Politics doesn’t belong on this blog. But the 2016 US election decides who will be perhaps the most influential kingpin in global politics—so it’s loosely investing related. And I have a quick point to make that won’t fit into a tweet.
I hope Donald Trump doesn’t become president. He is nuts. But what has been most interesting about the Trump tsunami is how much we misjudged his chances of success. And we’ve done that because we underestimated how wide his base of support is.
The media deserves some scolding for that—read any article on Trump’s support base and they’ll be focused on God-lovin’, gun-totin’, Mexican and Muslim fearin’ Middle Americans. They are surely a big part of Trump’s constituency, and that should surprise nobody.
But it is support beyond those hard-core Republican crazies that nobody expected and that is key to understanding this whirlwind so far.
I was in Seattle and Portland three months ago on vacation. I ended up talking politics with friends, friends of friends and a few strangers in two of America’s most liberal cities. Of course, many of them hated Trump. But there was a surprising amount of support from others. None of these fans were gun-totting, poor or outwardly religious. Most expressed no direct fear of either Islam or Latin Americans. Not all of them were white. Some of them were traditionally Democrat voters, and most had voted for Obama at least once.
Their support for Trump was occasionally expressed upfront but more often after a few beers and a warm up chat. Now these people won’t necessarily vote for Trump, and they know he’s crazy. Perhaps they’ve gotten off the Trump train since September as his speeches have gotten more extreme. But as of a few months ago, they wanted to see the circus roll on for a while yet. Why?
I think we get a hint in this LA Times article, which offers one of the more insightful sentences I’ve read on the Republican nomination race:
“I think he’s writing all his own stuff, ’cause it’s too off the wall for anybody to write something like that”
This came from Bruce Goacher, an Iowan who intends to vote for Trump. It is similar to what I heard a few times, even in left-leaning Oregon and Washington State.
They see a genuineness in Trump. Over the decades politicians of all stripes have become better at PR spin, avoiding unwanted questions and Teflon-coating themselves and their message. That worked, to a point. But it doesn’t take much of a BS detector to realise we are being told what politicians and their advisors and speech writers want us to hear (being whatever gets votes), not necessarily what the speaker actually thinks or feels.
Not that The Donald isn’t telling America what it wants to hear. Not that he’s not appealing to baser instincts. Not that he doesn’t lie repeatedly. But you can also see clearly that he says what he means and means what he says. There is very little dissonance between what Donald feels and what Donald says, which marks him as different from just about every career politician. You’re not gonna die wondering.
My best guess as to why Trump is getting support from people that you just wouldn’t expect to support someone so outlandish? Many voters have reached a point where they’d prefer ‘crazy but genuine’ over ‘sane but insincere’. Here’s hoping the unexpected groundswell is just a stepping stone to finding someone both genuine and sane. That may take a few more presidential cycles yet, unfortunately.
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