Donald Trump's Secret Sauce? Optimism

Donald Trump continues to lead in national polls, confounding the political and media establishment that has been predicting his imminent implosion and demise. Whether it was his comments on illegal immigrants, or John McCain’s POW status, his dust up with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, or his criticism of Carly Fiorina’s face, he gathers strength like a hurricane over warm water, rather than fizzling and blowing out to sea.

Explanations include his brash, no nonsense style. Speaking to the issues near and dear to the “silent majority” who are fed up with the status quo. Talking back to the media rather than genuflecting to the big networks as most other candidates do. Or the fact that Trump can’t be bought. Running his campaign using his own money won’t indenture him to special interests, in contrast to every other candidate.

Another reason is that he is a political outsider, never having held elected office. This theory is buttressed by Ben Carson, another political outsider, sitting in second place. Trump, although running as a Republican, is not part of the establishment. The same Republican establishment aiding and abetting the Obama agenda, providing no opposition and making constant excuses for their feckless inability to promote an alternative agenda.

Trump is not Ronald Reagan, even though some make that comparison.  And he is not a pure conservative. Yet he has the support of the evangelical voters. And 25 percent of the Black vote in a recent poll. Although these are only snapshot polls and the election is more than a year away, it’s confounding conventional wisdom.

What’s the common denominator? Optimism.

Listen to a Trump speech and you will hear optimism. That the myriad problems facing America, both domestic and abroad, are solvable. Trump has plans. They may be thin on specifics, or at first glance, impractical, but regardless of the issue, he promises, “I’ll fix it.” He will fix our crumbling infrastructure. He will fix the terrible Iran nuclear agreement. He will fix the inept VA hospital system. He will fix the crony lobbying system.

What do establishment Republicans say instead? They say we can’t. McConnell can’t defund Planned Parenthood. Boehner can’t stop the Iran deal.

Maybe Trump is blowing smoke, but in listening to him, I feel optimistic. Finally, there is a chance of something changing. And for the better.

Eight years of George W Bush ushered in the eight years of Barack Obama. And the realization of his goal to, “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” This transformation includes Obamacare, an expanding welfare state, a rudderless foreign policy, and social upheaval. “We need control of Congress to stop Obama” was what Republicans told us. In 2010, they won the House. “We need the Senate too” they told us and in 2012 we gave them that. To what end? What is there to be optimistic about for the future?

Controversial cabinet appointees sail through Senate confirmation. Government spending keeps rising. Laws aren’t being enforced. Obama is bypassing the Constitution, with Congressional assistance, in dealing with Iran. Voters are understandably pessimistic that anything will change for the better.

In rides Donald Trump, brash and confident, saying “enough is enough.” Things will change. He will fix things. Optimism. Without caveats and provisos of what is practical, separation of powers, and other upfront excuses for why things don’t seem to ever change with Republicans.

Voters are drawn to a vision of optimism. Remember Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” ad in 1984? Fresh, simple, and optimistic. Reagan’s optimism reached across the aisle, to the “Reagan Democrats” who helped propel him to a landslide victory.

Again, I’m not saying Trump is Reagan, but like Reagan, what Trump brings to the election is optimism. 71 percent of Americans are unhappy with the country’s direction. That’s pessimism. Voters will be drawn to an optimistic message like moths to a street light.

Barack Obama tapped into this same feeling in 2008 with his “hope and change” message, endearing him to an electorate eager for a new direction from the Bush years. Despite the fact that Obama provided little of either during his presidency, the emotion behind hope and change is compelling.

Even the cheap Donald Trump hats project optimism.  Nothing fancy other than the words “Make America Great Again.”

Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” That in a nutshell explains Trump’s success. Optimism. He is confident and voters have hope. The shame is that this message continues to be lost on most of the Republican party.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon and writer. Follow him on Facebook  and Twitter.