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Trump's success: Uncomfortable but completely compelling

Trump's success: Uncomfortable but completely compelling

Back in 1999 the world was scared. The source of that fear was Y2K, aka the millennium bug; a programming glitch that, it was thought, would render many computer systems useless when the clocked clicked over into the new century. The Reserve Bank of Australia even held a press conference on 2am on 1 January, 2000 such was the level of concern. In the event, of course, that press conference was a fizzer, like Y2K itself. Much effort was made, a gazillion lines of code were scanned, and very few systems malfunctioned. Civilisation did not come to an end. So what's the relevance of this crisis that wasn't to the 2016 presidential race? It's that sense of impending doom; the knowledge the clock is ticking down and soon the day may dawn when much of what we know will be swept away, replaced by a great yawning chasm of unknown.

It's hard not to feel this election train has jumped the rails. We watch the Trump campaign, flushed with triumph, with an awful, can't-tear-our-eyes away compulsion. Over the weekend he scooped the pool in South Carolina, claiming 30% of the popular vote. If, as expected, he wins in Nevada (we'll know by tomorrow), he'll be pumped all the way through to Super Tuesday next week when Republicans in 11 states vote. And if he does as well in those States as the polling suggests, well, it's pretty much over folks.

If you can't keep up with the primaries, all you have to do is watch the leader board; the 2016 Primary Delegate Count where the numbers tell the story. So far, there's Trump and then there's daylight. Most pundits generally agree with The Hill's characterisation of Trump as the 'red hot favourite to become the Republican presidential nominee'. It's making a lot of people question what they knew.

At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen has compiled a list, titled 'Given that Trump is winning, what other views should we update'., ranging from observations on those who vote in Republican primaries ('They are lot less conservative, less Tea Party, and less libertarian - but more racist - than many had thought), to the vote-winning power of that can't-tear-our-eyes-away compulsion ('the value of media attention in a year with no clear front-runner Republican candidate is higher than we thought').

Others, like Clay Shirky, are wondering if the two party system is on its way out. In a 50 tweet essay, Shirky concludes it is, and social media is much to blame.


Perhaps the most striking revelation is how much people love Trump simply because he is not a politician. The Trump campaign does everything it can to distance itself from the political establishment. As the organiser of music at one of his rallies told the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza: 'The more inappropriate for a political event, the better'. Which is why the playlist includes the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil.

As the NY Times opinion writer Stephens-Davidowitz noted in a comment on the Marginal Revolution list, 'People REALLY HATE politicians more than we thought'.

Writing in BloombergView, Clive Crook agrees many Trump supporters don't like politicians. But they don't like those who don't like them even more.

They don't think much would change one way or the other if Trump were elected. The political system has failed them so badly that they think it can't be repaired and little's at stake. The election therefore reduces to an opportunity to express disgust. And that's where Trump's defects come in: They're what make him such an effective messenger.

...Trump delights mainly in offending the people who think they're superior -- the people who radiate contempt for his supporters. The more he offends the superior people, the more his supporters like it. Trump wages war on political correctness. Political correctness requires more than ordinary courtesy: It's a ritual, like knowing which fork to use, by which superior people recognize each other.

This isn't the whole explanation of Trumpism, by any means, but I think it's part of the explanation. Supporting Trump is an act of class protest -- not just over hard economic times, the effect of immigration on wages or the depredations of Wall Street, but also, and perhaps most of all, over lack of respect.

Photo: by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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