If you want to understand why Donald Trump managed to win the Republican nomination (or so it appears) while more experienced, polished politicians failed to topple him, this is about the best object lesson I can give you. Major event occurs. Conventional politicians stick to the safe talking points that will not upset elites or garner media criticism. Trump . . . does not:
While Trump’s comments on both Muslims and guns dismayed some Republican elites, they may have cheered some voters.
Some 45 percent of Americans said they supported Trump’s idea to suspend Muslim immigration, up from 41.9 percent at the start of the month, according to the poll. Meanwhile, about 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of Democrats and Republicans, said they wanted to see at least moderate regulations and restrictions on guns, up from 60 percent in similar polls in 2013 and 2014.
Clinton focused her response to the Orlando attack on the need to boost intelligence gathering and defeat Islamic State and what she called “radical jihadist terrorism,” while warning against demonizing Muslim-Americans. She also repeated her calls for tougher gun control measures, including a ban on assault weapons.
As usual after a major attack, “terrorism” jumped to the top concern among all adults in the poll – rising above the economy, health care and other major issues.
The poll’s five-day average showed that 45.5 percent of likely American voters supported Clinton, while 34.8 percent supported Trump, and another 19.7 percent did not support either candidate. On Sunday, Clinton’s support was at 46.6 percent, versus Trump’s 32.3 percent.
Trump’s Orlando response has him rising in the polls because, as with so many other things, Trump understands that the general public does not agree with media and political elites – and he doesn’t worry about being trashed by the latter when he addresses the former. The public can see that ISIS-sympathizing radical Islamists represents a very real threat to the safety of Americans, and they can’t make sense of the idea that we just let these people into the country without at least trying to vet them better.
Obama, by contrast, wanted to let 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country and practically accused the general public of being a bunch of anti-Muslim bigots for having any problem whatsoever with the idea. Hillary says it’s “not helpful” to talk about radical Islam – until her polling and focus groups tell her she’d better start – and instead rails against guns.
The media cheers this nonsense, but the public has about had it – and Trump knows it.
I realize there’s a bit of conservative consternation as well because of Trump’s announced intention to meet with the NRA about gun control proposals. I know some conservatives whose primary reason for supporting him is their belief he will protect the Second Amendment, and there’s a lot of hand-wringing over the possibility he might be caving on the issue. I would say this: A 2A cave would trouble me too, but you have to remember that Trump operates in a different way than you’re used to. The fact that he wants to sit down and talk to the NRA is different from, say, Ted Cruz – who would simply declare any thought of gun control beyond the pale and be done with it. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to cave. It might just mean he wants to understand the issue better, and he figures these are the people who can help him do that.
Remember, a businessman seeks out good insight from people who know their stuff. You can argue that the time to do that is not when you’re running for president, but I think Trump would respond that the time to do that is whenever you need to.
This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to win – Trump has bigger hurdles than this still to clear – but to the extent the political class thinks he’s doomed because he doesn’t know how to do thing their way, I wouldn’t fret in the slightest. Trump knows how to talk over the media’s heads to the public. That looks to the political world like he’s an off-script loose cannon, but the public has been waiting for a leader who’s willing to appeal to them in this way. It’s certainly a nice contrast to Hillary, whose every word and every action is poll-tested, put in front of focus groups and subject to exhaustive market research.
She’s about as fake a person as you’re ever going to meet. Trump is clearly a flawed person, and I realize much of his campaign persona is for show, but when it comes to policy he seems to rely on his own gut more than anything else. That’s a problem for political types, but it’s exactly what the public wants.