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Friday Morning News Dump | Main | Interesting: Less Than 40% of Trump's Social Media Supporters Are Actually Registered to Vote
August 14, 2015

What's The Right Approach For Conservatives And Republicans When It Comes To Trump Voters

Donald Trump is a godsend. Seriously. It's August before a primary year and we don't have the Iowa Straw Poll to kick around anymore. Without Trump we'd be discussing, I don't know, how Jeb! is going to thwart the Kasich boomlett. Give me crazy Donald Trump to fill that news/politics void every time.

I know this will drive some people nuts because politics is very serious business. The thing is, beyond the entertainment value, I don't find Trump the least bit interesting and I don't think he's killing conservatism. He's a rich guy on an ego trip who is filling a vacuum. The GOP survived the Summer of Cain and Bachmann, it'll survive the Summer of Trump.

The basis of my deep indifference to Trump is I don't think he's a serious candidate. I don't bother debating his supporters or detractors on policy because he doesn't have any. It's all made up on the fly as Charles Cooke demonstrated on Hannity last night.

I used to play around at improv acting/comedy like you would see on Whose Line Is It Anyway. Trump reminds me of a game we'd play called New Choice. How it works is in the middle of the scene someone would yell out "new choice" and the person just spoke would have to change what they said to something different. You'd do this a few times in a row and it was generally kind of funny but the scene changes entirely and you go from there. That's Trump on policy.

"I'm for a flat tax" NEW CHOICE!, "I'm for a wealth tax" NEW CHOICE, "I'm for the progressive income tax system we have"....and the campaign continues.

I'm supposed to attack or defend this? It's a fever that will burn itself out.

As for his enablers in talk radio? Spoiler: It's what they do. The right's reliance on guys like Rush, Hannity and Levine has always been a double edged sword. Complaining about the weather is more likely to make a difference.

By the time November and December roll around people will start thinking, "Am I really going to do this?" My bet is the answer is, no. And even the people who are stuck on Trump strike me as unlikely to trudge out in the middle of a cold winter's night to vote for him at a caucus.

But that leaves a couple of important questions. Who are these supporters of his and can they be used to a purpose other than Trump?

The answer to these questions depends on who you think they are.

Are they simply Trump Dead Enders who aren't really political people but like him on The Apprentice and are enjoying this new season of his show? Are they disaffected conservatives who have dropped out of the system but are coming back thanks to his outsider rantings? Are they raving racist lunatics who have finally heard the dog whistle they've been waiting for?

My guess, and it's just that for everyone at this point, is they are all of those things and more. As with so much else, we just aren't sure about the proportions. I will say the loud and obnoxious online racist types are probably the smallest of the cohort even if they are the most in your face if you live online. If that group is driving him to 20-25% in nearly every poll, the GOP has a really big problem.

To my mind the GOP and conservatives would be stupid to do nothing but insult and write off the low information-celebrity culture people Trump has looking at the GOP race right now. And the gettable but disaffected conservatives will only have their bias against the GOP confirmed if you say you aren't interested in them because they just aren't your kind of people.

Remember how in 2012 Romney "hit his numbers" but lost because Obama found new voters? Well, to one degree or another Trump seems to have found new voters and brought some old ones back to the table. Is this the ideal way to stumble on them? Not really. Is it better than not stumbling on them at all? I'd say yes.

Their politics might not make sense to you but that's your problem, not theirs. If you're expecting people to come to the party or the movement fully formed and as informed as people who have been dealing with these things for years and years you're saying, "no newcomers welcome".

The idea that pandering to voters or trying to win them over is beneath a candidate, party or movement seems rather odd. Last I checked neither the GOP nor the conservative movement was so flush with support they can afford to turn people away.

But maybe we could try before abandoning all hope? Keep in mind Trump announced his campaign two months ago. And his surge is more recent than that. Are we really saying, "well, we gave it the old college try but there's no reaching these people" already?

The GOP has been pushing amnesty for over a decade. When you point out that the new voters they want to make are overwhelmingly liberal, Republicans say, "Sure but we have to give them amnesty just for the chance to even sell them on conservatism. It'll take time but we're awesome sales people, we can do it!" Yet when it comes to blank slate voters enmeshed in the celebrity culture and culturally conservative leaning types ("bitter clingers" as someone once called them) who have been turned off by the GOP's leftward and corporatist drift, their attitude suddenly becomes, "Not our type of people darling. You just can't talk to them so best to tell them to die in a fire"?

The other side to Obama's "found voters" was the constant attempts to contact them in ways they, not Obama or Democrats, cared about. His campaign didn't insult them for not voting. Or tell them their concerns were stupid and they didn't understand how things worked. They used micro targeting to find out what motivated them and then aimed ads and personal contacts at them. It wasn't a one and done approach. It was a methodical effort to build a case as to why these people should become voters and vote for Obama (or against Romney). They weren't handed to Obama on a silver platter, he worked for them.

This idea that not only should people vote for your candidate but they should do so only if they can demonstrate a full understanding of and commitment to the party's values, is silly. A vote is a vote. When it comes time to declare winners and losers on election night, they don't ask why people voted for you, they ask how many.

Maybe the percentage of Trump voters who are new and reachable is so small it's not worth the effort to sort them out and discarding them all is the best way to go. Given the uncertainties of who they are, that might be right and reasonable. However, right now the margins are pretty thin for the GOP and conservatives are a minority within the party. Even if only a third or a quarter of Trump supporters are reachable and open to approach by someone else, it seems it's worth the effort and skipping the emotionally satisfying insults.

At the very least it seems wise to hold your fire until you know more.

Of course, as someone who has written off the GOP and most of the candidates running, my interest here is purely sporting. I'm sure the people that brought you the GOP as it currently exists know best. So forget I said anything.


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posted by DrewM. at 10:58 AM

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