Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Man of the Hour

Paul Krugman questions what he sees as the conventional conservative and liberal explanations of Donald Trumps support and offers one of his own.  I agree that the two he questions--that people mistakenly believe Trump is a real conservative and that he appeals to the white working class--are implausible.  Krugman proposes that Trumpism is a continuation of the Tea Party--it appeals to "angry, fairly affluent white racists."  One problem with this explanation is that the Tea Party movement wasn't particularly about race (see this post for some evidence).  Another is that Trump hasn't said much about race.  But what about immigration--isn't that a "coded" appeal to racism?  In the general public, opposition to immigration and anti-black racism aren't closely connected--immigration is an issue in its own right.  Beyond immigration, Trump is an economic nationalist:  he sees a competition among nations in which America is losing (in fact, his most inflammatory comment on immigration was directed at the Mexican government).  This is a position that has little support among political elites, but is popular among the public.  Trump's other major theme is his contempt for politics and politicians, which puts him in line with public sentiment.  Some of the other candidates are trying to make a similar appeal, but one of the things that average voters dislike most about politics is conflict.  When Ted Cruz threatens to shut down the government, he thinks he's taking a stand against politics as usual; most voters think he's engaging in politics as usual.

This combination of appeals is a lot like Ross Perot's in 1992, so my guess is that Trump's supporters are similar to Perot's, which I wrote about in this post.  I would also guess that he has a strong appeal to self-employed people, who would be more likely to think that someone with business experience could straighten things out in Washington.  I don't remember much about Perot's campaign, but my general impression is that he wasn't a particularly compelling candidate, but his support held up pretty well over the course of the campaign.

While I'm at it, here are my probabilities for various candidates winning the Republican nomination:

1.  Jeb Bush                              40%
2.  Marco Rubio                        20%
3.  John Kasich                         15%
4.  Other declared candidates   12.5%
5.  Not yet declared                  12.5%

I'll explain those in a later post.

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