The Trump Phenomenon

Understanding the Center of Fake News

Mass rallies give Donald Trump his energy, his support.

It has been a fascinating case study for a political science major like me.  I have been involved in politics at all levels all since high school.  The first campaign I worked on was Ronald Reagan's presidential run in 1980.  As a high school senior I had the opportunity to see how presidential politics and local politicians blend together to build a winning team.  Needless to say, the current occupant of the White House has stymied me.

Throughout the primary, I doubted Donald Trump would last.  I told everyone I knew that there was no way the Republican Party and it's voters would elect such a man.  His checkered history in business, in marriage, in...well life...didn't bode well for someone seeking to becoming the chief executive of the world's only remaining superpower.  But, as the primary season wore on, Trump proved me wrong every time.  When he actually secured the Republican nomination, I sat in my chair shaking my head in utter and complete bewilderment.  How did this happen?  What had become of the Republican Party that I knew and supported for over 35 years? 

There was never a chance that Hillary Clinton would get my vote, but I was one of millions of Republicans that simply could not—would not—vote for Donald Trump.  His ego is just too big.  His world knowledge too little.  His political experience non-existent.  No, I was not going to vote for him.  Evan McMillan won my vote, because he was a true conservative.

But, the reality of American politics is that there are only two major political parties, and one of them will win any election for president.  By voting for someone other than Trump, I was pretty much guaranteeing that Hillary would win the election.  Part of me was OK with that, because while I disagree with her on nearly every issue, I at least was comfortable knowing she was qualified to be president.  Trump, on the other hand, is unfit to be president by any measuring stick imaginable.

Like the rest of the world, I was glued to the television on election night waiting for the news that the American people had elected the first female president.  When Trump started pulling off wins in crazy Dem states, I was puzzled.  At 11 o'clock, I went to bed assured that Clinton would have the win.  When I awoke in the the morning, I was uttered astounded at the news—maybe just as much as Trump was himself.

The reality show comb-over king had won himself the highest office in the land.  His ego would get the ultimate boost by having his photo displayed in every federal building and embassy around the world.  One day he will have a coin with this portrait on it and maybe even an aircraft carrier named after him.  All fitting for someone who thrives on personal adoration.

But, what had happened to my country?  What had happened to the Grand Ole Party of Abraham Lincoln?  What happened to reason in the polling booth?  Did a majority of our country actually believe a reality television host with absolutely no grasp of the pressing political issues of the country—and the world—could govern?  Apparently, at least a majority of them in enough states mattered.

I won't get into the popular vote versus electoral vote discussion—the Constitution is clear about how we elect presidents and I support that.  We have elected a few presidents before without them gaining the majority of the popular vote.  Trump won the election, fair and square.  He is the President of the United States.

In the year since his inauguration the world has seen just how unfit he is to be president.  The special prosecutor investigation aside, Trump has stumbled on domestic, international, fiscal, immigration, and even how he runs the executive branch of government. Some of this can be brushed aside as a new, inexperienced president gaining his footing in Washington.  Much of it cannot. 

There is no excuse for hundreds of senior federal posts remaining vacant.  Yesterday, the president was briefed on the MS-13 gang threat by the Acting Assistant Attorney General.  Acting.  Thirteen months into his presidency and we still don't have an assistant attorney general.  The list goes on and on.

In that same meeting, Trump said he would "love another government shutdown."  In fact, he repeated it several times—almost baiting Congress to dare him.  Suddenly, border security and his "wall" are now the most important points in his budget demand and without complete funding for both, he will shut down the federal government again.  Really?

The list goes on and on.  What does not seem to change is the core support he receives from roughly a third of the US electorate.  These are the people who turned out on election day and scored a major win for their candidate.  These are the Americans who steadfast support the man that confounds all of official Washington, most of the international community, all of our allies, and loyalists of both major parties.  This is also the man who has chased away millions of Republicans—a move that will haunt both Trump and Republican candidates this November in the mid term elections.

There are many articles about who these die-hard Trump supporters are.  Are they blue-collar workers?  Uneducated?  Bigots?  White supremacists? Maybe they include those people, but that is not Trumps core followers.  I believe they are composed of millions of disenfranchised Americans—people who work too hard for too little, struggle to get ahead, or just seem a bit frustrated with how government has been working.  I do believe that vast majority of Trumpites fail to understand the complexities of government, of international relations, of multi-lateral trade agreements, of congressional rules and compromise.  And, perhaps most tellingly, I believe they lack a basic understanding of the American Constitution and how we operate as a nation.

Trump succeeded in campaigning at the lowest common denominator.  He thrived (and still thrives) on talking to large crowds and feeding off their energy.  His off-the-cuff remarks make for great rally points, but do not work so well when it comes to governing.  And, many times, these comments are simply not rooted in fact or reality.  To his crowd, Trump comes across as all-knowing, therefore what he says must be true.  Not the case.

Early in his administration, Trump succeeded in embedding fake news into our daily lives.  Now a dissenting opinion on anything Trump is instantly branded fake news by this White House.  There are plenty of fake news sites out on social media, but our networks are not part of them.  ABC, CBS, NBC deliver news with minimal opinion.  Cable news shows differ.  The talking heads are part of news entertainment shows, not necessarily geared to unbiased reporting of news.  It is important to differentiate between the two.  I watch CNN for commentary, but not for news.  I watch FOX News for entertainment, because I see very little that resembles unbiased reporting on anything there.  I watch ABC World News for a concise, 30-minute update on world events.  I do my own research afterward. 

That is not the Trump supporter though.  Trumpites tend to hear what the president said and accept it as fact.  End of story.

That is dangerous.

I believe Trump will succeed in holding his base together throughout whatever part of his presidency he is able to finish.  I believe he will lose congressional support from his own party after the shellacking that is sure to come this November.  I believe there is a 100 percent chance that the Democrats will impeach him after they take control of the House in January 2019—whether the Senate will remove him or not will depend on what GOP senators he manages to disgust over the next year.  Remember, to hardcore Republicans, Vice President Mike Pence is significantly a better option in the Oval Office.  Never forget that fact.

Politics is about winning.  House Speaker Paul Ryan—never a Trump supporter in the first place—has been a team player thus far.  That will change as the polling results come in this year.  Watch for it.

The Trump Phenomenon is real.  It is not necessarily complex because it rests on the basic desire of the average American to live a better life.  Trump appeals to that—for some strange reason.

Dan McGinnis
Dan McGinnis

I've been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years, and social media manager for a decade.  I love politics & entertainment, and frequently write about both.  My interests are diverse--just like my articles.


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