other candidate and he isn’t getting half the media buzz Trump is enjoying.
Truth is, there is a much more logical and less partisan explanation of why people are supporting a polarizing clown like Donald Trump. Charlie Cook, political analyst for the National Journal does a great job setting the scene:
“There has long been a conservative populist faction within the GOP, one that has little respect for the party establishment. In the 1992 New Hampshire Republican primary, President George H.W. Bush pulled just 53 percent of the vote, with renegade conservative columnist Pat Buchanan garnering a surprising 37 percent. While it is doubtful that Buchanan or his supporters really expected the former editorial writer and Nixon White House aide to actually win the GOP nomination, they were on a mission to move the party. There was an anti-establishment, anti-Washington, often angry fervor, with opposition to free trade the flash point then, much as immigration is today. Four years later, Buchanan ran again, ultimately winning just over 20 percent of the GOP primary vote nationwide; though Sen. Robert Dole went on to capture the Republican nomination. This populist presence receded some in 2000, when Texas Gov. George W. Bush and McCain won a combined 93 percent of the total primary vote.”
“The revival of this particular passion came with the rise of the tea-party movement. A frustration had been building from mounting federal budget deficits and the national debt, occurring regardless of which party was in the White House or controlled Congress. The feeling among this element of the party base was that it was to be expected that Democrats would run up huge deficits and debt, but the Republicans seemed to do it just as much.
In 2012, we saw this anti-establishment force propel then-Rep. Michele Bachmann over the top in the Iowa Republican Straw Poll in August 2011 and businessman Herman Cain to a brief front-runner status that fall. While conservatism has become part of the GOP’s DNA, these voters were giving the traditional Republican Party establishment the middle finger.”
People are fired up – but is Donald Trump really the answer?
Gridlock in Congress has been drilled into the heads of Americans for the last 4 years. The current administration has made it a point to show how a dysfunctional Congress has made it difficult for Obama to address the issues Americans care about most. In fact, a May 2015 poll shows only 5% of voters believe that most members of Congress deserve reelection – the lowest number ever recorded in the CBS News poll. Since members of Congress are viewed as being intractable, it is certainly possible that a fraction of Republicans prefer a hard-nosed, renegade of sorts willing to stand up to party leadership and speak with reckless abandon. Given these facts, Donald Trump’s surging poll numbers could represent Republican primary voters’ dissatisfaction with the traditional GOP establishment, and perceived turmoil in Congress, rather than a ringing endorsement for Trump’s immigrant-hating, veteran bashing brand of government.
How long can Donald Trump hold on?
Some conservatives like Rush Limbaugh are warning that too much Trump-bashing could be problematic for Republicans if Trump wins the nomination. Why? Limbaugh suggest that if Trump wins, it will be difficult for all of the conservative Trump-bashers to rally around the Republican Party’s nomination as they normally would with any other candidate. However, Rush fails to recognize that winning any party nomination is predicated on implanting enthusiasm within the hearts and minds of the party base. Consequently, this often requires candidates to modify their approach – just ask Rand Paul son of libertarian hero Ron Paul.
Donald Trump is not that kind of guy. If the ship is sinking, he’s at the helm screaming ‘No one fires The Donald’. Watching Trump try to debate other candidates on national television will be disastrously riveting. To date, Donald Trump’s position on immigration appears to be the best thing he has going for him. Yet, the only substantive plan to fix unauthorized immigration Trump has offered is to build a giant wall and “get rid of the bad ones fast.” Despite the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States, Donald Trump has offered little to no details on how to address those currently living here. Frankly put, Donald Trump better have a more detailed plan than building walls and sending bad people home if he wants to look like a viable candidate come August 6th. But Donald Trump isn’t a viable candidate – it is more likely that we will get something like Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 pizza plan. Or was that a tax plan? I can never remember.
We can only hope that Donald Trump decides to run as a third-party candidate. It’s a virtual certainty that he will never become president and that he is potentially sabotaging the Republican candidates – Ralph Nadar and Ross Perot anyone?
Only time will tell whether Republicans truly cosign to the Trump brand, or whether their outward dissatisfaction with the state of affairs on Capitol Hill will lead to meaningful change. Regardless of where that path may lead, the growing number of Americans willing to speak out against the traditional course of business must not be ignored. Donald Trump’s front-runner status epitomizes how fed up some Republicans are, to the point where even incompetent baboons like Michele Bachmann or Donald Trump seem like a better option. This sentiment is not necessarily exclusive to the Republican Party, and really highlights how important election season is to understanding the many voices behind our representative democracy. If we seek to truly understand these voices, and the issues that are important to them, we can’t get fooled by the straw-man purportedly representing them.
Edited by Tim Huwaldt