Unraveling the Trump Enigma

To the astonishment of everyone except Donald Trump, the pretentious billionaire has singlehandedly commandeered the 2016 presidential election, leading the Republican pack right out of the gates. Trump has managed to instantly alienate if not outright enrage nearly every conservative powerbroker from congress to conservative talk radio. In taking the immediate, commanding lead in the Republican race for the White House, he has nearly every expert scratching their heads in absolute astonishment and disbelief. Literally, no one saw the Donald coming. The question for the moment is: why? The follow-on question is, of course: what next?

The "why" question is rather simple and will only further serve to exasperate the Republican leadership in congress. Donald Trump has commanded the early lead specifically because of the Republican majority in Congress. Trump’s supporters are self-defining themselves as disaffected, disillusioned conservatives that expected the new so-called ‘conservative’ majority in congress to radically change the status quo as soon as they took the reins of power, just as they promised they would do. When they failed to deliver and defund ObamaCare when they had the clear opportunity, along with significantly and meaningfully addressing immigration, the conservative base was outraged and felt betrayed by those in power. Trump’s instant popularity is clearly sending a message to Congress -- if Congress does not do what it promised and what the GOP base elected it to do, then the Republican grassroots will accomplish their desires through a Donald Trump presidency.

There is a rather curious, if not altogether entertaining, aura of disbelief in the Republican offices inside the Beltway today. While the conservative leadership in Congress controls everything with an iron fist, the electorate is certainly not so encumbered. The pompous, in-your-face arrogance of politics-as-usual is not resonating at all with the conservative base and Donald Trump has become their single point barometer. The good old boys party has just been crashed by the bombastic persona of Donald Trump and his take-no-prisoners -- ‘you’re fired’ -- style of campaigning. His candidacy has all the elements of the perfect storm descending on Washington and the hapless career politicians and their media minions are all resorting to mudslinging and various talking point obscenities while battening down the hatches. There is scarcely a single Republican office in DC that has not been forced on the defensive trying to explain away the hurricane with open mouth and out of control hair that appeared roaring up the Potomac with zero warning. 

On a daily basis, the conservative and liberal media forecast that Trump’s popularity is but a flash-in-the pan enigma that has finally peaked.  But poll after poll proves them wrong -- his popularly is actually expanding in the near-total vacuum of leadership that clearly defines 21st century Washington politics. 

But the prognosticators are all misdiagnosing the Trump phenomenon based on incorrect assumptions, further adding to their habitual malpractice. With their noses far too close to the science of DC politics, they miss the reality that Trump’s popularly is not based at all on their isolated view of political and party substance but it is instead fueled and fully energized by their own failure on public display engendered by their unconcealed duplicity. Trump’s success has been created out of the undisguised loathing of the Republican base for their leadership and their conspicuous failure to deliver on what they promised to be elected and reelected. The conservative voter is not just responding to Trump simply telling them what they want to hear -- Trump is promising to step into the duplicitous morass and actually provide key element by key element exactly what their elected representatives promised but egregiously failed to deliver.

But it is still very early in the process. With so many viable candidates still in the running, eventually individual substance will actually gel in the mind of the electorate. In the coming months prior to the first state caucuses, the granularity of the field will improve and begin to take shape. It is in this defining and refining progression that Trump will hold onto his early lead or he will fade. At this point, every single dollar on the bookmaking table is on this reduction process removing Trump early on and nearly every professional political odds maker is foretelling that Trump will soon fade and drop out in this winnowing process in a matter of the next few weeks. The money is all on the electorate eventually waking up to see Trump ‘for what he really is’. He has been defined by the partisan professionals as a liberal, as an opportunist, as a chronic issues flip-flopper and as a television showman with abysmal intellectual or policy substance and even a fascist-socialist!  Hence, as the prevailing Washington wisdom has already predetermined, he cannot last and will soon reveal himself for the Elmer Gantry he really is and flame out, opening up the field of hopefuls with actual substance to finish the race.

What this philosophy has overlooked is the very force de l'énergie that has driven Trump to his current status as the clear Republican frontrunner: anger, resentment, and betrayal. These are three of the most powerful of all human emotions. In these three sentiments lie the unfortunate fate of the established politicians in the race. Because of the duplicity of the 114th congress, their fate is already sealed. A betrayed conservative electorate will never allow career politicians to win the nomination, regardless of substance or their politicized version of a track record. And if the political machines of the caucuses force one of these into the convention again, the conservative voters will sit the election out or they will vote third party and the Democrats are certain to win the White House… again, and for the exact same reasons as before. Nothing can change that reality now. Once deceived, the memory of the emotional power is not soon lost. It is clearly now all about the emotional response of the conservative base to the treachery of the incumbents in power, and that raw passion is not likely to change. Indeed, all that passion has already been organized and focused into political energy very early in the process. If not Trump, the best the Republican Party can hope for in 2016 is a Carson, Fiorina, or Senator Ted Cruz -- the latter representing the only incumbent candidate who has kept the integrity of his promises by having to openly rebel against his ham-fisted handlers in Congress.

Dr. Dennis Chamberland is an engineer, scientist, writer, and explorer.

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