What’s behind the Trump-Carson phenomenon?

ap_ap-photo1067-wi-e1442500463861

There’s good news and bad news for Republicans in the most recent round of presidential polling.

The good news is that in Iowa and nationally, the know-nothing reality TV star who has been leading the race for months has finally been toppled as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. Hallelujah!

The bad news is that Donald Trump has been supplanted by Ben Carson, the one person in the race more ill-informed about politics than Trump.  The retired neurosurgeon now has a double-digit lead among likely Iowa caucus-goers and a four-point lead in the latest CBS/New York Times national poll among likely Republican voters.

Now, maybe that’s nothing to worry about. At this point in the 2012 cycle, Herman Cain was having his own little Icarus moment, flying high in the GOP polls before plummeting back to earth. He collapsed, opening the door to Newt Gingrich, but that too proved temporary. In short, things have a way of shaking out as voters get more serious, and eventually order is imposed on the chaos.

Maybe.

Here’s what may be different from 2012. All the way through that cycle, Mitt Romney held first or second place in the polling. If he wasn’t leading, he was lurking. Four years ago today, for example, Cain had the support of 25 percent of the GOP electorate, but Romney had 24.3 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

This time around, according to the RCP average, Jeb Bush is at 7 percent. Marco Rubio is at 9 percent. Combined, the two establishment Republicans with a national profile are pulling barely 15 percent of their party’s support, and neither shows any real sign of improving those numbers. Meanwhile, Carson and Trump together account for almost 50 percent of the GOP electorate, a number that is growing not receding. In the past three months, their share of the vote has more than doubled.¹

So what does it mean that almost half of Republican voters claim to support two candidates for president of the United States who lack even a basic grasp of issues, and at times a basic grasp on reality as well? The fashionable explanation in some quarters is, to put it bluntly, those who support Carson and Trump are just dumb.  And while that’s a tempting way to dismiss people who disagree with you — a temptation to which the right and left both succumb too often — I don’t think it suffices. Speaking personally, I have friends and relatives — good, successful people — who are ardent members of that 50 percent and far from dumb.²

They are, however, profoundly alienated from government. They see themselves as mainstream America, and with a little prodding, they have also come to see themselves as marginalized and voiceless. And if mainstream America has become marginalized and voiceless, they are forced to conclude that something has gone seriously wrong with our system of government, so wrong that it can be corrected only by a major shock.

So who cares if Carson has no idea what the debt ceiling is, or if Trump’s idea of a Mexican-built wall is silly nonsense? Such details don’t matter as long as they get the most important thing right, which is the restoration of mainstream America to its proper prominence. That is the core of the Trump and Carson appeal.

That’s also the flaw in their reasoning, at least as I see it:  They are not mainstream America. According to recent polling, 70 percent of Republican voters think they live in a country in which Trump could be elected president. They flat out do not. They live in a country that has twice elected Barack Obama to the White House, and as much as they might like to think otherwise, neither time can be explained away as a fluke.

According to the most recent Gallup numbers, 46 percent of Americans now identify with or lean toward the Democrats, while 41 percent identify or lean toward the Republicans. Subtract out the more moderate Republicans, and you’re left with at most 25 percent of Americans who form the conservative base. Viewed from that perspective, they aren’t being cheated of their proper voice in national affairs. To the contrary, in a country where a traditional mainstream probably doesn’t exist anymore — a circuitboard may be a better metaphor than a river for modern America — you could argue that the extraordinary unity, homogeneity and stubborn passion of that 25 percent has given it a voice beyond what its mere numbers would justify.

But of course, they don’t see it that way. They don’t recognize that while 25 percent is a significant minority in a nation of minorities, it is still nonetheless a minority, and that as such, their long-term interests are better served by compromise than by rejection.

———-

¹ On July 27, they had a combined 24 percent of the GOP vote, according to the RCP poll average. On Aug. 27, they had 33.8 percent. On Sept. 27, they had 40.4 percent. Today they have 48.4 percent.

² That’s in part because here in Georgia, Carson and Trump account for well over 50 percent of the GOP primary vote.

 

Reader Comments 0

646 comments
Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

In other words, those who keep claiming to be the "Real Americans" are not the "Real Americans".


Peachs
Peachs

There is a shift of party affiliation in Washington. The old system is not getting this done, it has been gamed by the think tanks and not representing the people so now we will see level headed middle of the road congressman that can't be gerrymandered representing the country's interest, which of course leaves the south out of any substantive discussions of policies and economic well being. 


When we were Democrats we were forced to be part of the system and union and the benefits for the south in military base, CDC, economics, banking were enormous, now we are compartmentalized into a third world country with not much more representation that Porto Rico, in congress. 

immigrant
immigrant

Predicting elections with data this far in advance is like predicting stock movement from previous performance...Hint: doesn't work.... 

JKLtwo
JKLtwo

-voters claim to support two candidates for president of the United States who lack even a basic grasp of issues, and at times a basic grasp on reality as well?

Hiillary and Bernie say,"What?".

Liars and Socialists rule!

bu2
bu2

Carson is appealing to the Huckabee/Santorum voters as well as the alienated who don't want a jerk like Trump as president.

bu2
bu2

Trump isn't a conservative.


That's not his appeal.


So Bookman's 25% analysis isn't correct.


I don't know how he could be elected, but he does have appeal to moderates and independents.  I think it will tend to disintegrate once people actually have to pull the lever.  But for now, he does.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

If Ryan can defeat the Tea Party and work with the next President (Hillary). He might seriously challenge in 2024.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

Headed to the internet wasteland, aka, NW Dougherty County.

Be nice!

gotalife
gotalife

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez said Trump’s rhetoric is inspiring young Hispanics to vote.

Thanks trump.

BTW, ryan's team wrote the budget deal so get him cons.

Even liberal dems like this deal.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

KUTGF:

Are you ready to report back on Med Mal 101?

You were going to explain to the class the very basic theory behind Claims-made and Occurrence coverage.

The floor is yours.

Proceed

fedup52
fedup52

@gotalife Several miles of I75 needs repaving in our neck of the woods.  It was put on hold because of the budget.  The road is so bad everybody is complaining about it.  Hope we can fix the highway.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Hedley_Lammar This is an embarrassment to this country as a whole, this video has gone viral round the globe.  How can this country police the world on human rights with a straight face?

bu2
bu2

@StraightNoChaser @Hedley_Lammar


Look at the ABC video where the girl punches the officer in the face before he does this.


He started to pull her out of her chair and she reached up and punched him.

gotalife
gotalife

Washington firm pitching Fiorina for paid speeches

Told ya why so many are running.

carson made millions and they want some of that.

bu2
bu2

@gotalife


She knows how much Bill made once Hillary became Sec. of State.

Orange15
Orange15

In the beginning, God made Men and Women then he had a big meal and made dimocrats!

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

If you're gonna believe in creation. Read the book.

Doggone_GA
Doggone_GA

@Orange15 First he made man.  Then he corrected his mistakes by making woman.  Then he made liberals to correct the mistakes he made by making his first couple too conservative

gotalife
gotalife

House GOP begins impeachment against IRS chief

All the rw will be audited.

 

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@gotalife When the "Justice" department refuses to do their job, the adults have to step in and take charge.

TBS
TBS

@gotalife


They need some sort of victory to hang their hat on......... As opposed to those face plants they have endured lately

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Hoping to see upset cons, about the budget deal, I turned on Fox News. Instead in ten seconds I saw Neil Cavuto ask a US General, What he feared?

He played along. Fear? Got no time.

gotalife
gotalife

cnn is warmongering today.

Not much about the budget deal.

Must be a yuge win for the President.



bu2
bu2

@gotalife @fedup52

Interesting.  ABC is showing the girl assaulting the police officer.

Philosopher1280
Philosopher1280

@bu2 @gotalife @fedup52 The video doesn't in any way show the firl assaulting the police officer-she remained in her chair and punched him when he got her in a choke hold...pure self-defense- she just hit him in the wrong place.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@GeorgeStein 

 So we agree that Obama sucks without his teleprompter?

The best you got is a loaded question about a position that I did not take.

Lame.

Just sayin'.