Why Donald Trump is polling well — for now

Donald Trump speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday.

Writing for the Washington Post’s excellent Monkey Cage blog, political scientist John Sides suggests that the reason Donald Trump is polling well in the context of the Republican presidential field is that the media is writing and talking about him so much. Writes Sides:

“When a pollster interrupts people’s lives and asks them about a presidential primary that doesn’t formally begin for months, a significant number of people will mention whichever candidate happens to be in the news these days. It’s basically a version of what’s called the ‘availability heuristic.’ And for any causal consumer of news, Trump is very available these days.”

Undoubtedly, Sides (who professes political science at George Washington University) has a valid starting point. Much (and probably most) of what the general public knows about political figures comes through some form of journalism.

Trump has certainly dominated coverage of the race for the Republican nomination recently and he has risen to the top of several recent polls, although it is questionable how meaningful such a “lead” is when you lead with 18 percent in a field of (approximately) 15 candidates and you are still the candidate whom most respondents say they cannot see themselves supporting.

Blame the media?

Sides demonstrates with a graphic a convincing correlation between Trump’s recent rise in the polls and the amount of coverage he has received. The correlation underlies the worst thing about the Sides post, something he probably didn’t write, which is the headline on his article: “Why is Trump Surging? Blame the media.”

Headlines are necessarily shallow. And I have no interest here in mounting a general defense of the news media’s conduct. But the silly headline seems to imply that journalists are somehow aiding and abetting Trump’s short-term rise, as measured by polls, to the high teens, which looks high at the moment only because the Repub field is so large. (The Democratic side of the Fox poll that has Trump leading with 18 percent shows Bernie Sanders with 19 percent, which, of course, looks a lot different because of the smaller Dem field, dominated by the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.)

Discovery and scrutiny

If you are horrified that Trump’s boorishness is being rewarded with support in the polls (and, if so, you would probably not be alone), you should take heart from another part of Sides’ piece in which he suggests that a “discovery” period (Sides’ term) in which the public tells pollsters they support you because they’ve been hearing your name in the news is followed by a period Sides calls “‘scrutiny’ — in particular, scrutiny from the news media, aided and abetted by the competing candidates. (Hillary Clinton knows all about this.) This scrutiny tends to produce much less favorable coverage and, for many candidates, a permanent decline in the candidate’s poll numbers.”

As I said above, I’m not defending, in a general sense, the media’s role in shaping the public’s attitude toward candidates (although it is a lot more honest and informative than the other main source of political messages, namely campaign commercials).

The so-called objective portions of the media insist that they are not trying to make anyone’s poll numbers go up or down, and this is more or less true. The question of how many times to put Donald Trump on the front page when he is both leading in the polls and saying outrageous things is not simple one. In fact, his peevish vulgarity is also good copy, as he undoubtedly knows.

I don’t believe those journalists who go on the chat shows and make predictions are particularly good at seeing the future. I shy away from fortune-telling myself. But I will be very surprised if Trump becomes the nominee of any major party. And I hope that Sides is right about the power of the “scrutiny” phase, not so it can produce a decline in any particular candidate’s poll numbers but so that this very consequential election can be about something more substantive than bad hair and bad manners.

p.s. to the above added midmorning Tuesday: The Washington Post has a new poll out this morning showing Trump’s poll numbers even higher (24 percent) and further ahead of the rest of the field (Scott Walker ran second at 13 percent). But the Post it notes that the last day of the polling was the only day that occurred after Trump’s attack on John McCain’s heroism and that his standing on that day was dramatically down. Wrote the Post:

“Support for Trump fell sharply on the one night that voters were surveyed following those comments. Telephone interviewing for the poll began Thursday, and most calls were completed before the news about the remarks was widely reported. Although the sample size for the final day was small, the decline was statistically significant. Still, it is difficult to predict what could happen to Trump’s support in the coming days and weeks as the controversy plays out.”

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Comments (99)

  1. Submitted by Brian Simon on 07/21/2015 - 09:27 am.

    not unlike 2012

    It wasn’t so many years ago we saw a stream of sideshow candidates cycle through the GOP frontrunner position. Each had a moment in the spotlight until each one eliminated themself by opening their mouth one too many times. This will happen again to the likes of Trump, Carson, Cruz & even some of the so-called serious candidates like Walker.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/21/2015 - 09:36 am.


    The Trump phenomenon is fascinating to watch. The idea of a blunt spoken truth telling candidate has a lot of inherent appeal. It’s something many of us claim to wand in preference to the mushy rhetoric we get from more typical, and admittedly historically more successful candidates.

    What’s different about Trump, at least so far is his indifference to criticism, combined the financial resources to continue his campaign in face of it. The usual pattern for gaffes is that the politician says something understood to be unacceptable. What follows is the “scrutiny” phase, in which the media endlessly uses the gaffe statement to grind away at the politician. Trump is in that phase now, as reporters ask him the same question framed in increasingly hostile and provocative ways. What tends to happen with other politicians is that some sort of apology is framed, which simply continues the story, as the apology is parsed in ways that keep the story alive. What almost always happens is the gaffer’s support dries up, he runs out of money, and his campaign ends ignominiously.

    But what if the candidate, both has the money and the ego to ride out the criticism, even to thrive on the resulting criticism? Is Donald Trump that guy? What I suggest is that the usual gaffe narrative may not apply here, because we have never seen a significant player with the capability of ignoring the rules of the gaffe. This is something we may not have seen before, and it should be interesting to see.

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 07/21/2015 - 11:37 am.

      Perhaps you enjoy seeing someone acting and speaking rudely. Denigrating POWs who actually served in combat by someone who wiggled out of serving their country is dishonorable to say the least.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/22/2015 - 05:55 am.

        Perhaps you enjoy seeing someone acting and speaking rudely.

        I think I do, and I think many others do as well. I enjoy the Donald. But then I enjoyed (and underestimated) Ronald Reagan, and look where that got the country. The issue, really, is whether that is an effective political strategy, and what the impact of that strategy will be, on the whole.

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 07/21/2015 - 11:55 am.

      Well, if you like that kind of “entertainment,” then Mr. Trump is your kind of guy. In Trump world there are winners and losers and nothing in between.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/21/2015 - 09:41 am.

    I have no doubt that, if it were the general election and Trump were on the ticket, he would get at the very least 9% of the electorate (which is approximately 18% of declared Republicans). In fact, I would say he would poll much higher than this and approach the 50% mark, simply because he is identified as “Republican”. The proof in this lies in the percentage of (ahem) Republicans that believe so very many things about Obama that have long been discredited and are willing to persist beyond all reason, and the divide of R vs. D which is rarely crossed these day.

    So no, his candidacy is not quixotic, nor bizarre, nor impossible to see a route to the White House. Think of the long reign of Berlusconi.

    This is the system we have built these days.

  4. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/21/2015 - 09:52 am.

    Have you noticed?

    The GOP doesn’t like what they do to the Democrats when it come back at them, from their own party no less. I think Trump was way out of bounds on his McCain comments. McCain is definitely is a war hero. It is his time in congress that I have trouble with. He ran for president and showed us he has nothing. Trump, right now, is just treating Republicans to their own medicine. Trump has one thing right that he said last week. “They talk and talk but never get anything done”. Trump’s fuse will burn out, but in the meantime he is causing his party to face into the frustration of a diminishing field of Republican voters. By the Republican’s own admission they have lost their compass and principles. The Republican Party future is bleak if they don’t get their act together and start participating in our political process to help move our country forward once again. They broke it! It is past time for them to help fix it!

    • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/21/2015 - 02:32 pm.

      Mr Trump’s comments….

      about Senator McCain shouldn’t draw outrage in Minnesota seeing that Al Franken has said the same thing.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/21/2015 - 02:53 pm.

        Interesting Reasoning

        So if we voted for Senator Franken, we have to approve everything he says or has ever said, uncritically?

        No one ever told me that. Did I miss a meeting?

      • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/21/2015 - 06:13 pm.

        I don’t care

        who made negative comments about McCain’s Military service, they are WRONG. McCain’s congressional record is a different thing all together. John likes media attention, much like Trump does. John appears to be just a short tempered politician without much beyond anger. John follows the party line in that he is full of criticism, but no answers. If he had the answers he would be president. Resoundingly the public has said he doesn’t have the answers.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/21/2015 - 03:36 pm.

        If you actually read

        Sen. Franken’s account, you’d know that Franken’s similar (not the same) statement was made before he was an elected official, and as part of his comedy act. And Sen. McCain acknowledged it as a joke and has accepted his apology (some people do admit mistakes and apologize) for the joke.

        • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/21/2015 - 05:52 pm.

          Donald Trump…

          is not an elected official, either. I find that his comedy act disguised as a presidential campaign has a lot lore comic value than anything Al Franken ever did.

          I’m amazed but not surprised at the selective outrage over this incident.

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/21/2015 - 08:17 pm.

            Franken was not

            running for office…
            Trump is.
            A simple fact.

            • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 07/22/2015 - 08:37 am.

              But what about Biden?

              This isn’t about who is doing what at whatever time. This is about statements being made. Look at Biden. How many times has he said some really bad things but the Dems and the media all think it’s ok. But someone on the right side of the aisle says something not right, it’s a mob scene.

              • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/22/2015 - 09:30 am.

                What ‘really bad things’

                has Biden said?
                Impolitic, yes, but not anything that goes beyond the Democratic mainstream.
                It’s less a matter of WHAT he said than of HOW he said it.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/22/2015 - 09:36 am.

                And There We Have It

                There it is, folks: a preview of the all-purpose defense of Donald Trump. No matter what boorish nonsense comes out of his mouth, all we are going to hear is how the liberal media never says anything about Democrats when they say something dumb. How they knew about it if no one ever reported it will remain a mystery, and the tenor of the statements will not be compared, but the shouting of “liberal, liberal, liberal!” will continue unabated.

                Get used to it, America.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/21/2015 - 04:10 pm.

        The short memory of outrage.

        And the “Swift Boat” incident indicates Republican respect for military service exactly how ??

        You need a bigger notebook to keep track of the outrage of the day. Otherwise you stumble over what you forgot.

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/21/2015 - 10:29 pm.

          Or the 2002(?) Georgia Senate race in which

          Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, was criticized as “unpatriotic.”

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/22/2015 - 09:30 am.

          Or the 2012 Election

          in Illinois, in which Tammy Duckworth was criticized because “all she talks about” is the fact that she lost the use of both legs in Iraq.

          Her opponent told us that “Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about.”

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/21/2015 - 10:02 am.

    Trump has

    20 percent of the GOP’s misanthropes locked in.
    His problem is that most Republicans do not appear to want him as a candidate, and might sit out the election rather than voting for him.
    The Democratic dream is that he will spin off a third party and totally gut the Republicans.
    It will be interesting to see what his actual financial resources are if he gets to the point where he has to file a full financial disclosure. He may have the resources to fund direct candidate campaigning, but I doubt whether he could actually support the kind of indirect spending allowed under Citizens United.

  6. Submitted by joe smith on 07/21/2015 - 10:04 am.

    People are so sick of the politically correct, corrupt, do/say anything to be elected candidates they are drawn to Trump, Bernie Sanders who let it fly. The past 16 yrs of Bush and Obama will be hard to battle back from and people are concerned about all these mouthpieces that spew the same old tired lines. You know it is the silly season when a Liberal candidate says all lives matter and he has to apologize to the nut jobs who said it was demeaning, wow!!

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2015 - 10:21 am.

    Republican voters

    I hate to say but this really does tell us something about the intellectual acuity of republican voters. After decades of anti-intellecualism, magical thinking, ignorance, and high school debate mentalities, they’ve produced an entire field of candidates that are literally clownish. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer party.

    • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 07/22/2015 - 08:41 am.


      The same could be said for a Dem party that elects people based upon promises of eternal hand outs and runs on a mantra of things happening because it’s somebody else’s fault. Let’s not forget how many things has Obama promised only to never happen and has never worked in the real world either.

  8. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/21/2015 - 10:21 am.

    Triumph of the Id

    Donald Trump is a creature of the media, but that doesn’t account for his relative popularity in the polls. The fact fact that many mainstream Republicans would prefer to overlook is that he speaks to a significant part of the Republican base. His unfiltered bombast is saying what most are too polite to admit they are thinking.

    The “base” issues for Republicans are supposedly cultural or moral issues: anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, etc. Most Americans are indifferent to, or ambivalent about, all or most of the culture war issues. Those issues will get the religious conservative base good and riled up, but those people aren’t the ones who win elections. Trump is finding what does get voters excited, even though our better selves may not care to admit it.

    Outrageous statements about Mexicans being rapists? There are a lot of people who will be nodding in silent, if shamed, agreement.

    Insulting Senator McCain’s war record? Despite the superficial “support our troops” sloganeering, and the obligatory “salute to our men and women in uniform” at every public event, there is not a lot of support for real measures to help veterans or members of the Armed Forces. A volunteer military lets Americans regard veterans’ issues as the consequences of their own choices (“Should have stayed here and gotten an MBA!”).

    Intemperate remarks about foreign policy? It gets “**** yeah!” from the talk radio crowd.

    So there he is, Republicans: He’s not reliably libertarian on economic issues that do not affect real estate developers (neither is most of the country), he doesn’t care about social issues (ditto), and he’s a loud-mouthed self-promoter of the kind that appeals to an easily amused audience. For now, anyway, he seems to be what the voters want.

  9. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 07/21/2015 - 10:53 am.

    “Guns will make us powerful…

    but butter will make us fat”…

    Sounds like a quote from Trump but either way, he is not a caricature of Donald Duck; a harmless political candidate projecting his voice – initially for shock value maybe-but he has to be taken seriously…and to blame it only on media hype is to ignore the mind of too many of the general populace, voter or non- voter, who love to respond with applause to money and power brokers whatever the message. It was called the Spiesser mentality; Germany 1938; the people were swayed and ignorant; sold on a sick idea ; embracing the comfort zone of strong voices that make little men feel recognized for their own ingrown thoughts that negates the ‘other’ and their right to survival also?

    Are we there yet…I don’t know and can only hope not?

  10. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 07/21/2015 - 10:38 am.

    Fresh air

    Trump is polling so well because he is from outside of the political class of Dems and Repubs. He appears to be someone who means what he says and doesn’t have a community of handlers and special interest groups commanding his positions. There is more to learn of him, but on big issues like global warming, immigration and trade, he is definitely striking a chord to many voters.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 07/21/2015 - 11:45 am.

      Thanks, but I’ve learned nothing from Trump.

      He’s still an arrogant, xenophobic bully whose ideas are nothing but simplistic pablum for people who fly Gadsden flags and tend to yell back at their TV set. I have learned a great deal about how far the republican party has fallen however. McCain was spot on…they’ve embraced the “crazies” and are not only intrinsically linked to them and their antiquated global perspective, but are dependent on their vote for the party’s very survival.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/21/2015 - 11:45 am.

      In the key of


  11. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/21/2015 - 12:23 pm.

    The really painful question is what candidate endorsed by the Republicans for the general election would not be a contender in a 50% plus 1 election contest against the Democratic candidate?

    Is the polarization deep enough that the particulars of policy do not really matter, as long as you think you could tickle the momentary fancy of the so-called independents in the last week or so before the election?

    Whatever could the Donald do in that last week??

    For that matter, what about the endorsed Democratic candidate–how far could they stray and still be a contender due to the same partisanship.

    • Submitted by Brian Simon on 07/21/2015 - 03:02 pm.

      not really

      From Eric’s piece, above:

      “still the candidate whom most respondents say they cannot see themselves supporting.”

      Trump is but one among several candidates with high negatives even in their party. HRC certaint has high negatives among Rs and Is, but not among Ds. Trump, Cruz, Jindal, Santorum & others have relatively high negatives within their party that could/would suppress turnout.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/21/2015 - 04:19 pm.

        Why polls like this are next to useless

        You’ve pointed out the paradox of a preference poll with so many choices. The field is so broad that any candidate is going to have low numbers, so the thresh hold for being front-runner is low. Trump is ahead when he has 24%, but if his support holds at that level, he will crash as the field winnows out.

        A more useful poll would be one with weighted preferences, or ranked choices. That way, the reader could see who has the deepest or broadest support ()my suspicion is that most of the Trump supporters have not given much thought to their number two or three choices).

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/22/2015 - 09:32 am.

        Elections can be run in many ways–positive, negative, core issues, peripheral issues, sentiment, logic, on and on. Sometimes some, sometimes all.

        HRC negatives among Democrats?


        Most Democrats (55 percent) continue to hold favorable views of Clinton but that percentage has dropped eight points since November 2013. . . . Fewer than half – 42 percent- say she is honest and trustworthy, while more – 47 percent – don’t think she is.


        (end quote)

        The most effective tactic, for any Republican candidate is to hammer the ties to the scandals of the Bill Clinton era (such as they are remembered–and they are remembered differently by all), to imply the deadlock/inertia/circled-wagons of the Clinton and Obama administrations, and for those of a non-Bush name there is always the dynasty argument, along with all of the tidbits and tales of HRC’s own history.

        It’s a pretty strong springboard for any Republican candidate. And I would think that a person that could jump all over those issues without shame and moderation as an outsider, such as Trump, could make a very strong play for the independent vote. And the inertia of the Republican-or-die votes would carry the day.

        After all, the recent unseriousness with which the Republicans approach their nominations (Reagan ?, Bush 2 ?? Sarah Palin ???) says that many Republicans trust that once their guy gets in, all of the old characters are waiting in the wings to take over the actual day-to-day of running the country. Look who’s waiting in the wings of the JEB candidacy. Only the Democrats seem to think that the entire character of the government can be remade on inauguration day.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/21/2015 - 06:24 pm.

      Good Point

      Those voters who will vote based on the individual candidate’s Character, Beliefs and Qualifications seems to be a very small slice of American citizens. I am guessing the swing vote group is under 10% now days.

      What I find strange is the belief that the Far Left and Far Right voters will not vote if the candidate is too Centrist. Could that really be true? (ie Romney is to moderate so the Far Right stayed home and let Obama win…) I guess I should not be surprised that people will cut of their nose to spite their face…

  12. Submitted by Hal Davis on 07/21/2015 - 12:51 pm.

    “peevish vulgarity”

    That phrase reminded me of Spy magazine’s sobriquet for Trump: “short-fingered vulgarian.”

  13. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 07/21/2015 - 04:21 pm.

    It’s that HAIRDO !!

    Admit it – Trump’s hairdo is fascinating !! His hair worships some kind of god no one of us knows.

    Nothing commands attention and swings votes like a candidate’s hairdo. In Trump’s case, you gotta believe that once the fascination is over, those votes will eventually swing away – to ANY candidate whose hair looks like it was born in and inhabits our world.

  14. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/21/2015 - 10:36 pm.

    I have noticed over the years that politically unsophisticated

    people like assertive politicians simply for their assertiveness. They may not know or care what the person stands for, but they’ll say things like, “He’s a fighter.”

    I had relatives like that. They’d see some combative politician on TV, and they’d express admiration.

    Those kinds of people may be where Trump’s support is coming from.

    • Submitted by Jim Halonen on 07/22/2015 - 11:25 am.

      Or just maybe

      the people who would like a Trump Administration do not like $19 trillion deficits, 92 million people out of work and unchecked immigration.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 07/22/2015 - 11:48 pm.

      Assertive politicians

      I can’t wait to see who the first one of the bunch is that pauses, looks over at Chris Christie when he’s done yammering about how the bridge thing had nothing to do with him, and says, in that classic Reagan-like way, “Chris. Why don’t you just sit down and shut up.”

      Or maybe it’ll be some hopped-up pinko lefty heckler that (somehow) slipped through the vetting screens that just stands up and yells it at him when he starts talking.

      No way of telling who it might be, but it doesn’t matter. It should be a great moment, regardless. It’s one of the main things I’ll be watching for in the primaries campaign.

  15. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 07/21/2015 - 11:38 pm.

    It’s not the media

    The media isn’t to blame for a bunch of Republicans liking Trump. Yes, he’s getting loads of attention, but if Republicans didn’t like what they were hearing, his poll numbers would be lousy. Republicans can spout the usual nonsense about the liberal media all they want, but the fact is Republicans are the ones approving of the blowhard. This wound is self-inflicted. Be embarrassed about the Republicans who back Trump and won’t denounce him and don’t blame anyone else.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/22/2015 - 09:35 am.


      The poll numbers also show that most Republicans wouldn’t vote for Trump.
      The fact that he’s got a plurality (20% is way short of a majority) at one extreme of self identified Republicans doesn’t make him a viable candidate.

  16. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/22/2015 - 09:04 am.

    Reaping what you sow

    As we watch GOP Chairman Reince Priebus try to rein in Trump and hear the other candidates call Trump names and belittle his sincerity and credibility one has to think back when these same individuals sat smiling on the sidelines as Trump directed his act against President Obama and his birth certificate: “I have my investigators on the ground in Hawaii”. Maybe if they had done something to rein him in at that point they would not be dealing with the current mess.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/22/2015 - 10:56 am.

      Maybe Priebus and company

      don’t really -want- to rein Trump in; just distance themselves for a bit.
      As long as Trump keeps ranting, he makes the rest of the Republican candidates (the ones who have a real chance of being nominated) sound reasonable.

  17. Submitted by Ann Spencer on 07/22/2015 - 11:43 am.

    People who feel powerless..

    and angry are looking for someone powerFUL and angry to be their champion. DT (I refuse to utter his full name, even in writing!) has power by virtue of his money. This group of voters is looking for someone to “kick butt and take names” on their behalf. DT fills the bill, at least for now.

    It is anomalous that super-wealthy individuals somehow portray themselves as friends of the common man and get away with it. I think poorer voters identify with these people on an aspirational basis. Voting with the rich is the closest these citizens are ever going to get to belonging to the same clubs. Financial success is part of the American dream, and we are taught to admire it. On the other hand, distrust of elites based on education or intelligence runs deep in the American character.

    I don’t think DT will last, but his current surge is nevertheless disturbing. There are too many historical parallels where an increasingly disaffected and economically struggling population followed a demagogue down the road to dictatorship. We used to think that “it can’t happen here” because of broadly shared prosperity and a strong, optimistic middle class. Sadly, that is no longer true.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/22/2015 - 06:28 pm.

      I think you’re on to something

      DT is definitely wealthy but he doesn’t come off as very bright.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2015 - 10:53 pm.

      Oh I have to ask

      Even though I do not support Trump and hope he disappears again soon, I have to wonder. Is this what you think encourages people to vote for the Democrats like Obama? They so desperately want to get ahead that they are willing to give up personal freedoms. You might be on to something.

      “There are too many historical parallels where an increasingly disaffected and economically struggling population followed a demagogue down the road to dictatorship.”

      Remember these goodies: “Hope” and “Change We Can Believe In”

      • Submitted by Ann Spencer on 07/23/2015 - 08:49 am.

        I can’t say I’ve noticed

        my personal freedoms diminishing since 2008. I do know that millions of my fellow citizens now have the freedom from anxiety that health insurance gives them, and that my LGBT friends now have the freedom to marry. From where I sit, it is the GOP who are trying to limit rights, be it through measures to make voting more difficult or blatantly unconstitutional statutes to undercut Roe v. Wade. And, agree or disagree with President Obama, he is no demagogue.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2015 - 09:13 am.

          “He is no Demagogue”

          He is, however, often used to deflect debate about Republicans. It’s a toss-up whether the deflection will be “what about Obama (who apparently, is not entitled to the respect of using his title, as protocol normally dictates)?” or “what about Hillary (who is not even afforded the respect of being referred to by her last name)?”.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2015 - 12:14 pm.

            Obama not a Demagogue

            Now you have got to be kidding.

            “Demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.”

            Of course, what is a “rationale argument” is often subjective based on the listener’s beliefs.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2015 - 01:57 pm.

              Rational Arguments

              And there you have it. You say that President Obama is not appealing to the public by means of “rational arguments.” The same thing could be said about virtually every elected official. Highly popular Presidents, including those who were once under contract to Warner Brothers, are especially vulnerable to this criticism.

              For what it’s worth, a strong case can be made that alarmist talk about “losing our freedom” also gets filed under that category.

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/23/2015 - 02:20 pm.

              A rational(sp) argument

              is one logically derived from facts.
              A ‘rationale’ on the other hand is any explanation given to support a statement.
              I’d put most of Obama’s statements in the ‘rational’ category, particularly by the standards of politics.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2015 - 03:23 pm.


                Sorry for the typo.

                Personally I don’t think the “spending more on welfare will result in fewer people on welfare” belief is very rational. Or the belief that “rewarding illegal immigrants with citizenship will not entice more people to violate our borders and increase the problem” .

                I could go on but I am out of time.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2015 - 03:58 pm.

                  Out of time, indeed

                  Has anyone ever made the argument that “rewarding illegal immigrants with citizenship will not entice more people to violate our borders and increase the problem?”

                  For that matter, I’ve never heard that “spending more on welfare will result in fewer people on welfare.” Do you have a source for that one?

                  I’m assuming that, since both of those irrational statements are in quotation marks, they are direct quotes and not opinionated paraphrasing.

                  • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/23/2015 - 07:15 pm.

                    Just to deal with one

                    Most SNAP (the current equivalent of ‘welfare’) spending goes to children.
                    To the extent that improved nutrition and educational effectiveness (hungry children don’t learn) improve employability, then yes, I would expect that increased welfare spending will reduce the dependence of future generations on welfare.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2015 - 09:57 pm.

                    Made up

                    You caught me, I made those up. However:

                    – Wouldn’t the “war on poverty” indicate that the spending was supposed to eliminate poverty and the need for so much future welfare? Or was the long term goal to mask poverty by redistributing large amounts of income indefinitely? Maybe it should have been called “the plan to mask poverty and make people dependent”. It seems to have worked if that was the plan.

                    – If the Democrats actually believe that “rewarding illegal immigrants with citizenship will entice more people to violate our borders and increase the problem”. Then rewarding them with citizenship seems very illogical in itself. So please forgive me for thinking that they believed the path to citizenship didn’t have significant risk, apparently it may make things worse.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/24/2015 - 09:15 am.

                      Let’s Play Make Believe!

                      The War on Poverty was about more than handing out welfare to the looter class. It included programs like Head Start, Model Cities, etc. True, not all of these programs worked, but the goals were certainly worthy. In any event, I can’t put my finger on the figures right now, but I recall numbers from that era showing that “welfare” as I believe you understand it was not a permanent condition for the overwhelming majority of recipients (less than two years, if I recall).

                      “Maybe it should have been called ‘the plan to mask poverty and make people dependent’.” That will happen the day the Republican platform is renamed “The Not-So-Secret Plan to Bleed America Dry for the Benefit of a Few Plutocrats.” Another plan tha seems to be working.

                      “If the Democrats actually believe . . .” In other words, you’ve got nothing on this. Again, thanks for playing.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/25/2015 - 10:11 pm.


                      Please remember that “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions”.

                      In this case the effort may have done more harm than good.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/27/2015 - 10:01 am.

                      Interesting Chart

                      I find it enlightening that the upward trend of single-parent households did not slow down when it was morning in America, and the programs started by the War on Poverty were being dismantled.

                      There they go again.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/27/2015 - 01:01 pm.


                      If dismantled, I think someone forgot to stop spending the money. Or maybe the States kept them going.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/27/2015 - 05:09 pm.

                      Someone Frogot

                      Except for a sharp spike during the most recent recession, spending on social welfare programs (as a percentage of GDP) is lower now than it was in 1980, according to usgovernmentspending.com (ever hear of them?).

                    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/24/2015 - 09:32 am.

                      Again, read it

                      Obama has said that he would repatriate recent illegal immigrants.
                      It’s undocumented (not necessarily illegal) immigrants who have been in the country for years and are productive members of communities that he would make a low deportation priority.

                      And to close with Woodie Guthrie:
                      “Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except “deportees”?”

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/25/2015 - 09:56 pm.

                      Support American Workers

                      Folks here want higher paid jobs for people with poor academic achievement, yet they want to keep the people here who have filled those positions and helped to keep the wages low.

                      How does this make sense?

                    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/24/2015 - 10:53 am.

                      The War on Poverty

                      actually did bring people out of poverty before Nixon began and Reagan completed its near complete dismantlement. VISTA workers were fine with Republicans as long as they just set up medical clinics or food banks, but when they began telling Appalachian farmers that they were entitled to fair compensation for the land seized by strip mining companies or telling slum tenants that landlords were required by law to provide heat in the winter or otherwise rocking some comfy little boats, they were vilified.

                      It’s worth noting that LBJ instituted the War on Poverty, the face of poverty presented to the public was mostly white people in Appalachia or other remote rural areas, with an occasional scene from the Rosebud Reservation or Harlem thrown in. Once Reagan was in office, the official face of poverty was overwhelmingly black, creating the mistaken impression that “hardworking white people” were supporting “lazy ******s who spend their whole lives living off welfare and popping out one kid after another to get more money (an actual quote from the Strib’s online comments, revealing not only racism but ignorance, since it is no longer possible for an able-bodied person to spend an entire life on public assistance, not that facts ever stopped a racist).

                      Despite Reagan’s facile but ultimately stupid statement, “We declared war on poverty, and poverty won,” it’s not that poverty won but that America surrendered.

                      The current programs, such as SNAP and Medicaid, are not efforts to end poverty but mere damage control, as corporate honchos and shareholders infected by unbridled greed send jobs overseas, keep wages low, and schedule workers so arbitrarily that they might be full time one week and part time the next.

                      You want to reduce the number of people on SNAP and TANF and other public assistance programs? Great! If you’re a major shareholder of a company, pressure the executives not to go only for short-term profits but to look at the long-term picture and treat employees as upgradable assets and full-fledged persons rather than as interchangeable cogs with no needs of their own. Start thinking of rampant offshoring as economic treason. If you don’t have that kind of power, boycott businesses that treat their employees poorly would be a good start.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/25/2015 - 09:51 pm.

                      I agree

                      As I say often… I think every Liberal who believes in American jobs, Strong Unions, etc should limit their purchases to only high domestic / union content products and services to show their dedication to the American workers. This disappeared in the mid-1970’s and helped weaken the unions.

                      No more VWs, Toyotas, Hyundais, Subarus, Samsungs, Kubotas, Kias, Canon, Epson, Nikons, etc, etc, etc… The GOP and Managers do not choose what the consumers choose to buy. So please feel free to boycott all high foreign / non-union content. Here is a good place to start.


        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2015 - 12:54 pm.


          Can you choose to carry any health insurance you wish or none without facing a fine?

          Are you free find lower cost healthcare insurance that does not bear the costs of pre-existing conditions, coverage to age 26, etc?

          Under give and take… GLBT couples have gained some freedoms and Religious people have lost some. Those little beating hearts gains some and the woman who became unintentionally pregnant lose some.

          As the cost of government and taxes increase, it means that someone else is choosing how much you will save, where it will be invested, and who will get it back. ACA does this as does social security and medicare. We may need to do this because irresponsible people will make the wrong decisions and we don’t want to let them experience the negative consequences of their irresponsible actions. However it is definitely a loss of freedom for the responsible freedom who have the money and choices taken away.

          Finally, Obama and the Legislature have allowed deficits to remain and the National Debt to grow. As with any debt, it limits the choices that can be made in the future and burdens all citizens.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2015 - 02:13 pm.

            Not Again!

            “Under give and take… GLBT couples have gained some freedoms and Religious people have lost some.”

            I would say we have a winner in this week’s “seeking support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument” competition, but that particular line is disqualified due to overuse.

            Thanks for playing.

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/23/2015 - 02:34 pm.

            The national debt declined after WWII until 1974, when it started to increase.
            There’s a drop between 2000 and 2008.
            The big jump in the national debt took place between 2008 and 2013 (see Forbes)
            when the off budget (hidden) costs of the Iraq/Afghan war were made part of the budget.
            This is also partly a function of the recession, since the debt figures are proportions of the GDP. Even if government expenditures remain constant, a drop in the GDP will result in an increase in the debt ratio.
            The recession further exacerbates this by in increasing social support expenditures and lowering tax revenues due to decreased employment.

            • Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/23/2015 - 03:01 pm.

              We have no freedom, Paul

              Federal net interest expenditures were a crippling 1.3% of GDP in FY2014. The last time it was lower than that was about a half century ago (1968).

              The on-budget deficit in FY2014 was a freedom-crushing 3.0% of GDP – at least 0.5 percentage points lower than every single Reagan/Bush era year. The 7.8 percentage point improvement since FY2009 (the fiscal year President Obama inherited) is the best performance in US postwar period history.

              Frankly, I don’t know how this republic survives under the freedom-hating fist of that anti-capitalist, fiscally irresponsible demagogue Obama.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 07/23/2015 - 04:33 pm.

            That’s some heave duty tyranny right there, John.

            Apparently some people feel that they have lost the freedom to see someone die because they can’t pay for treatment of a preexisting condition, or financially ruin a young person due to a catastrophic medical issue, all because they might pay a few bucks more on their own premium. Or the “religious freedom” folk have lost the right to discriminate against others and hide behind the cherry picked verses of a 3,000 year old book to justify it. Add the usual sweeping judgement of an entire swath of people, labeling them as irresponsible ( without knowing them of course) and you have the reason why Trump appeals to a certain crowd.
            Heavy is the burden of the upper middle class cul de sac dweller. Better fly the fly upside down…America’s in trouble.

  18. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/23/2015 - 11:09 am.

    The funny thing is…

    If you do the math it seems that if Trump would have taken his Daddy’s money and given it to a broker who simply matched the performance of the market over the last 20 years he would be richer yet. All the bluster, blather and deals made him nothing that a Schwab account could not have done for him.

  19. Submitted by Ann Spencer on 07/23/2015 - 03:25 pm.

    Outside of a state of nature

    there is no such thing as perfect “freedom.” No ordered society can survive if everyone can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, wherever he wants. I don’t think even you, Mr. Appelen, would enjoy living in such a lawless environment.

    How to balance freedom with its curtailment for the public good is one of the main tasks of democratic government. We can choose leaders who share our views of where to strike that balance. Americans chose Barack Obama twice. Maybe we’ll choose your guy the next time around. That’s the way it works.

    Your suggestion that the President’s use of a campaign slogan (“Change You Can Believe In”) makes him a demagogue is pretty weak. Did “It’s Morning in America” make President Reagan a demagogue?

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/23/2015 - 05:21 pm.


      It is interesting that people here are so sensitive to this word.

      “Demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.”

      I personally think it defines politics in America at this time. Are you forgetting all the fear mongering, attack ads, threat to old peoples social security, etc. And more importantly how effective they are at getting people out to vote. If you don’t vote, they will get you!!!

      Does anyone truly think the GOP wants people dying uncared for in the streets?

      Does anyone truly think the DFL wants to open the borders and encourage ~6 Billion people to come to the USA?

      And yet the politicians including Obama and Trump use this stuff to draw votes. And yet for some reason people think their candidate is more pure than the opposition. It is an interesting piece of the human condition.

  20. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 07/23/2015 - 05:04 pm.

    Past performance

    Among the reasons Donald is polling well is the steady stream of moderate GOP candidates over the last twenty years that have been a gimme to the Democrats. Now, if he can make a persuasive economic case to the vast middle class to get behind him, the Reagan Democrats are ripe for picking.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 07/23/2015 - 08:42 pm.


      There are no “Reagan Democrats” anymore, Jim. Reagan is a punch line to anyone other than the folks that listen to Mark Levin. Seriously…PLEASE nominate Trump as your candidate…I’m begging you.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/24/2015 - 08:29 am.

      My Hope

      It would be fun to see a fiscal conservative social liberal run. They would probably need to run as an independent though since people are so conditioned to love or hate the label GOP / DFL.

  21. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 07/24/2015 - 12:44 pm.

    Poverty facts

    Prior to the creation of Medicare and Medicaid and the passage of the Food Stamp Act, the poverty rate for US seniors was 30% or more. It’s now 9.5% – a decline of over 2/3.

    Childhood poverty went from 23% down to 16.2% by 2000. It then steadily got worse under Republican George W Bush before improving again under Democrat Barack H Obama.

    The poverty rate of black seniors was 62.5% in 1965. It’s now 17.4% – that’s a 72% decline.

    The poverty rate of black children went from 65.6% in 1965 down to 30.0% by 2001 (a 54% drop) — before getting worse under Republican George W Bush. That rate, too, has resumed improvement under Democrat Barack H Obama.

    Another false talking point has been debunked.

    Not sure what any of this digression has to do with the Trump train wreck, but distraction is the default course of action for people uncomfortable with what certain realities reveal.

    http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/historical/people.html (Table 3)

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/25/2015 - 10:14 am.

      Easy Then

      It is easy to “eliminate poverty” then. Just take more money from wealthy people and give it to poor people forever. Is that the liberal plan?

      Have the working and wealthy people pay more in taxes so the poor will “earn” a middle class income with no work or improvement requirement? It would be a good paying “job” if you have little intrinsic motivation or desire to be self sufficient.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/28/2015 - 02:05 pm.

        The data…

        Clearly shows a widening income gap between the wealthy and rest of society. It is undeniable and will be a “talking point” for every Presidential candidate, each with their own “cure”. Why has this gap continued to grow over the past 30 years? In large part to the role of taxes and regulation that favors the richest among us who can afford lobbying efforts to tilt the system in their favor. So, Mr. Appelen’s are worries are far from reality: we have a 30 year history of the exact opposite: taking from the less prosperous and giving to the most prosperous. Reversing this trend will benefit everyone; as Ronald Reagan told us: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. We just need the tide to be middle class working folk. Otherwise known as consumers.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/28/2015 - 05:51 pm.


          In the mid 70’s many American consumers stopped worrying about who designed and built their products. They just wanted lower cost and better product. Thus the American workers lost jobs and income. No govt involvement required.

  22. Submitted by John Appelen on 07/27/2015 - 10:18 pm.


    You mean this link.

    You are correct . “Except for a sharp spike during the most recent recession, spending on social welfare programs (as a percentage of GDP) is lower now than it was in 1980, according to usgovernmentspending.com (ever hear of them?).”

    However it is higher than in the 1970s, and if you add in the healthcare dollars it looks like we are spending more now than in the 1980’s.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/28/2015 - 09:42 am.


      So it seems as if “welfare spending” is not just “welfare queens” tooling around in Cadillacs, or “strapping young bucks” using food stamps to buy t-bone steaks.

      The aging of the American population might have something to do with the increase in health spending (“keep the gummint away from my Medicare!”). Healthcare has also become more expensive for everyone over the years.

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