Remarkably, despite his best efforts, Donald Trump still leads in the Republican polls. Now obviously we haven’t had a chance to see what the backlash may be from his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, but there seems to be no indication that this will cause many of his supporters to jump ship. Even more bizarre is the fact that when candidates criticize him for his comments, rather than gain in the polls, their support drops, sometimes dramatically. The question is why?
In order to figure out the reason for this political phenomenon I decided to test my own reaction to criticism of Trump. Even though I have never been a Trump supporter and he consistently says things I can’t get on board with, I still found myself having more than one reaction to the criticism of his comments.
The first reaction revolved around the issue of sincerity. When politicians make comments that we expect them to make, comments very much in line with popular opinion, inevitably my ears perk up and I try to determine how genuine I feel that their reaction really is. Case in point, when Jeb Bush jumped all over Trumps most recent comments, it felt more like a candidate hoping for an an opportunity to rise in the polls than genuine outrage. When Lindsey Graham said that we should tell Trump to go to hell, he may have been totally sincere, but can anyone help but think that he also saw it as an opportunity to make some noise and save his presidential bid?
The second issue, and I believe this is a much more important one, is something we see often in many situations. The best way to describe it is by calling it Disproportionate Outrage. I have no problem with people calling Trump a buffoon. Since his campaign began he has at the very least insulted women, Mexicans and pretty much every Muslim on the planet. He’s also called for Israel to make sacrifices for peace, as though it hasn’t made every effort for decades, and threw out stereotypes about Jews that had to make even his Jewish daughter cringe. That being said, one would hope that people with voices would not be more comfortable berating him than they would be berating our outspoken enemies and the terrorists that do their bidding. If I look at a candidate or reporter chastising Trump, even if I may agree with their reasoning, I instinctively try to remember if I heard their voice just as loudly in defense of the safety of America, Israel, and the rest of the somewhat civilized countries around the globe. Scream and shout at Trump all you want, I get it, but to get my vote you better have been even more angry at Hamas during the war in Gaza than you are at Trump today.
I am fairly certain that a significant percentage of Trump’s supporters would prefer a candidate that didn’t go around insulting half the world, but since they don’t necessarily feel the same outrage towards our enemies from other candidates that they feel from Trump, they are keeping their support behind him. I am not saying others don’t feel it, but I will say that many of these people when thinking about what Trump is saying they hear the anger towards the terrorists, while thinking about what most of his rivals are saying today they sense more of an anger towards Trump. Regardless of how justified anger towards Trump may be, that just won’t work with much of the electorate.
Naturally very few of us hear a politician speak and remember everything he or she said, but voting in America is based at least as much on feeling as it is on fact. In today’s America people may very well consider Trump a clown, an idiot, or even a dangerous man, but when they look at a politician they won’t vote for him or her because they know how to attack Donald Trump, they will vote based on whether or not they feel they are voting for someone who makes them feel safe. The rest is just a side show, something that plays right into Trump the entertainer’s hands.
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