Peggy Noonan spends some ink today (subscription) trying to understand why Donald Trump is suddenly so popular, at least in the polls. She points out that Trump is anything but an ideal presidential candidate, and frankly, barely a Republican. She thinks he “has a low ceiling and short staying power.” In that regard, I agree. He’ll be gone well before anything serious happens.
However, there’s a reason he’s currently popular (just as there’s a similar reason Bernie Sanders is popular on the left). And Noonan gets to most of it as she offers this anecdotal evidence (two working class independents and a Democrat she knows as friends) up to make a point:
They think he’s real, that he’s under nobody’s thumb, that maybe he’s a big-mouth but he’s a truth-teller. He’s afraid of no one, he’s not politically correct. He’s rich and can’t be bought by some billionaire, because he is the billionaire. He’s talking about what people are thinking and don’t feel free to say. He can turn the economy around because he made a lot of money, so he probably knows how to make jobs.
He is a fighter. People want a fighter. Maybe he’s impolitic but he’s better than some guy who filters everything he says through a screen of political calculation.
She points to some other reasons that seem fairly silly, like he’s unserious as a candidate and the country has gotten increasingly unserious (really?). But she also points to something I think most people will agree on – “He capitalizes on the fact that no one in America trusts politicians anymore.” And that’s simply a truth that can be garnered from numerous polls.
So maybe these 3 people’s reasons don’t all pass the smell test. But two of them are what I think really are driving his current popularity. He is not politically correct (which also apparently translates into “he’s a truth-teller”). Most people are deathly tired of political correctness and its hysterical adherents. There are any number of people hungering for someone to stand up and give them straight talk. Someone to address the issues as they should be address without filtering everything “through a screen of political calculation”.
Trump, at least at the moment, fills that bill. He’s saying things that much of the country is thinking or at least wondering about. And they want answers. That, of course, is where Trump will fall short. However, there are many out there very happy with the fact that marginal Republican or not, Trump is making the establishment Republicans very uncomfortable (to the point that they’re trying to find ways to keep him out of debates, etc.). Frankly, they need to be uncomfortable.
Trump will eventually fade. But this lesson needs to be learned by certain GOP candidates for the Presidency. It’s time to quit playing the game by the other team’s rules. It’s time to address issues honestly, forthrightly and without the “filter” that is so obviously present in most statements made by other candidates. It’s time for someone to tell those who whine and object to wording to grow up, act like adults and face the problems our nation faces head on.
And yes, the media and the PC crowd will attempt to marginalize them and pull every identity politics trick in the book to ruin that candidate’s chances. Somewhere, somehow though, this sort of straight talk has got to happen.
If not now, when?
When it is obviously too late?