For those still scratching their heads over billionaire Donald Trump’s meteoric rise in the Republican presidential campaign and why he’s doing so much better than more experienced, established political rivals, there are two new polls out that put the Trump phenomenon in stark relief.
A new Quinnipiac University Poll shows that by more than 7 to 1, Americans are “dissatisfied” with the way things are going in this country, including 41 percent who are “very dissatisfied.”
Only 2 percent of voters trust government “almost all the time,” while 13 percent trust government “most of the time.” For the remainder of the electorate, confidence in their government ranges from occasional to “hardly ever.”
The other poll, conducted by the Rasmussen Group, shows that an overwhelming number of Americans agree with Trump that the country has become too “politically correct” and should accept more honest – and frequently brutal – characterizations of America’s social, political and economic condition. The survey of 1,000 adults found that 71 percent believe that political correctness is a problem in the U.S., while only 18 percent disagree.
Less than six months before the Iowa caucuses and the official start of the presidential election campaign, Trump, has upended presidential campaigning norms and rules of engagement. He has launched blistering or insulting denunciations of his Republican and Democratic opponents; he has relentlessly attacked illegal immigrants, Mexico and China; and he frequently makes outrageous, personally offensive comments belittling the media and political figures alike.
It was once unthinkable that a leading Republican or Democratic presidential candidate would diminish the military service of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a decorated Vietnam War pilot who spent years in an enemy prison camp. And who could have imagined a candidate suggesting that Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly was overly aggressive in questioning because of her menstrual cycle or tweeting that, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
But this sort of conduct has become de rigueur for Trump on the stump, and the large crowds turning out for him in Iowa, New Hampshire and throughout Southern battleground states are eating it up. Analysts say the peripatetic political showman has tapped into a deep well of voter dissatisfaction with the Obama administration and Republican politics as usual, and not just among angry white men, but women and younger voters as well.
Trump has skillfully used his xenophobic, anti-immigrant and populist rhetoric to transform his largely self-financed campaign into a juggernaut that has, for now at least, overwhelmed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other prominent Republican presidential candidates and put him well out in front in every national and key battleground poll.
“Most American voters sing sadly, along with The Rolling Stones, that they are unable to find any satisfaction with the way things are going in the nation or with the federal government,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a statement. And that may help to explain why Trump and two other insurgents — Republican Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — are running so well in the GOP and Democratic presidential contests.
Carson has consistently run just behind Trump in most Republican polls, while Sanders has pulled within 7 percentage points of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Iowa, according to a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll, and he is actually leading her in New Hampshire, according to a recent survey.
While Trump and Carson are political polar opposites from Sanders, a darling of liberal Democrats, all three have cast themselves as political outsiders disgusted with presidential politics as usual dominated by big special interest money and threadbare government policies that essentially preserve the status quo. Trump, the ultimate business dealmaker who presides over a far-flung empire of New York skyscrapers and plush resorts, casinos and golf courses, has vowed to lead the country into a new era of greatness by dint of his overbearing personality and power of persuasion. For example, he has vowed not only to deport more than 11 million illegal immigrants from the country but to also build a wall along the 2,000 miles of our southern border to keep other undocumented immigrants out — and force Mexico to pay for it.
Trump is typically short on details in explaining to his supporters how he would turn the economy around, bring China and other global rivals to heel, destroy ISIS and its oil fields and restore the U.S. to its previous glory. But like any good salesman he promises the vast crowds he attracts that “you’re going to love” what he does.
With solid double digit leads in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere, Trump has to be taken seriously, and his Republican and Democratic detractors no longer can engage in the wishful thinking that his candidacy is just a summer phenomenon that will fade with time.
“We love American democracy and are impressed by Trump’s mastery of some of the arts of democratic politics — but we also acknowledge that Trump embodies much that is dubious about mass democracy,” the conservative Weekly Standard wrote this week in summing up the dilemma for many more traditional conservatives. “We admire the American people — but we also grant that Trupism exemplifies much that is problematic about American populism.”