Tom Ferguson: Who is Supporting Trump?

Our favorite curmudgeon, political scientist Tom Ferguson, appeared on Real News Network to tease some signal out of the considerable noise on Donald Trump. Ferguson is best known a top expert in the US on money in politics, having meticulously built databases on political spending over decades. He also has a reputation for being rigorous in the interpretation of other types of election and polling information.

As surprising as it may seem now, he was also one of the first to develop what he calls the “investment theory” of politics, that election results going back to the New Deal and even earlier can be explained by looking at the alignments of powerful monied interests, and not the much more comforting stories about “popular will”.

ESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Donald Trump may have started as a joke to many on the left, but it appears that Republican voters are taking him seriously, with the billionaire polling strongly in early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa. The latest Iowa poll has him ahead of the pack with 25 percent of the vote. These figures are after Trump called for monitoring of select mosques, bringing back waterboarding torture, and keeping Syrian refugees on a watch list. Also, Donald Trump supporters at a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama choked and beat a Black Lives Matter activist who was speaking out against Trump’s racist rhetoric. The man, Mercutio Southall, said he was called the n-word, while people were chanting all lives matter as they were beating him. Trump’s response to the attack was, quote, maybe he deserved to be roughed up.

None of this news has hurt Trump in the polls. Rather, he’s remained in the lead in all the New Hampshire polls. But who are these people showing up to Trump rallies and supporting the billionaire, and why are they supporting him to begin with? Here to help us answer these questions is our guest Thomas Ferguson. Thomas is a Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Thanks so much for joining us, Tom.


DESVARIEUX: So Tom, I know you’ve done some research on this issue to see who is exactly supporting Trump. Will you please just break down the numbers and tell us what you found?

FERGUSON: Okay. Well, the first thing to be said is it’s tough to find very good numbers. And in some sense because they are all early polls, there maybe are no really good numbers. So a little bit like trying to find the thick parts of a cloud, if you like. But in fact, a lot of newspapers have just stopped printing when they do the polls the sort of subdivisions that people who analyze polls are used to, in particular [inaud.]. In the Washington Post it’s hard to find there. The New York Times should be doing more than it does in that.

But there are some really good polls, notably a McClatchy-Marist poll, that one can–that’s just beautifully presented. And there you can see very plainly and taken recently that Trump’s appeal is indeed to about twice that–lower income voters seem to like him about twice as much as the upper income voters who like him in the Republican poll. In other words, it’s really true. Now, I, a lot of folks jump to the conclusion that these are blue collar workers. I rather doubt it. I think what you’re probably finding here are what you might call lower middle class white collar workers, including people who probably, because it’s an income story, may just be living on social security and things like that. In other words, they may not be working at all. But for sure there’s a strong appeal to lower middle class voters. And this is a poll of Republican leaners, among independents, and self-proclaimed Republicans. You can be sure there are not very many African-Americans in there. So this is mostly lower middle class whites.

DESVARIEUX: Next question, Tom, is of course why. Have you found any indications from poll questions what is behind Trump’s success with this lower and middle class strata?

FERGUSON: I think the best you can do on that is try to match up what folks say are their issues with what, with their preferences. And that’s virtually impossible to do with these polls because they just don’t break them down that way. So we’re making here at best educated guesses. You can be sure that there’s an appeal on both race and immigration there, exactly as you suggested in your lead-in. But I would also add it’s very plain that Trump–I mean, almost everybody across the board in Republican polls generally thinks that Trump would be much better dealing with the economy than the other candidates.

And it’s pretty obvious that Trump is saying a lot of things, not just on race, but who else is going to tell you, for example, well of course politicians if you pay them will come to, if you invite them to your wedding. And I mean, he’s talking–I mean, he clearly has broken a lot of taboos on, say, money in politics. He’s even dumped on some issues that are virtually sacred to the Republicans, notably the carried interest tax deduction for the super rich.

There’s a lot going on in the Trump candidacy. It’s also obvious, you will forgive me for my sort of directness here, Trump is probably, the comparison with Silvio Berlusconi in Italy is sometimes made. I think that’s right. I mean, Trump is no Ross Perot. He’s kind of a funny looking if very able guy building a company. Trump is, to put it simply, typically surrounded by beautiful women, and generally walks around, you know, flying around in his own plane and things like that. For a chunk of folks in the United States that’s a kind of, I think, aspirational story. And that makes him different. It is also the case that, look, this guy ran a reality TV show that was a big hit for years and years. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people out there think they know him. And so this is a huge advantage.

What’s interesting to me in this race is that the sorts of things he’s been saying, typically you’d, these candidates who start like that in American political campaigns typically get blotted out later in the campaign issue in big, multi-state primaries where you have to have a lot of money. And to put it bluntly, they get drowned in an enormous wave of money. This is probably not going to happen to Trump. That’s just impossible. I mean, this guy’s a billionaire. So you have here a loose cannon in terms of the American elite in many senses, including his willingness to dump on other parts of the elite. That’s plainly attracting people to him. And so–and I doubt he’s going away. On the other hand, I think we have to be a little careful when we say that he hasn’t really hurt himself by all these attacks. If you look, his negatives are going up among a lot of people, including other Republicans. So this guy may hit a ceiling just short of enough to win the race there. Or you know, he may break through. I [inaud.]. That’s kind of a tough call right now.

But this, this is, it’s an extraordinary situation. I don’t know of any really comparable case.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah, that’s something we’re going to certainly keep following here at the Real News, this rise of Trump and his appeal with this lower and middle class strata. Tom, thank you so much for joining us.

FERGUSON: Thanks. Have a good one, everybody. And thank you, Jessica. Bye-bye.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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    1. hemeantwell

      And at least one wince. Curmudgeon is the term reserved for a Extreme Centrist op-ed writer down here who’s promoted as bravely critical of everything offensive to conventional sensibilities. He also calls Muslims towel heads.

  1. scott

    Trump’s popularity I believe has to do with the growing disgust with the PC movement. In a world where every comment is scrutinized for who/what it could offend, Trump just says what he’s thinking.

    1. Lambert Strether

      That’s any politician or billionaire “just says what he’s thinking” is highly unlikely. And conservative cries about “political correctness” have been around for many years, so I don’t see the “disgust” “growing.”

      I think it’s true that Trump’s constituencies are genuinely aggrieved (see the horrid life expectancy figures for middle-aged, less-educated whites) and feel threatened (see the horrid economy, but “PC” is, frankly, concocted by one faction of the political class to fight with another faction; it’s a species of strategic hate management.

      1. jrs

        Well he’s not exactly a politician and I don’t know what being a billionaire has to do with it, it doesn’t mean he’s necessarily carefully calculating the economic effect of diarrhea of the mouth. There are certainly cases of billionaires even those representing companies whose PR teams should know better, just saying whatever to the determent of their brand because they are just that egotistical and out of touch. And yes he’s a narcissist.

        I think people might develop a new aversion to PC from say spending any time on Twitter, that place is out of control, everyone is always fighting and mounting whole crusades against everyone else for some slight slight. It can sensitize one to some social problems, but after a certain point it all becomes too much. But beyond the world of social media, things are probably much how they have been for decades.

      2. Fool

        Thank you. It’s especially disappointing that this “PC” hysteria has infected the left, too, thanks to the Jonathan Chaits. :(

      3. Wayne Harris

        I’m surprised the PC trope has gotten so much traction. College kids’ tendency to identify with the plight of the disenfranchised is nothing new. And wanting to prohibit people from saying bigoted things is hardly the dawning of a new Night of Crystal. Even if it were a semi-serious threat to free expression, which is surely isn’t, it would be preferable to the behavioral excesses of being not-politically-correct. Stuff like, you know, community picnics featuring lynchings.

    2. Oregoncharles

      It’s the “Bulworth” fantasy, come to life, only not liberal and extremely good looking. It also reminds me of Nader’s comment on Jesse Ventura’s election to governor: “He doesn’t sound like a politician.” That’s extremely refreshing, especially if he says things you’ve been thinking.

  2. Jus'Thinkin

    I think Trump’s basic appeal is that he is not a politician. When he says the system is broken and you can buy all the politicians on the stage, he speaks the truth that we all can easily observe. I don’t think many of his supporters care much about his positions they just like him because he is not a crooked politician.

    That may also be Ben Carson’s appeal.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      I think Trump is successful because he is capturing the zeitgeist of the American electorate perfectly: his entire life is just one, big, horrible, hyper-narcissistic selfie.
      Whether it’s tattoos on your face, presidents who care more about their jumpshot than killing babies in hospitals, or business “leaders” who think hiking the price of a lifesaving drug by 5,000% are normal behavior, the tenor of the times is “screw you, I’m gonna say and do whatever the f*ck I please”.

  3. James Levy

    We talk a lot around here (often disparagingly) about identity politics. Well, I posit a variation on that theme: identification politics. Trump endlessly presents himself as a “winner”. I think that many of his supporters want desperately to identify with a winner. That explains why the upper crust have no use for Trump–they are already society’s winners. But lower middle class whites definitely feel (with justification) that they are part of society’s losers, at least since Reagan, probably since Ford. What Obama meant for African-Americans Trump means to these people, even though Trump was born into wealth and is so divorced from reality that he thinks his dad lending him a million bucks back in the early 1970s represents a rags to riches story. It’s aspirational politics. It’s politics as theatre–do I identify with the protagonist in this story and do I want to be just like him (or in Hillary’s case, her). This is why the Trump “insurgency” will lead to nothing. It’s not about governing, it’s about glamour.

    1. Ulysses

      I think Trump is like that drunk guy with the karaoke microphone, who is having too much fun to go home. He knows full well that he won’t be able to quit his day job as an a$%hole celebrity who screws other people out of their money– the kleptocrats prefer their puppets to present a more moderate face to the world.

    2. Brindle

      Trump seems to have some similarities to the appeal of 80’s cultural icon J.R. Ewing of tv show “Dallas”. J.R played by his own rules, hurled insults at his competitors, had beautiful women and was certainly a “winner”. I would be slightly surprised if Trump actually gets the nomination—partly because I don;t know if Trump actually has a strong desire to be president.

    3. Carolinian

      But politics is theater. They are all selling an image. It’s just a question of what image people choose to identify with. Obama is just as much of an actor on stage as Trump. When it comes to policy it’s hard to say he’s much smarter despite his Harvard pedigree. Trump says crazy things. Obama has been doing them in the Middle East and Ukraine. His Obamacare is ridiculous.

      Personally I think television is to blame for the acceleration of this trend. It has only heightened the theatrical nature of our rather flawed democracy. Americans aren’t stupid, but they do spend way too much time watching television. It’s still the vast wasteland MInnow talked about, only vaster….

    4. hemeantwell

      I think that identification does play a part. It’s interesting to play that off Ferguson’s point regarding Trump’s reality show-based public engagement with the public. Contestants tried to win his favor by displaying business acumen, drive, all the bits of cunning and faux-sincerity that are part of sales. Maybe a segment of his supporters are part of his latent contestant base, wishing they had a shot at impressing Big Brother. They also may have found the show to be simply ethically affirmative and hopeful. That would fit with Ferguson wondering whether blue collar workers are that interested in him, at least from an economic standpoint. The diffuse lower middle class is more about sales, shows of Enthusiasm about a product, instead of making the product. Trump’s their man.

      1. JTFaraday

        I watched a bit of The Apprentice one season, and one thing I did like about Trump was that if he thought someone fired the wrong person, he fired them. That’s a nice bit of tit for tat there. Given that there’s simply no talking to some people, I must confess I sometimes think people should get what they give. Of course, whether or not experience is indeed a great teacher depends on the capacity of the guinea pig in question, (so, don’t necessarily try this at home!)..

        Anyway, I think this might be the best thing I’ve read on Trump appeal to date:

        “America is for a-holes: Inside the secret to Donald Trump’s success”

        1. JTFaraday

          And, I must add that, in my observation, people who managed to make changes in hidebound institutions over which they did not have complete control, did do so by walking a very fine line between behaviors that are ethical and unethical in the ordinary scheme of things. A touch Machiavellian, if you will.

          I don’t say that to make any sort of predictions about a Trump presidency, but here’s Jay Rosen on why Trump confounds the press:

          “So I will try to explain why the Trump candidacy has been so confounding to our political press.”

  4. Skippy

    Defectively speaking…. Trump panders to the lowest common denominator tragically crafted into the American or Free Market narrative…. the white exceptionalism trope…

      1. Skippy

        Its quite the trick to one up “Chainsaw Al” yet Kardashian your way to amusingly interesting yet non threatening…

  5. BeliTsari

    Trump’s racist, xenophobic, totalitarianism is attractive to the same folks who voted Reagan in, to put the (insert epithet here) in their place: White flight suburban boomers & defense, gas & oil sector Dixiecrats, still buy-into what their preached from the pulpit, gavaged from their truck radio on the way to their 1099 & sales associate gig economy jobs. Like the 13,000 inebriate ‘croppers staggering into canister & grape shot, so Massa wouldn’t lose his little slave boys, entitlement & silly-ass delusions are all they have left? Reagan’s Miracle disappeared America’s “working class” 3 1/2 decades ago. Theocratic kleptocracy has replaced local Boss Hogs with ALEC, feeding these folks to (now frequently foreign) oligarch’s indentured serfdom of EZ Credit, PayCheck Loan, Rent2Own, bail-bonds, convict labor; renting them their repo’d homes, while Megyn tells them who’s at fault… cleaning their $2,500 rifle. Trump personifies everything they’ve been sold, their entire lives.

  6. Ché Pasa

    Yes, well. Trump is like the “good guy with a gun” we hear about all the time. At least he plays that role.

    Another way of looking at him is The Billionaire With the Common Touch, something Romney, for example, couldn’t pull off to save his immortal and god-like soul. Trump plays it up every minute he’s on stage or on camera.

    I see him as a stalking horse for his class, discovering what will work to convince the rabble that direct rule by the plutocracy is in their best interests.

    He doesn’t have to win the White House to prove his point.

    1. James Levy

      To take direct control would mean accepting direct responsibility, and I think the rich would do anything to avoid that if there is any other choice. The politicians give them cover and will take the bullet for the bad policies of the elite. It has been argued that the Romanovs were doomed the minute the Czar fired his uncle and took direct control over the war effort in 1916. That landed all responsibility in his lap. The fiction that bad decisions were the fault of the men around Nicholas but not his own was exposed. That’s why I think Trump is simply a stalking horse for Brand Trump, not an exemplar of the thoughts or direction of his class.

  7. jgordon

    I don’t even like Trump, but I’d still support him. Just because I find his brand of honest thugishness to be sooo much more palatable than the slick venality offered by every other candidate.

    And yes, even the hero Bernie Sanders isn’t all that great in the end–anyone who would say that he’ll support the Democratic candidate no matter who it is lost his qualifications right there. After Obama I’m very keen to pick up on subtle signs that betrayal and back stabbing is in the offing, I’ve been picking them up with Bernie. So Trump it is I guess.

    1. Vatch

      anyone who would say that he’ll support the Democratic candidate no matter who it is lost his qualifications right there

      You’re ignoring the context in which Sanders made that promise. For years he has been in the Congress as an Independent, not as a Democrat. Now he’s running in the Democratic primaries for President. To some Democrats, he appears to be an outsider poaching on their turf. By promising to support the eventual Democratic nominee, he has a chance to win those people’s votes, either in the primaries, or if he wins the nomination, in the general election.

      We can be quite certain that a significant fraction of the people who are supporting Sanders in the primaries will not be voting for any other Democrat in the Presidential general election.

      1. C wenn

        what you are all missing – is Trump supporters are not unlike Sanders supporters.

        Nobody is talking about this.

        It’s evident and relevant. Sanders talked deportation in the early days because he wants full employment for America’s underclass. I remember cheering him when he said we’re full up. they have to go!

        Sanders spoke about offshoring, tariffs on those Fords from Mexico.

        Sanders is also a Jew. He knows Islam is his problem and ours.

        The left clutches its pearls, defending the rights of Moderate Muslims…

        Let’s see how well that coalition works once Muslims achieve 10-15% of any given city… ask gays, lesbians, and working women of the left how they are going to like those apples?

        Dems and Muslims are an unlikely alliance – the left is pro muslim because they are anti Israel.

        I’m not a fan either… and you’ll notice Bibi has been remarkable silent in this war of words over Syrian immigration. We haven’t heard the Israelis telling us “told ya so”… they are peculiarly quiet on the entire matter.

        Gives one pause… speaking of Trojan Horses waving false flags.

          1. C wenn

            Them “apples’, are not Somalis in speech tournaments, but more calls for changes in our culture – minority muslim demands.

            And what of gays? lesbians? Female Doctors? Bikini’s? A large muslim presence in America will certainly hammer the last nail into Christmas and Easter. An unholy alliance between Muslims, Orthodox Jews and Christian haters will mean the last gasp for 2 holidays under duress.

            Pork or Beef in school lunches? don’t want to offend those Hindu’s and Muslims. the list is endless.

            Our multi cultural stew is already causing a poisonous political environment. Let’s just say we’ve been apart longer than we’ve been together on this planet.. and a shotgun marriage in the 20th century has not been successful.

            And as to your Somali’s…. Eritreans in Minneapolis – absent refrigeration – kept a goat alive in the bathtub… eating it limb by limb … the poor thing was discovered by a plumber for the building.

            Yeah… let’s have some more Eritreans and their cultural values – can we send em to your neighborhood. Show the kids their pet goat.

        1. Will

          “Let’s see how well that coalition works once Muslims achieve 10-15% of any given city… ask gays, lesbians, and working women of the left how they are going to like those apples?”

          I’m sorry, what? You’ve lost me here. What about having a local Muslim population is supposed to be upsetting to those populations in particular?

          1. C wenn

            You ask [with a straight face] – what about a Muslim population would prove troublesome to the American LEFT? — you jest.

            Gay. Lesbian. Music. Dance. ANY movie. Beaches, bikini’s. California – the entire state.

            Speech. [but then the left is selective in its defense of same]

            Pork in schools and restaurants. [you think the peanut moms are a nuisance?]

            female genital mutilation. honor killings. age of consent. —

            the better question is WHAT DO WE HAVE IN COMMON. Certainly not parenting. Love of animals. Free thinking? Individuality?…

            Muslims are anathema to ALL we practice in America.

            1. Will

              I hate to break it to you, man, but as one member of a household of three queers who migrated out of red states… we are all more comfortable in our immigrant-heavy neighborhood with Muslim neighbors than we were in evangelical country. Christian extremists have more power and do more violence to dissenters in this country than any minority population. See this link from one of the other recent posts here.

              You’re making the assumption that all Muslims are violent, repressive extremists, like Daesh are, and like Daesh want you to believe. Do you also make the assumption that all Christians are constantly ready to shoot up Planned Parenthood?

              I’m guessing probably not, because it sounds like you have your favorite bogeyman and no need to let nuance get in the way.

            2. EmilianoZ

              Moslems love cats, or at least tolerate them out of respect for the Prophet. The Prophet’s love of cats is attested by many stories. For instance that one:

              It is told that Muhammad awoke one day to the sounds of the Adhan, the Muslim daily call to prayer. Preparing to attend, he began to dress himself; however, he soon discovered his cat Muezza sleeping on the sleeve of his prayer robe. Rather than wake her, he used a pair of scissors to cut the sleeve off, leaving the cat undisturbed. When he returned from the mosque, Muhammad received a bow from Muezza in gratitude. He then stroked his beloved cat three times.


              So, that’s one thing they have in common with NC readers. New readers might not be aware, but NC is a cat lover’s blog. We’re all in love with Gabriel, Yves’ abyssinian. And also with Minsky and Fisher, Richard Smith’s bengals. All foreign cats unfortunately. We’ve tried hard to convince Yves to get an all American Maine coon but to no avail.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                No one has told me about the plan for me to have a Maine Coon. My two male cats already have occasional dust-up, plus I’d go into Cat Lady territory were I to have a third cat.

                But the two cats are old. Gabriel, the one who got stuck behind the bookcase (the Aby version of a dumb blond) turns 11 in December and Blake is 16. So I am probably faced with getting new cats in the next few years :-(

                However I now also have a Pavlovian reaction to Abys. They are smart and demonstrative cats.

          2. Vatch

            I think the point is that the typical Muslim has more in common with a member of the Christian right wing than with anyone on the left. Members of both groups are socially very conservative.

            1. Will

              More than anything, I admit, I wanted to see exactly how C wenn would elaborate when pressed on the assumptions there, and I think my question has been quite clearly answered.

            2. cwenn

              None of my Tea Party friends would consider selling their 12 year old daughter to raise money for a sons wife.

              A Conservative Muslim? like the GOP?

              are you insane?

              Wait til your muzzie friends start thumping for homosexual executions. Female genital mutilation? again.. are you insane?

              1. Vatch

                Many members of the Christian right wing are undoubtedly very jealous of the radical Islamists. The Islamists can get away with lots of things that the Christian fanatics only dream about doing. Read up on the Inquisition, witch hunts, and the Christian wars of religion. Courageous secularists during the Enlightenment and the Nineteenth Century had to fight tooth and nail to tame the Christians, and those gains could easily be lost.

                One of the big differences between Christianity and Islam is that there hasn’t been a Reformation or an Enlightenment in the Islamic world. And the Reformation wasn’t enough; that just created multiple flavors of fanaticism. It was the work of post-Reformation heroes like Spinoza, Voltaire, Diderot, Gibbon, Hume, Paine, and other like minded people who cured Western civilization of the worst of religion’s cruelty. But the veneer of secular civilization is very thin, and it’s easy for superstition to break out any time, which often happens.

            3. Darthbobber

              I suspect the “typical” muslim doesn’t exist. Certainly my coworkers (mainly from Mali), go about their business here in Philly pretty much the same as everybody else. Working, paying the bills, raising the kids. Though too many of them have an inexplicable fondness for Manchester United.
              Anyway, they’re one group. The Malaysian women and the Afghans I dealt with years ago seemed to have no more in common with the Malians than South African Catholics have with the South Philly Italian/Irish “Catholic” culture. All the “typical” this, and “typical” that (almost always viewed through the tunnel of the particular fears and obsessions of those pronouncing on the “typicality”) masks the enormous variety that actually exists.

  8. TG

    I believe that Trump’s appeal is completely rational and based on the issues. What do Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio stand for?

    – Open-border immigration that will drive wages down and profits up (Hello Bangladesh). If the average American only wants the rate at which additional foreign nationals are allowed to settle here, be limited to one that does not reduce wages or increase crowding, this is utterly reasonable and shame on anyone who mindlessly parrots that this is ‘racist.’ And why should we not exclude MS13 drug gang members and wahhabist extremists from those that we do decide to let settle here?
    – Endless pointless stupid wars in which we are allied with Al Qaeda (!) and burn through trillions of dollars
    – Endless bailouts of Wall Street while Main Street is starved of capital
    – Gutting social security to pay for the above. Because, you know, deficits are bad.
    – Entering into trade agreements what will cause our country to be ruled by unaccountable foreign lawyers meeting in secret and whose judgements have no limits and that can be neither appealed nor over-ruled by statute.

    The ‘mainstream’ candidates are simply unacceptable to anybody who is not mesmerized by mass media spin. There are soft-spoken and polite politicians opposed to the above – you don’t even know who they are, do you? The establishment tries to ignore Trump, but his bombast is so extreme that they can’t. They try to fire him – but he’s independently wealthy. They try to embarrass him, but his ego his so titanic that he is beyond embarrassment. Sure, Trump might be a disaster as president, but he might not. And for the average non-billionaire, either Clinton or Rubio WILL be a disaster.

    I propose that the ‘Trumpkins’ are simply desperate with a political system that does not represent their interests, and they feel they have little to lose.

    Better the devil you don’t know than certain doom?

      1. tegnost

        Sanders supporters I know reference years of listening to Sanders rant on Thom Hartmann (i think thats the show don’t listen myself) for years and they liked what he said and feel comfortable backing him for that reason.

    1. Greg T

      I agree with this. Voters know what Hillary or Jeb or the Republican Obama, Marco Rubio, will deliver. More of the same economic policies; austerity, flat wages, and disemployment for the public. Bailouts for preferred industries. And more war. None of them will likely confront the very forces which selected them for power in the first place.

      Trump will say anything for attention. It’s that unpredictability which makes elites nervous, and simultaneously is the source of his appeal to many voters. Trump represents a great risk, because no one knows what he’ll do if he ever won office. His wealth makes him impervious to bribes, so other elites can’t tempt him with keys to the kingdom. He’s therefore hard to control.

      He might be truly awful, or he might actually do some good. Given the alternatives, voters could make a rational calculation that it’s worth gambling on him.

      1. tegnost

        It may be more accurate to say that he would have a different perspective to bribery…but hey anything to shake it up!

  9. John Zelnicker

    There are two questions that I have yet to see asked about the real chances of Trump being the Republican nominee.

    Will he be willing to give up control of his real estate empire to a blind trust? He can’t run the country and his business at the same time.

    Will the Deep State allow him to be a nominee and take the chance that he might actually win the general election? So far, he has demonstrated a complete disregard for any aspect of diplomacy and has already insulted foreign leaders in various ways. His foreign policy views (those we have seen) are disingenuous and dangerous.


    @Che Pasa – “I see him as a stalking horse for his class, discovering what will work to convince the rabble that direct rule by the plutocracy is in their best interests.”

    That’s a great thought that had not occurred to me although I’m unsure of the direct rule part. The plutocracy pretty much rules us now.

  10. Brooklin Bridge

    What makes Trump popular in this election seems to remain speculation. My pet theory is that Trump started out as a favor to HIllary (as scare crow) and was actually surprised and flattered at just how “popular” he became. This encouraged him to come out with yet more intentionally scandalous remarks, some his own opinion and some as originally designed bogyman to get people over raw Hillary revulsion, not to mention dynasty distaste.

    Politically, I suspect Trump remains a democrat in the most conservative corporate sense. Hence is affinity with Hillary. He enjoys (probably even believes in) and operates well within the cover that some popular sentiment solidly framed by a neoliberal context provides for his two other core interests; monstrous ego and the desire for profit – especially in so far as it contributes to his larger than life self image. Having some moral purchase, even if deeply ironic and flawed, along with financial security, provides vantage where he can come out with extraordinary observations such as the one that Bernie Sanders should have made (among many others): George Bush WAS president during the criminal attack of 9/11 AND the buck DOES stop at the president’s desk (according to both Republican and Democratic folklore). Speaking a monumental truth like that, especially in a vacuum of judicial integrity, when no one else dares, but when it has been so obvious for so long, produces an incredible effect that continues an outward ripple long after it is spoken. People have to take notice.

    The cumulative effect of Trump being Trump, as Ferguson points out, also means a lot of baggage that will catch up with him. What I suspect he will be faced with are whether or not he keeps running for real or whether he retracts back into his bogyman role or whether -ego ego- he gets them inextricably mixed up. But given the public confusion that has been engineered into the system for the last several decades, which is a critical part of his popularity, there is simply no telling where it goes. He could end up becoming president against his intentions or in spite of them.

        1. tegnost

          I think you make a good point, the wealthy NYC real estate elite are right there with clinton and I believe in that stratosphere they have the same objectives and make the most use of the two party system to maintain their edge. It relates in a way to the PE posts because it’s indecorous to pull back the curtain and expose what’s behind it when there’s such a good show on the stage. I think also there’s merit to the thought that trump doesn’t really want to win, but can’t say no to the attention, as someone above noted, will he put his empire in a trust? personally I doubt it…I wonder, do you think he could be considered a “class traitor” ? (just not the fdr kind…)

  11. C wenn

    Rubbish. My family is pretty main stream. Certainly not Republican per se. College Educated, self employed Main St – I consider myself a Teddy Roosevelt Republican.. I favor tariffs, protectionism, lots of money for preservation of wilderness… not your typical tea partier.

    My family is pretty much the same… not knuckle dragging churchies, but Perot type voters – hate both sides – but educated and self employed for the most part.

    This blue collar dummy — social security loser crap is just that – CRAP.

    I know democrats who love Trump. THEY are the under employed wannabees this ‘expert’ describes.

    I think Trump appeals to that great 60% in the middle that washes back and forth between the parties with equal disdain for the insiders and the process.

    just my take… and nobody is talking about it

    1. C wenn


      I voted Perot, Perot, Buchanan and then stayed home. Think Bush Y Cheney belong in prison jump suits. Voted O – ONCE – but it turned out to be date rape. Then stayed home.

      There are millions like me and mine. We hate em all… but see something in Trump that is REAL. He’s Main Street Norman Rockwell Americana.

      Again… this demographic hasn’t been polled. And the rubbish in this interview smells of yesterday’s fish course.

      1. tegnost

        I think it’s that the parties have lost their defining lines and the electorate are a lot of free electrons looking for an atom

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      You have a point, but not an argument. You use your own family as if it represented a broad spectrum of consensus. Yes there are certainly others like you, but how many? How significant other than to you? Does your situation even contradict the points Ferguson is making?

      Now if you were to make that argument in all capital letters, perhaps…, well, no actually, about the same.

      1. C wenn

        My family? When was the last time you were at a political rally with 12, 15, 20 Thousand people?

        They aren’t there for the Apprentice.

        My UPS man – hispanic and Irish…. loves Trump.
        Korean supplier from LA – first generation – works for the campaign.
        I live in the Hispanic Southwest… so far, he’s doing well with the conservative Latinos. We hear it on talk radio every morning.

        The callers are Latino and South Western natives. It’s about a 60 -40 split in favor of Trump with each discussion.

        but just like the Muslims cheering after 9/11 – sometimes eye witness accounts are predictive.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          sometimes eye witness accounts are predictive

          Beyond family, that is basically your argument and it’s pretty thin even if your examples and blustery opinions are interesting and provocative.

          I do think you are on to something, just that it doesn’t support the generalization.

        2. Lambert Strether

          It’s good to have lots of examples because the polls… are what they are.

          That said, you keep coming back to the idea that Trump is in some sense “REAL,” or authentic. Leaving aside the issue that the authentically bad isn’t necessarily good, I just think that’s a very curious thing to say: Trump has been a media figure for how many years? A deal-maker whose key branding is his name, which he plasters all over everything, and which he regularly sues to protect. All these things scream fake, to me, so I’m curious about the perception that Trump is real. In what sense is Trump real compared to Sanders, for example?

          1. C wenn

            I think Trump comes from humble roots. Plastering his name all over things is pretty standard for new money.

            Ditto for all that gold leaf in his palaces. I find it noxious, but then I’m Russian, Swiss and Scot. We’re peasants – even with education and holdings.

            I trust the Donald because I know who he is, in his bones. Forget the bluster – he’s a pussy. With a big heart.

            And he reminds me of Sanders… 6 degrees of separation.

            1. Vatch

              I think Trump comes from humble roots.

              Not true. Trump’s father was a millionaire, back when being a millionaire meant that someone was really rich.

                1. jrs

                  Well it’s weird to know that someone came from wealth, simply a fact with Trump, and say he came from humble roots. Most people don’t actually define coming from wealth as somehow not being applicable if there is poverty if you go back a few generations. And most people are correct in that assessment I think. If your parents are wealthy you come from wealth. Now whether they share it with you (Trump WAS given money, so we know that) or were good parents otherwise are separate matters.

              1. ian

                Yes, but to be fair, he’s increased the wealth he was born with _quite_ a bit.

                The ‘humble roots’ bit is interesting. One thing that has impressed me is that Trump was not coddled at all by his father, nor have his kids been by him. It’s not exactly humility, but they all seem to appreciate the value of hard work.

        3. Vatch

          When was the last time you were at a political rally with 12, 15, 20 Thousand people?

          You’re describing rallies for Bernie Sanders, of course.

          Elsewhere you correctly point out that there are similarities between supporters of Sanders and supporters of Trump. Both candidates are perceived as political outsiders, and that helps them, because people know that the insiders have done a terrible job of governing. The only real beneficiaries of recent governance are the richest 0.01%. Ironically, Trump belongs to that category.

          1. C wenn

            He got there and doesn’t like the company. That is also his appeal.

            He’s the street kid who did good. I don’t care if daddy gave him a million. That doesn’t change who he is and where he came from.

            He knows where all the bodies are buried.

            A lot of my opinions are because of where I’ve lived. My sister is a lifetime Aspenite. I ran a newspaper in an oh so hip ski town [that shall remain nameless]

            If you want to know how the world works… get to know a nanny in Aspen, a chef in Beverly Hills and a whore in Anguilla.

            A dog walker in Manhattan has plenty of insight.

            And a vacationing former Air Force One pilot in Costa Rica – after turning in his resignation after 16 years. Oh, what an earful.

      2. jrs

        Yes, but I don’t think the original article actually had a lot of data on who Trump voters actually are either. Lower income was the data point we had. Whether they are white or blue collar (or curiously left out the precariat – low wage service work, but they may not vote) was speculation. That’s how I read the article.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Perhaps, but then the article isn’t calling someone else’s argument about voters “rubbish”. That raises the bar in mnsho and giving one’s family or one’s impressions of a rally as proof just doesn’t get above the rudeness factor for me.

    3. Oregoncharles

      I’ve seen essentially this point made elsewhere – wish I could remember where, but I think I posted it here a while back.

      You have a point – and as Lambert pointed out, Sanders has essentially the same appeal to a different set of people, equally outsiders. Can outsiders turn the election? Well, maybe, if the count is honest (and what are the odds on that?). That would be an optimistic turn, even if Trump turns out as awful as he sounds to me.

      But I suspect that both Trump and Sanders will be blocked by the party machiner, by hook or by crook, if either one manages to get past their present 20-30%.

      More temperat language would get you heard better – but then, you sound a bit like your candidate.

  12. Alejandro

    Trump seems to believe that starting with substantially more chips, and “winning” a rigged game, he “earned” the credibility to gloat and scold. With the time tested demagoguery of “otherness”, he seems to have distracted his followers from noticing, his mocking them…effectively distracting them from the true source of their wretchedness by focusing their anger towards hating the wretched elsewhere and from elsewhere…if the presupposition that “money is speech” and it is coded into “our” language, and only those who can “afford” to select candidates, do the selecting, then the alternative seems to be Rubio…and he seems to be a young Hillary, if you exchange gender for ethnicity, with the same “talent” for sophistry, albeit it takes a village to craft a sophist…

    How different would it be if a narrative that says in clear and unambiguous terms that the otiose arrogance of privilege is no longer acceptable without the quid pro quo of noblesse oblige…that the distance and barriers between this deluded arrogance and the moans and groans of the grind, and the hissing sound of the life being sucked out of the expendables, that sustain that privilege, is too long and too high…if the ethos is conquest, dominion, oppression, exploitation etc., then the race, gender, ethnicity, age (‘generation), sexuality and whatever other social wedge ‘we’ can conjure, does not f–king matter…

  13. kj1313

    Our political system is broken and only 2 candidates remaining recognizes that. FYI I still think Trump is a Clinton mole who understands that the republican party swallowed a poison pill formenting wedge issues and is using it to run roughshod over the party elites.

  14. flora

    My take on Trump is: 1. He knows how to do reality shows. 2. He despises the current GOP leadership for kowtowing to the party’s know-nothings in order to whip up a mob.

    My hunch is that Trump is: 1. Putting on a reality show in order to 2. discredit and destroy the current GOP leadership’s mob incitement and know-nothingism. He’s doing a pretty good job of it. And seems to be having a fun time.

    Interestingly, most polls apparently aren’t reporting income brackets or financial issues of the various polled groups. Why not?

    1. armchair

      Now that we’re in the era of BIG DATA, we don’t really need to know those boring breakdowns from the dinosaur era. BIG DATA scoffs at such cave-person demands for ‘internals’.

  15. Left in Wisconsin

    I have changed my mind and don’t think Trump can win this time. But how old is he? Google says 69. I wonder if, like Berlusconi, once bitten with the bug he ever stops running. Presuming whoever wins in 2016 is the typical bankster friend at home/imperialist abroad, I think Trump is back in in 2020. And if HRC is the incumbent, I think he starts as the presumptive R nominee and probable favorite. In a big redistricting year, we could be looking at Trump + Tea Party control of virtually the entire apparatus for the next decade. Probably, that would be a bad thing, though it’s hard to know given the alternatives.

      1. Oregoncharles

        There are other options – and Maine might have ranked choice voting by then. It’s made the ballot.

  16. oho

    The idea of a Trump 45 is not as implausible as dismissive Left-wingers like to thing.

    In a Trump v. Clinton race, does anyone truly think that the Right will stay home because Trump is their nominee?

    Conversely, will Sanders’ volunteer army rush out to support Clinton?—barring some road to Damascus left-wing conversion overturning Clintonism’s 25 years of GOP-lite.

  17. EmilianoZ

    Adam Gopnik on how Obama once mercilessly mocked Trump during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner:

    Trump was then at the height of his unimaginably ugly marketing of birther fantasies, and, just days before, the state of Hawaii had, at the President’s request, released Obama’s long-form birth certificate in order to end, or try to end, the nonsense. Having referred to that act, he then gently but acutely mocked Trump’s Presidential ambitions: “I know that he’s taken some flack lately—no one is prouder to put this birth-certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to the issues that matter, like: did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And—where are Biggie and Tupac?” The President went on, “We all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example—no, seriously—just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice”—there was laughter at the mention of the program’s name. Obama explained that, when a team did not impress, Trump “didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meatloaf—you fired Gary Busey. And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night.”

    What was really memorable about the event, though, was Trump’s response. Seated a few tables away from us magazine scribes, Trump’s humiliation was as absolute, and as visible, as any I have ever seen: his head set in place, like a man in a pillory, he barely moved or altered his expression as wave after wave of laughter struck him. There was not a trace of feigning good humor about him, not an ounce of the normal politician’s, or American regular guy’s “Hey, good one on me!” attitude—that thick-skinned cheerfulness that almost all American public people learn, however painfully, to cultivate. No head bobbing or hand-clapping or chin-shaking or sheepish grinning—he sat perfectly still, chin tight, in locked, unmovable rage. If he had not just embarked on so ugly an exercise in pure racism, one might almost have felt sorry for him.

    1. Skippy

      Yep old Trump is quite similar to our Oz departed PM Tony Abbott… jovial in repose… tho flashes of seething rage flash across their physical demeanor when publicly outed…

  18. kucha girl

    I am really glad that Trump is highlighting the health care of Veterans. Why do we as a society allow for Veterans hospitals to be so second-class? It would not cost very much to offer veterans the best health care. For that piece of insight alone, I am glad he is in the race. That needs to change.

  19. Ray Phenicie

    I’ve lost interest in Bernie Sanders as a candidate since he revealed himself to be the mainstream Democrat that he always was. But it upsets me tremendously that facile political analysis would even think to compare him with Donald Trump. Watch the documentary ‘Trump’: What’s the Deal?’ A nasty mean, scoundrel of a man will be revealed. Someone who cheated and screwed every party he could in each and every business deal he ever involved himself in. He harassed and bamboozled people out of their contractual rights and then threw up frivolous and outrageous law suits when ever possible to protect not his contractual rights but his image as a mini emperor.

    I can’t see Bernie Sanders -if he were a business manger- exposing workers to the horrible conditions that would shorten their lives and endanger their safety. Bernie Sanders does not put up a sensor to sniff out where the votes are at and then strut around saying “What a fabulous idea that is ” as in dump on the nearest victimized, marginalized group at hand. Picking on immigrants was almost too easy given the political winds that have been blowing hatred and racism for two decades on the subject of so called illegals.
    The two are so far apart that they can be accused for being similar as the two sides of the rainbow may appear to be similar in color. Bernie Sanders’ rhetoric represents the best impulses of humanity, we may forgive him his political craftiness. Donald Trump represents what is worst in humanity, we may forgive him but please say first what he is: a hate filled, vote seeking blowhard who will look to get the votes by saying yes to any leading question he thinks will garner votes from sniveling slobs who are afraid to say ” I hate all who are different than me and put tags on those freaks so we can track them and shoot them when the opportune moment arises.”

      1. Ray Phenicie

        Derail the conversation if you must but can we please cease with the Bernie Sanders is oh so much like the Trump?

  20. Oregoncharles

    Bottom line: 25% – of Republicans. That doesn’t get you elected. Chances are, it doesn’t even get you nominated, although that’s a major glitch in plurality voting: if there are 4 or more candidates, one can “win” with 25%. So the dynamic depends heavily on how many hang in there.

    The other side is, the only likely replacement, at the this point, is Dr. Carson, not at all a plausible candidate. Evangelicals are an even more restricted base – maybe 20, 25%. Otherwise, it’s hard to see who could come from behind, put together everybody else’s support, and cobble together a majority. Without that, could be a real convention next year – almost unprecedented in modern times. That would give the party hierarchy a lot more input.

    Oh, yeah: a recent poll (forget which one, doesn’t matter yet) had Trump beating Hillary by 5% IN THE GENERAL. So be careful what you wish for.

  21. Darthbobber

    For what its worth, I think Trump just knows his audience and gives them what they want. Had P.T. Barnum gone into electoral politics, this is the campaign he would have run. I don’t see his support collapsing, thats wishful thinking on the part of various people, but I do think he’s bouncing around at his ceiling. That’s not adequate to win the nomination once the field shrinks, but its more than enough to guarantee him a very visible (and audible) presence right up to the end. (And he’s again leaving the door open to the 3rd party candidacy.)
    I’d be surprised to see him sink a significant chunk of his own money into this, rather I expect him to just ride as far as his current methods will take him.

    He’s lethal in the Republican primary environment, because all those other candidates want the support of the group that responds to his shtick, so their attack efforts are most sadly handicapped. This would not be the case in the general election campaign, but I suspect he doesn’t care greatly about that in any case.

    Based on no science at all, my stomach says that if he did become the Republican nominee, the ‘mocrats most electable candidate would then be Sanders rather than Queenie.

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