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Why Donald Trump’s poll numbers keep going up and up

REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Donald Trump addressing supporters in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday.

A national sample CNN poll out Friday showed Donald Trump with his largest lead ever for the Republican presidential nomination, with 36 percent of the support of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, compared to 16 percent for Sen. Ted Cruz, who has recently moved past Dr. Ben Carson into second place.

It’s important to remember that this poll mushes together people from all states, including some that are caucusing or voting soon with others that have barely begun paying attention. Nate Silver, the god of political metrics, cites evidence that people in exit polls generally say that they made up their mind whom to support a month or less before Election Day.

We are now a month away from the first contest in Iowa (where polls suggest that Trump leads, but by much less than he does nationally). But in the rest of the country, most people who told those CNN pollsters that they favor Trump still haven’t really decided whom they will support when they actually have a chance to vote, or so Silver’s analysis would suggest.

Still, you gotta call Trump’s current national poll numbers a big lead. A commanding lead. Pretty much unprecedented in a field of this size.

Earlier in the week, veteran pundit Charlie Cook promised to “eat crow … most likely deep fried” if either Trump or Carson is the eventual nominee.

It’s not that I exactly disagree with Cook, who is a hundred times better political handicapper than I am. But I do think that everyone who has made predictions of Trump’s imminent demise to date should stop pretending to know the future. According to most of them, it should’ve happened by now. And they are now starting to complain that the “laws of political gravity” have been repealed.

My own commitment to humility about knowing the future of the Trump candidacy dates back to July when Trump said that John McCain, despite enduring years of torture in Vietnam, was not a war hero. That’s the end of the Trump boom, I said to myself — although I bravely did not publish such a prediction, only quoted others making it.

(Unlike Mr. Trump, I believe in accuracy, so allow me to clarify that in the moment after saying of McCain, “he’s not a war hero,” Trump added: “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Later, when pressed, Trump denied that he had said that McCain was not a war hero but rather had said that McCain was a war hero. At the time we had not yet come to appreciate the genius of this element of the Trump “method,” which enables to him say something wrong, stupid and boorish, then say the opposite, then deny that he ever said whichever of the two statements turns out to be inconvenient.)

Needless to add, Trump rose in the polls after disparaging a U.S. soldier for being captured (and, I forgot to mention, beaten and held in solitary confinement during interrogations). Trump went on to say many other “disqualifying” things, half of which he amended afterward without acknowledging what he first said. And never, in any case of which I am aware, retracting or apologizing.

Alternative universe

In some Bizarro alternative universe that I have never visited, refusing to admit error or to correct one’s mistakes or ever, ever to apologize is what passes for the kind of strength and toughness that America needs in the Oval Office in these perilous times. My parents raised me and I tried to raise my kids to believe that owning up and apologizing for your mistakes is a kind of strength. I guess Trump would call us losers, but I can live with that.

Thomas Edsall, in his New York Times column, explored that theme with several psychiatrists and scholars of political psychology and related fields. For example, Edsall wrote:

“Trump’s opponents fail to recognize that his apparent vulnerabilities — his hubris, his narcissism, his bullying, his boisterousness — have been strengths in a primary campaign premised on defiance of political correctness, left and right.”

Joseph Burgo, a psychotherapist and author of a book on narcissism, told Edsall:

“For many people, Trump’s braggadocio, contempt, and grandiosity come across as self-confident strength. When frightened by dangers from abroad or here at home, many people gravitate to the ‘strong man’ who promises to vanquish their fears and confusion.”

Of course, it is in some ultimate sense a matter of opinion whether McCain’s war record entitled him to the status of a “hero.” But in addition to the rudeness and disrespect that Trump shows in such matters, he also has demonstrated a serious disregard for matters of actual factual accuracy. He thrives on telling falsehoods and then showing his mettle by never backing down.

Scrutinized falsehoods

One of Trump’s latest and most scrutinized falsehoods was his claim to have personally “watched” as “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City, New Jersey, celebrated the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. He has since amended this to say not in Jersey City, not thousands but some much smaller number that he can’t specify or document, not actually “watched” but saw on television, even though no one can produce any video that aired on any television anytime, anywhere showing this.

But he claims vindication anyway because he has heard from others who recall seeing something on television. And he insists that we must accept his hallucination because, according to himself, he has a “fantastic memory” and also “one of the great memories of all time,” except for the Jersey City part and the thousands part and every other part that can’t be verified but very likely could be verified if any of it were true.

Kevin Drum, who blogs for Mother Jones, has started an incomplete catalog of Trump falsehoods (Drum calls them things that Trump asserted that are “just plain wrong.”) Last I checked, he was up to 26.  

And Trump’s rise in the polls continues.

Let’s note here that candidates who led in polls taken before the first primaries have often failed to be nominated, including about six of them in the last Republican contest (for some reason, Herman Cain is the one everybody mentions, but there were several). But none of them ever dominated by as much for as long as Trump has done.

Cain led for about five minutes. Trump has now led for about five months. So we are in uncharted territory. And humility about one’s ability to know the future is highly recommended.

The Trump experience to date has also given us an updated appreciation for the level of alienation from many mainstream norms felt by a large proportion of white, non-college-educated males who make up the bulk of Trump’s supporters.

‘Political correctness’

Many of these norms are referred to under the amorphous, sarcastic rubric of “political correctness.” Trump says things that are (or believed by many to be) sexist, racist, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic. He is upbraided by liberals and the media for those comments, which he never retracts, and his poll numbers go up.

It could be (and probably is) the case that many of those who like Trump better for saying those things are themselves sexist, racist, etc. But it is also undoubtedly the case that many in this category are sick of being rebuked for saying what they think and are thrilled to have Trump demonstrate that he doesn’t give a flying (expletive deleted for reasons of political correctness) what the political-correctness police think. That’s the America they want to inhabit.

So there’s another form of the strength/toughness that’s part of his appeal, facing down the political-correctness crowd.

Then there’s the media piece — or anti-media piece — and especially anti-liberal-media piece of Trump’s appeal to his supporters, which strikes me as pretty big, and also self-enforcing.

Do a Google image search for “annoy the media” and you’ll quickly see buttons and bumper stickers urging you to “annoy the media” by re-electing President Bush, meaning the first Bush in 1992 when he lost to Bill Clinton, and to continue annoying the media by supporting Rick Santorum for the Republican nomination in 2012, and then Mitt Romney in the general and by supporting Benjamin Netanyahu for another term as prime minister of Israel and now (this one, amazingly, isn’t a bumper sticker or a button but a pair of garish red-white-and-blue earrings) by supporting “Trump 2016.”

Conservatives’ anger

Although it’s a joke, and it’s funny, it’s also serious and reflects anger of conservatives, for now at least seven presidential cycles, over what they view as liberal media bias against conservative candidates. If you are a conservative who believes in liberal media bias, it’s a lot easier to tune out information that is coming to you via the mainstream media.

Personally, in my fifth decade as a journalist, I am not in denial about the fact that most mainstream newsrooms are overwhelmingly staffed by liberals. The question of how much the norms of so-called objectivity prevent liberal bias from getting into print complicates the analysis, but conservatives are nonetheless entitled to question whether their viewpoints and candidates are treated fairly.

And they do question it. And they believe the news media are generally unfriendly to conservative candidates and values. (And, in the new cable-and-talk-radio-and-digital media world, they have many options for reinforcing and stoking their fears that they are victims of liberal bias in the media mainstream on which they no longer rely.)

But Trump and his supporters are taking this to a new level. And causing some in the media to cross lines they formerly would have respected. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently wrote a column headlined “Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.” In case you wonder whether that might just be a headline-writer run wild, the lede on the column is: “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.” And, concerned that some might think he had crossed a line of being overly judgmental, Milbank went further, thus:

“It might be possible to explain away any one of Trump’s outrages as a mistake or a misunderstanding. But at some point you’re not merely saying things that could be construed as bigoted: You are a bigot.”

And, in case you might wonder whether Trump’s recent statements might be a persona adopted to fit the political moment, Milbank brings up similar statements going back decades, to the famous, hideous case of the Central Park jogger.

Lastly, perhaps in order to make clear that he was doing everything he could to convince us that Trump is a bigot and a racist, the online version of the column includes a video of Milbank himself saying (surprise here), “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist,” and, with Milbank continuing the narration, includes video of Trump making some of most infamous recent statements, including the other most currently fashionable one of Trump mocking the physical traits of a disabled journalist.

The gatekeepers

To me, this surpasses the familiar media role of “gatekeeping” or “vetting” of candidates. It speaks to me almost of desperation. But, OK, Milbank is a liberal, so the Trump supporters can easily explain him away. Yet even the conservative columnist Ross Douthat of the New York Times had a column last week headlined: “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?” OK, so at least (unlike Milbank) Douthat might be raising a question rather than providing an answer. Still, the column includes this paragraph:

“Whether or not we want to call Trump a fascist outright, then, it seems fair to say that he’s closer to the ‘proto-fascist’ zone on the political spectrum than either the average American conservative or his recent predecessors in right-wing populism.”

True, Milbank and Douthat are columnists who have explicit permission to express their views (although I would say that many columnists are showing an unusual level of vitriol in their Trump columnizing).

But reporters, who have traditionally observed the norms of journalistic objectivity and facticity, also seem to be struggling to understand the power of Trump’s appeal notwithstanding all the factual problems with the things he says. If a candidate consistently makes factual errors, and the errors are dutifully documented by the fact-checking media, and you keep making new ones, your poll numbers should not keep going up.

In his Pressthink blog, NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen noted a recurring metaphor among journalists that the Trump phenomenon suggests that “the laws of political gravity” no longer apply.

Rosen comes up with an impressive number of pieces that actually use the phrase “laws of political gravity” to describe what should or will happen but hasn’t happened to Trump. His conclusion is that such laws were not laws at all. In the past, when the “laws” were violated it was only the belief that facts and non-facts and gaffes and political-correctness matters that caused candidates who violated the non-laws to slink from the scene. Trump, by acting as if the laws don’t exist, has demonstrated that they do not.

Forgive me for going on so long. Maybe, as a long-time practitioner of the dark arts of journalism, I (and many others) had come to believe in certain laws that weren’t laws or truths about truth-seeking that Trump suggests were never true at all, and that facts are less powerful than feelings.

Media dilemma

In a smart piece for Vox, David Roberts summarized the “dilemma” that Trumpiness has visited upon certain assumptions that the “old guard political media” had relied upon about their role:

“The old-guard political media has always seen itself as a disinterested referee. But what they confront now is aggressive, unapologetic nonsense, piped up from a nationalist, ethnocentric, revanchist conservative base through the mouth of one Donald J. Trump. He is forcing them to choose sides, to accept his bare assertions and make a mockery of their purported allegiance to accuracy … or to call him out and, in the eyes of his supporters, formally align against him.

“The conceptual space for neutrality has all but disappeared. Media outlets are being forced to take sides, and facing the grim possibility that even if they do, they have no power to affect the outcome. Their twin idols — objectivity and influence — are being exposed as illusions. That’s what has them so anxious about Donald Trump.”

Comments (45)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/07/2015 - 10:51 am.

    “Bring it on”

    “The Soviet Union is the Evil Empire.”

    The only people who had a conniption over these types of remarks by Bush and Reagan were liberals and their friends in the press. Your typical rural, salt of the earth, tell-it-like-it-is, anti-PC conservative sees them as truth-telling of the kind only someone worthy of serious consideration for leadership would have the temerity to say. My ancestors used coup sticks. I’m an old trash-talking point guard. Same principle.

    All that said, I’m not a Trump supporter. His campaign speeches are all vague bluster. He’s failed to articulate a full understanding of the nuances of the common conservative solutions on taxes, regulations, national defense, etc. and I predict that the actual primary voters will take a pass on him in favor of someone of more substance like Cruz or Rubio. (See the story on this site about the Minnesota republican straw poll)

    Neither Ben Carson nor Jeb Bush would ever use a coup stick and therein lies their slump in the polls.

    By the way, the reason Trump didn’t take a hit on the McClain slight was because, his war record notwithstanding, most conservatives don’t hold McCain in high regard because of his history of sleeping with the enemy (legislatively) and his uninspiring presidential campaign. It would be like Hillary Clinton taking a swipe at Jim Webb. Who cares?

    Bottom line, in this election cycle the people are looking for a warrior to lead them and even Mrs. Clinton seems to detect that based on her rhetoric this weekend.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/07/2015 - 01:18 pm.

      …people are looking for a warrior to lead them…

      Who’s the warrior? Lindsey (lawyer) Graham?

      As usual, those who talk the most know the least.

      Bluster is popular these days.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 12/07/2015 - 04:14 pm.

      A failure to articulate

      “He’s failed to articulate a full understanding of the nuances of the common conservative solutions on taxes, regulations, national defense, etc.”

      I don’t disagree that Trump has failed in that, but reading what you had to say there got me to thinking I’ve yet to hear any conservative do that (ever).

      Or, even if a few of them have been able to articulate those things (and I’ve just missed it), I’ve yet to see those conservative solutions work to the benefit of most Americans. Wherever and whenever they’ve been implemented they seem to have led to stagnating and declining incomes for almost all; lots of year-on-year deficit spending, accumulating debt and the additional (“deferred tax”) expense of accruing interest; near or total collapse of the American economy (see Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover conservative solutions of the 1920s, and more recent and sustained implementations); and plenty of hugely expensive, ineffective and deadly warrior opportunities.

      Maybe you could help people like me understand those nuanced conservative solutions, how they’ve made the country a better, more prosperous and secure place for all Americans, how they figure into Marco Rubio’s (or anyone’s) vision of how to extend or build on those solutions, and, most importantly, why anyone should vote for them.

      I might just be a simpleton that can’t see the obvious, but, in the most general common terms, it looks to me like those solutions have made things worse instead of better. What have I been missing? What is it I haven’t been able to see?

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/10/2015 - 06:59 pm.

      Thanks again DT

      For slamming folks like me into the concrete face first, Sorry, just 1 of those 4 Year Vietnam era vets that volunteered and isn’t gun-ho about sending other peoples kids to the killing fields because some dumb-butted blunder busted politician has an ego itch!
      Bottom line: Any idiot can go and spill blood and most of them do, takes a real leader to use blood shed as the last resort not the first! Sun Tzu 101.

  2. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/07/2015 - 11:08 am.

    my take

    I agree Trump is a bigot and racist. Since the polls that have him leading are all polls of Republican supporters I think this indicates that that percentage (areound 35-40%) of all Republicans are racists, especially now that all the moderates have been driven from the party or from any influence. They vote Republican because they hear all the Willie Horton dog whistle clues.

    I think the rise of the Tea Party during Obama’s first term was mainly driven by this bigotry and racism. They hid it under talk of the constitution and some of them were probably surprised to be taken seriously by the media. Trump helps eliminate the beclouding BS and reveal the true motive.

    I have seen two sidewalk/bike trails in this area that are defaced with painted comments about Obama and the “constition”. They can’t even spell the word but think they know what is in it.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/07/2015 - 11:32 am.

    My 2¢

    There’s very little about Donald Trump that I’d call “conservative.” As a demagogue, and a reactionary, both of which seem much more accurate terms to me, he long ago surpassed Huey Long of Louisiana, who seems to have been the historical model in the past century. Spouting lies and refusing to back down from them is a time-honored childhood behavior that demagogues can – and do – turn into a kind of art form. Mr. Trump has mastered it, and that mastery dovetails nicely with the know-nothing-ism often practiced by the wealthy, who typically insist that they are “self-made,” and therefore, at least in their own minds, become arbiters of truth, justice and the American way.

    Jamelle Bouie on Slate characterized Trump as a fascist some time ago – a week or two, which on the web sometimes seems equivalent to a year or two in old-fashioned linear time – not so much as a criticism, though I have a hard time believing it was not, in the end, criticism, but as a factual characterization, based on those traits that have historically marked fascist public figures elsewhere. There aren’t that many fascist demagogues who became national figures, so I’ll let other readers make the explicit historical connection themselves. That he would be a disaster as a national leader – in a very practical and pragmatic sense – seems self-evident to me. As Eric has pointed out several times on MinnPost, our political system is, often on purpose, studded with “choke points” that prevent immediate action, and in fact often encourage extraordinary delay. That’s not the sort of political system that a corporate CEO wants to operate in. As I’ve said before in these spaces myself, corporate CEOs often operate in a political environment that I’ve characterized as “feudal.” They’re not accustomed to debate and compromise, but to people saying “Yes, sir,” and doing whatever it is they’ve been told to do. That’s a fair description of a monarchy, or some other variety of totalitarian state, but it strays far afield from how the U.S. typically works. Or doesn’t work, if you’re a critic of recent “do-nothing” Congressional sessions.

    As for his appeal to working-class whites, bizarre though it may be, going back to re-read “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” might be useful, or if that seems too agrarian for insight into the appeal of a compulsive liar who’s an urban billionaire, try Joe Bageant’s “Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War.” Frankly, I think Trump is merely an extension – a more extreme version, if you will – of the rest of the crowded GOP field. I’m no better at political prediction than anyone else, and worse than many, but Trump strikes me as someone who says out loud what the others put into coded language, or simply imply, letting their supporters fill in the blanks. That much of the Republican rhetoric works against the economic and political interests of most of the people supporting it is a measure of the party’s, and its candidates’, intellectual desperation on the one hand, and success as demagogues on the other.

  4. Submitted by Rich Crose on 12/07/2015 - 01:07 pm.

    A quick quiz

    Q: What do the following people have in common:

    Ronald Regan
    Jesse Ventura
    Al Franken
    Donald Trump

    A: Demagoguery

    (And you thought it was celebrity!)

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/07/2015 - 03:58 pm.

      Explain this Conclusion

      A “demagogue” is defined as “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.” How does Al Franken fit that definition, more so than any other politician?

      “Making arguments I don’t agree with” is not “appealing to popular desires and prejudices.”

  5. Submitted by John Edwards on 12/07/2015 - 01:44 pm.


    Thank you Mr. Black for acknowledging what is in the cellophane bag by saying: “Personally, in my fifth decade as a journalist, I am not in denial about the fact that most mainstream newsrooms are overwhelmingly staffed by liberals. The question of how much the norms of so-called objectivity prevent liberal bias from getting into print complicates the analysis, but conservatives are nonetheless entitled to question whether their viewpoints and candidates are treated fairly.”

    Eric, here is the answer to your question: the news people’s clear liberal bias does affect their coverage. If you are liberal, or course, you don’t see that bias. Conservatives and others do. By contrast, liberals see the bias in Fox’s coverage the same way non-liberals see the mainstream media’s liberal bias.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 12/07/2015 - 03:56 pm.

      How come?

      One of the most interesting aspects of the “biased liberal media” thing is that no one ever seems to ask the question, “Why?”

      If it’s true that most working in the media are “liberal,” it could be there’s a legitimate reason. It could be something sinister (a massive media conspiracy to ruin America forever), or it could be something as simple and normal as what might happen if you surveyed people and asked them how sure they were that the world is round, not flat.

      It could be people working in the media are pretty much just people, who, in the case of “politics,” take closer looks than most at the real life situations around them and naturally tend to think the “liberal” approach to reality makes a lot more sense than whatever it is “conservatives” are always talking about.

      It could be they’re a lot like the people in all the poles organizations like Pew do that show sizable enough majorities of the American public come down on that side of things too. You know… Those polls conservatives pay no attention to?

      It seems to me most journalists do a pretty good job of keeping their “true ideas and feelings” — their “biases” — under wraps. Most are pretty well-educated people who make their living looking into the things they report on much more deeply and thoroughly than you or I or most people do, and I can’t imagine at least half of them don’t spend half their time rolling their eyes and feeling frustrated by the “professional demand” placed on them to remain “journalistic neutralists.”

      (For just one example, I’d love to know what Briana Bierschbach REALLY thinks about what she sees and hears, day-in, day-out, at the capitol, as she covers the entire ball of Minnesota legislative wax. I don’t have a clue. She’s a master. She may have the most solid, hard-earned set of biases of anyone in MN journalism, but I’ve never noticed as much as a hint as to what they might be.)

      Anyway, if it’s true that a majority of “the media” has a “liberal bias,” there MAY be a good reason for it, and it may be important to remember it’s (probably) not all a plot designed to make conservatives mad.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 12/07/2015 - 10:47 pm.

      Not so sure…

      One must first consider those who are truly liberal versus those who are simply anti-conservative, as well as those who are conservative versus anti-liberal.

      Once, when differing ideologies were a bit more respected and rarely led to interpersonal warfare, I sometimes heard “Commie-Pinko-Fascist” in the air. That was an intriguing “triplepithet,” for sure.

  6. Submitted by Mike Schumann on 12/07/2015 - 01:46 pm.

    Donald Trump Support

    I suspect that a lot of the support for Donald Trump is actually a vote for “none of the above”. People are totally fed up with professional politicians. His support is really an illusion. It’s really a vote against everyone else, and not a vote for Trump.

    The problem is that unless someone much more appealing enters the race, nothing is going to change. It could get really interesting, if we end up with a deadlocked Republican convention and someone who currently isn’t in the race gets drafted. That’s probably the best case scenario for the Republican party.

  7. Submitted by Ken Bearman on 12/07/2015 - 01:55 pm.

    National horse race

    Eric Black wrote, “It’s important to remember that this poll mushes together people from all states, including some that are caucusing or voting soon with others that have barely begun paying attention”.

    Exactly. Presidents are elected based on state-by-state Electoral College votes. National poll numbers — even if they translate into popular votes — are meaningless. President Al Gore can confirm that.

    Reporters and columnists spend way too much time dissecting poll numbers. The election is 11 months from tomorrow, not tomorrow. Let’s wait to get in a lather about it.

  8. Submitted by Ken Bearman on 12/07/2015 - 02:04 pm.

    Catalogue of Trump falsehoods

    This just in: “Donald Trump says Washington Post is Amazon tax shelter. Huh?”

    Add it to the list.

  9. Submitted by Daryl Gerke on 12/07/2015 - 02:39 pm.

    Is this all a huge joke?

    Has anyone considered that this may all be a huge joke? Trump has a reputation for practical jokes, and this may be the biggest one yet.

    By going to the extreme right, his is out-Rushing Rush, and all the other right wing pundits. The only difference is that he is running for office, and is not part of the “conservative” media. Yes, I’m sick and tired of hearing all the whining about the “liberal” media bias when the “conservatives” have Fox News and all the talk shows as dedicated propaganda machines.

    But back to Trump. Is he just a caricature of the Tea-Baggers? Is he just spoofing all the hard core conservatives to make them look like idiots? Is he just jacking up the media on both sides of the aisle? Or is he just having fun — the greatest practical joke he has ever pulled off?

    If is it political satire, I think it is hilarious and brilliant. But if he is truly serious, I think we’ve hit a new low in politics in this country.

    PS to Eric – Always enjoy your articles — keep ’em coming.

    • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 12/08/2015 - 12:09 am.

      Huge Joke

      You know, I thought that too. Not a joke per se, but more a publicity stunt. But now I think this thing has legs of its own and even Trump is now drinking his own Koolaid.

      Trump is the Republican ID candidate, and the 2 driving forces of his support are fear and ignorance.

  10. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/07/2015 - 02:45 pm.

    Some numbers

    11 — number of months until the election.
    36% (proportion of Republican vote)
    X 40% (the number of Republican voters)
    = 14%.

    That’s the number of active supporters that Trump has right now.
    For a Republican to win the election, they’ve got to hold all of the Republican vote and add to it enough swing and crossover Democratic votes to make up for the Democrats advantage in registered voters. That’s what Reagan did. Trumpf is a long way off.

  11. Submitted by Phillip Tichenor on 12/07/2015 - 03:01 pm.

    Donald Trump’s poll numbers

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but I don’t Eric Black making much of the NRA in explaining Trump’s amazing durability. With a majority of Americans now seeming to bend the NRA way on gun control, there should be little doubt that the NRA organization is a powerful factor, and will be, for this political season.

    Whether we like it or not, every shooting , including the one in California, predictability throws support to both the NRA and Trump.

    Trump recognized the potential political potency of the NRA by addressing them even before he filed as a candidate. He may discount the GOP establishment, but he knows political organization as well as anyone.

    And he spotted one that has enormous clout.

    He saw something that seems to be overlooked by so many in the media. His wackiness goes over well in an organization that has widespread membership and an unbelievable ability to have its interpretations of our gun disasters accepted by the American public. This is more than a widespread “cultural phenomenon.” This is NRA as a political organization, and an extremely powerful one.

    Phil Tichenor

  12. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 12/07/2015 - 03:18 pm.


    The level of hate and discontent among those who support Trump explains his success. His anger and antagonism for anyone who disagrees with him resonates with people who feel the same way – in most cases, people who by no stretch of the imagination are victims of anyone or anything, but still feel that life has treated them unfairly.

    Whatever you want to say about Reagan, most people liked him and many people trusted him. He was an effective communicator who sold his anti-government message without his supporters ever realizing he was the government for eight years. Of course, his administration was the start of the slow decline of the American middle class and the ascendency of the super rich, but few had the vision to understand what he was doing.

    Trump has the personalty of a dictator and is sure he is right on all things – regardless of what bizarre thing comes out of his mouth. He would be the first “make it up as I go along” President.. .

  13. Submitted by Ellen Hoerle on 12/07/2015 - 04:30 pm.

    Sorry Eric but you are making the same mistake

    every other political pundit is making. Most pundits now understand that the Republican electorate is ANGRY in a BIG way but what they haven’t really zeroed in on correctly is why. My theory? They are ANGRY that Obama was elected. Period. They hate Obama so much they can’t even see straight. They don’t care what Trumps says yesterday, today or tomorrow. They’re not even listening to what he says. In their minds, he questioned the legitimacy of Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate while the “liberal media” went along with the “conspiracy” that helped Obama cover up his “true” birth place and “true” religion, etc. etc. etc. etc.

    People who are angry don’t listen. Therefore, Trump is immune from scrutiny by anyone who is angry that the democratic process elected someone they cannot accept as this country’s legitimate president, most likely due to the color of his skin. You did also mention Trump’s true “genius”, if you can call it that–saying one thing, then the opposite and then “denying that he ever said whichever of the two statements turns out to be inconvenient.” Which only proves my point. Angry people don’t care about all the nuances of what Trump actually says. It also explains why Cruz is now rising in the polls. He knows how to fuel the anger better than Carson and any other Republican candidate besides Trump.

    The good news is that Trump supporters who truly hate Obama, as a percentage of total voting population, is not close to a majority. The bad news is that most of them have lots and lots of guns and are very very angry.

  14. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 12/07/2015 - 06:34 pm.

    The article is a lot of words

    To make a simple point: Folks inhabited sufficiently by a combination of ignorance, existential fear and economic parlousness will support the authoritarian every time. Especially when the authoritarian encourages them to join together and kick those who are different.

    This has been the principle on which one of our parties has built its base since the Southern Strategy, and Trump simply marks the present state of its trajectory.

    Calling the establishment media “liberal” is silly. The question isn’t how journalists self-identify; the question is the role the establishment media plays. And this role isn’t defined on the liberal-conservative spectrum.

    Consolidated private wealth allows those who hold it to do many things, among them to control the terms of the mainstream discourse. The foremost role of the establishment media, as a modality for wealth to pursue its interests, is to protect the status quo under which its prerogatives continue to consolidate. This means: (a) carefully limiting the range of political discourse to that which accepts this status quo as a given; (b) maintaining nevertheless the illusion of a wide-ranging, democratic discourse; and (c) keeping the citizenry uninformed, passive and distracted so that it doesn’t question the illusion of a functioning democracy or the narrow frame of discourse that is imposed.

    In my lifetime, limiting the range of discourse has always meant firmly excluding and/or ridiculing those who stand to the left of corporatist Democrats, as this is the only place where a coherent analytical critique of the status quo – an anti-authoritarian, pro-freedom critique – originates. Conversely, the establishment media always have propped up the right regardless of its authoritarian, racist or nihilist tendencies, as necessary to maintain the Republican-Democrat dipole on which the establishment has rested the illusion of political choice for the past 90 years.

    This has been easy as, until now, no distance traveled toward the right has threatened the status quo or the interests of those who wish to preserve it. However, the Vox piece that Mr Black cites at the end notes that Trump has reached a place that has begun to disquiet the establishment media – not because it is finally too authoritarian, or too thuggish, but because this place may no longer need the discourse-laundering services from which those within the establishment media have made such a nice living for so long.

  15. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 12/07/2015 - 06:57 pm.

    Mad as hell!

    Eric has provided a number of good reasons for Trump’s current popularity. People identify with Trump for the same reason Howard Beale’s rating rose in the film “Network”. Eventually, he’s going to “jump the shark” as they say and his ratings will plummet. If not, we haven’t begun to see the trouble we’re in for.

    Was there ever a “liberally biased media”? I think it was an invention of Reagan’s spin-doctors to neutralize the print/broadcasting media of the 1970’s, when the media was very active in bringing down a number of conservative/establishment pillars. Nixon in Watergate and the Pentagon Papers to name two affairs that symbolize and represent an entire decade of an activist (if oligopolistic) press investigative reporting a la Woodward and Bernstein. That was when the “old guard media” did have some impact and had actually assumed a serious role in making government more transparent and the citizen better informed. The “media” were labeled liberally biased not because they were “liberal” in favoring certain policies but because journalists and the “old guard media were doing their jobs in acting as a adversaries, speaking Truth to power. Watergate and the Pentagon Papers affair revealed how power was so routinely abused for selfish and corrupt reasons.

    The abuse of power for selfish and corrupt purposes is not limited to any political party but the Republican Party, being the party of money, has always had a a greater incentive and interest in keeping its use of money to attain and maintain power concealed. So it was Reagan and his revolutionary spin-doctors who set about the neutralize this adversarial “old guard media” by “working the refs”- a constant barrage of hoked-up accusations of “media bias.” Turns out a lie by repetition can become a sort of truth, if enough people believe it. Turns out Reagan and Bush were as dishonest and corrupt as Nixon, if not more so, as Iran-Contra proved.

    If we’ve lost that “old guard media”, it has been because it (and it may have been because of concentration of media ownership by the money powers) accept the hoked-up charges of media bias to be true and backed off of this adversarial role. In my mind, the most spectacular evidence of this was in the run-up to the war in Iraq, when you had reporters for the major media outlets like the NY Times, the Washington Post and the networks sidling up to “inside sources” becoming stenographers and worse. Judith Miller to me is one example of how low the profession could sink becoming entangled with partisan government officials who cynically used this servile media to feed the public their lies to justify their war.

    I believe we need a truly “disinterested” media in this country, strong enough to act as the “Fourth Branch” it’s sometimes described as. But being disinterested means being “adversarial” and unafraid of offending those who feel threatened by this role, even if it means being accused of “bias”. I suspect that media concentration has played a role in the defanging of the adversarial media and now prevents the development of a strong “disinterested media” of the “old guard” type. I don’t think Trump created any of this. If a “conceptual space for neutrality” no longer exists, it’s not because of Donald Trump. Trump is only filling the void left by the “old guard” adversarial media which years ago abandoned that space to play stenographer and cheerleader for the government.

  16. Submitted by Be Joeshmoe on 12/07/2015 - 07:35 pm.

    Why isn’t the media focusing on his dismal record as a businessman, with more than one bankruptcy to his “name?” For example, in order to build the enormous Riverside South development in Manhattan, Trump’s staff promised the city all sorts of amenities in order to get the variances and permissions necessary. This included much theater and rehearsal space, not just 20% subsidized apartments in the complex, but an ADDITIONAL 15% more, making an unheard-of mix of 65% market-rate apartments and 35% subsidized, lower-income apartments.
    I know this, because I immediately got on the waiting list for the additional apartments, which would not have to go through a public lottery process. So I waited for my dream apartment.
    What happened? A year or so later, Trump’s company, a shell of course, declares bankruptcy, and sells out to a Hong Kong-based partnership. They immediately dump all the amenities from the plan, as THEY did agree with the city to do so, somehow they got away with that, and the building were, as far as I know, ALL market-rate once built.
    Trump did the same thing in Atlantic City, he did it with other buildings. Puts his name on it, pulls out, someone else is left holding the bag and declaring bankruptcy.
    Is this how he would run a government?
    If the public knew his dishonesty, they might, maybe, just might, think twice about supporting such a deceitful, dishonest, unethical, selfish character.
    Something has to be done to stop his unbelievable popularity machine. But also for Ben Carson as well! At least they’re both minority candidates, so to speak.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/07/2015 - 10:02 pm.

      It’s been in the media

      At least some of them.
      The problem is Trump’s supporters don’t want to have to think; they just want someone who convinces them that he can think for them and solve all their problems without them having to worry about it.
      That’s what opens the field for demagogues, and Trump fills the bill.
      I’d call him a fascist, but his ideology is not nearly that coherent.

  17. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/07/2015 - 08:19 pm.

    Donald Trump is the current result of several decades of unremitting work by powerful conservative media outlets. Each new reported outrage by “liberals” must be turned up a little louder and brighter to keep the attention of their viewers.

    Mr.Trump is at the current nihilistic end of the trail of rumor and innuendo, the brightest star in the constellation of “say anything-do anything” to keep the attention of viewers and feed the fear.

    He has no policy or plans, just another shot from the hip at the target of the day.

    And in doing so, he is undoing all of the groundwork laid during the past 8 years by the GOP and conservative media to keep Obama from any accomplishment and to undercut the possibility of a permanently Democratic presidency.

    Unhinged is still visible to a majority of the people. And unhinged is becoming the trademark of the GOP.

    Hillary Clinton is smiling.

  18. Submitted by Jim Million on 12/07/2015 - 10:24 pm.


    I wonder how many pressing #1 for Trump also loved his TV show, that show that pitted aspiring managers against each other and subjected them to Trump’s narcissism and immense ego.
    To Donald we are all apprentices, well, perhaps a journeyman here or there. He is the Master.

    (Did you ever know a “Don” who preferred “Donald”? Quack if you did.)

    [Oh, yes, I did watch the show three times, just to see what the ratings were all about, and did see what they were all about.]

  19. Submitted by joe smith on 12/08/2015 - 07:28 am.

    It is not anger or hatred that is causing Trump’s popularity. It is the ineptitude of the past 10 years that has Americans feeling we are susceptible to attack from ISIS here at home, Mid East on fire, stagnant wages here, manufacturing (middle class) jobs going overseas and more folks dependent on Government programs than ever. How possibly could a businessman do worse?

    I always laugh when folks go after Trump’s business record. He has created more jobs and wealth for middle class folks than Bush, Obama, HR Clinton and all the other politicians combined. Folks you may not like him, but he has been an unbelievably successful businessman for not only himself but tens of thousands construction workers, welder/fabricators, food and beverage services and many more middle class folks.

    He is not the guy I hope represents the GOP in 2016, but at least he is not a politician!!

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/08/2015 - 09:26 am.

      Some more numbers

      ~15,000: Number of homicides in the United States per year.
      ~ 50: Number of deaths from domestic terrorism.
      ~ 50: Number of deaths from foreign terrorism.

      Americans are afraid of the wrong things.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 12/08/2015 - 10:35 am.

        Paul, the American people have been told that the economy is moving in the right direction but they don’t feel it and see it in their lives. They were told that Obamacare would reduce costs at $2,500 a family, not happening. Were told stimulus package would jump start economy with shovel ready jobs, 6% of the nearly Trillion dollar package went to infra structure. Arab Spring will bring peace to Mid East, it got worse. My point is folks are tired of the Government saying one thing and another thing happening. It doesn’t matter what they say to us, the majority of folks don’t trust politicians with good reason. Trump is not a PC tested, career political type and folks find that appealing.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/08/2015 - 11:15 am.

          What Folks Find Appealing

          Trump is presenting himself as a bully who is willing to appeal to the basest instincts of the electorate. He is a loud-mouthed, know-nothing bigot. There is a large segment of the public that finds that sort of showmanship appealing. “Not PC tested” means he is all id. The fact that he appeals to a numerically large but proportionally small, segment of the electorate means nothing other than the boors are having their moment.

          Are Trump’s supporters really doing that badly, or do they just think so? Or do they just want to think so? There is no one in the world with a greater sense of personal grievance than the white American conservative (“The PC police won’t let me say ***** anymore!”). Everyone’s picking on them–ethnic minorities, non-Christians, non-gun owners, the [popularly elected by a wide majority] Obama administration. “Their” country is being taken away from them.

          All of the “wrong direction” examples you cite are pretty much nonsense. Obamacare is controlling health care spending, even if premiums have not gone won by $2500 (how much as the average family’s overall expenditure gone down?). The stimulus package was not big enough, but it prevented the recession from getting even worse. What does the Average Joe think should happen in the Middle East–continue to prop up dictators? Boots on the ground?

          Conservatives have a great stake in convincing the public that things are bad, and that they will continue to be bad. They have shown themselves to be failures at anything but opposition. Look at Wisconsin: Governor Walker has no excuses for failure but his own policies. Without liberals to blame, he has nowhere to turn

    • Submitted by Theo Kozel on 12/10/2015 - 03:17 pm.

      In reality…

      If Trump had invested his money in an ETF-like security and retired in 1980 he would now be a lot wealthier and a lot more jobs would have been created. I agree that his success as a businessman has been ‘unbelievable’ in that it’s quite amazing to have worked so hard for decades and declared bankruptcy 4 times to end up with less than you would have by just investing the money.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/11/2015 - 12:50 pm.

      Trump’s Business Record

      I haven’t checked out its validity, but I recently saw a post on Trump’s business record. It stated that if Trump had simply invested his money and done finger painting for his entire life, his net worth would be about $8 billion instead of the $2.9 billion he currently has.

      Regardless of his net worth, being a good businessman doesn’t translate into being a good politician. Personally, I would rather leave it up to the professionals rather than some amateur who thinks yelling racist arguments is a form of diplomacy.

  20. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/08/2015 - 07:52 am.

    The era of Trump


    Nunes, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence, told me that the biggest change he’s seen since he arrived in Congress, in 2002, is the rise of online media outlets and for-profit groups that spread what he views as bad, sometimes false information, which House members then feel obliged to address.

    ….“I used to spend ninety per cent of my constituent response time on people who call, e-mail, or send a letter, such as, ‘I really like this bill, H.R. 123,’ and they really believe in it because they heard about it through one of the groups that they belong to, but their view was based on actual legislation,” Nunes said.

    “Ten per cent were about ‘Chemtrails from airplanes are poisoning me’ to every other conspiracy theory that’s out there. And that has essentially flipped on its head.” The overwhelming majority of his constituent mail is now about the far-out ideas, and only a small portion is “based on something that is mostly true.” He added, “It’s dramatically changed politics and politicians, and what they’re doing.”

    (end quote)

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/08/2015 - 09:28 am.

    Bias again?

    I’m surprised Eric raises the issue frankly. Bias is unavoidable yet bias does not make “fairness” impossible. The media has given Trump ample coverage and to cover Trump is report his bizarre behavior and statements. You don’t erase “bias” by sanitizing the guys whacko, that would be replacing one kind of bias with another. The media isn’t rendering Trump whacko, Trump is rendering Trump Whacko. It isn’t about bias, it’s about accuracy and unless someone can claim that Trump isn’t saying or doing the things that are being reported, bias isn’t an issue.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/08/2015 - 09:22 am.

    Trump is the republicans

    I’ve actually never had any trouble believing Trump could or would be the republican nominee because as far as I can tell he’s the ultimate embodiment of the modern republican party and mentality. I think people who are surprised by his endurance and popularity are and have been in denial regarding he actual nature of the republican party and its supporters.

    This is kind of a liberal thing, I’ve seen it my whole adult life. Liberals always have a tendency to attribute more rationality to republicans than they deserve. Part of that is about wanting to minimize partisan rancor, part of it is a liberal discomfort with confrontation, and part of it is simply denial i.e. “They can’t really be THAT toxic, ignorant, mean spirited, etc. etc. can they?” Yes they can.

    And I hate to say but this isn’t just about Trump, Cruz and Rubio are almost as bad, they just don’t get the coverage. There was a Face Book “meme” going around a while back about Trump- says the other candidates to Trump: “Will you please stop saying what we think out loud!” That actually kinda sums it up. Why do you think these guys spend more time complaining about moderators than they do each other?

  23. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 12/08/2015 - 10:17 am.

    The media crys “fire!’ and the followers chase the firetruck

    Funny thing, we can blame the media or follow the Trump supporters…media creates the media fire…the others follow the firetruck with sensationalism the drawing card?

    Simple minds.; simple truths revealed by a media or those who follow the flames. Sad to say too, be it terrorist or Trump; same followers I suppose…

    Take the terrorist couple as parallel coverage by the media. Every wee bit of story-line is printed to keep the horror ‘alive’ for the media; for the terrorist mind and then too, for the terrified readers in the process?

    Isn’t such sensationalist coverage by the media only fanning the flames when sick people do sick deeds and hope the world will remember them for awhile? Why give them what they wanted? They are road kill…let the media not give them what they wanted to achieve instant notoriety…

    Or for a change why not tell us about the latest boat that sunk and names of the children at least who never made it safely out of Syria? Honor the innocent. not the sick rabble of society for a change, eh?

    One could say Trump is a political terrorist of sorts, yes indeed…driving small minds to follow the fire…sensationalism in a nut shell. The media flames it high on the page…and followers eat it up. Small minds thrive and their eyes glow with the latest garbage by the Duck.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/08/2015 - 11:40 am.

      I have a feeling that the NRA gun lobby and GOP followers have drained a lot of the excitement/terror out of the act of shooting by Islamic terrorists on US soil.

      After all, we’ve been told for decades that there is little or nothing to do about mass shootings. Numerous restrictions on gun access have been proposed and defeated, year after year.

      What’s the real difference anyway??- Is there any real difference between getting shot by an Islamic terrorist or getting shot by any other person that feels that firing into a crowd to kill people is what they need to do ??

      What can the NRA and their followers propose to combat one but not the other? How worked up can they really get about terrorism on US soil?

      The best they can do is idiocy like Trump’s proposal to prevent Muslims from coming to the US. Of course the terrorist will not try to conceal their identity as a Muslim. We all know how they look and sound, right. So it would be the answer, right??

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/08/2015 - 11:53 am.

    My only complaint about the media and Trump

    Is that they focus too much on Trump, like a moth to a flame. I’d like see more coverage of the other candidates but whacko trumps substance… pun intended.

  25. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 12/09/2015 - 02:12 pm.

    Trump’s outrageous comments remind me of old movie reels of Adolph Hitler’s rants in depression era Germany.

  26. Submitted by Dennis Carlson on 12/09/2015 - 04:24 pm.

    Ego Run

    I really believe Trump is on an “ego run” not a presidential run. Look out when the Republicans start to distance Trump’s views from the party views. The agreement he signed with Republican leadership some time ago will mean nothing if this relationship heads south. Trump will say RNC broke the agreement – not him. After all, he is incapable of making a mistake.

  27. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 12/11/2015 - 09:17 am.

    It is an interesting strategy

    Say outrageous things to dominate the media conversation. This ensures nobody else gets any media attention. Watch your poll numbers rise because there is no such thing as “bad” publicity.

    Suck all the oxygen out of the room and watch everyone else pass out. It works better if you say multiple outrageous things so people can create listicles like “30 Outrageous Things Candidate Y Said!”

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