Understanding Trump’s Rise to the Top: The Lowest-Hanging Fruit Meets the Lowest Common Denominator

I routinely run into people who express disbelief that someone like Donald Trump could ascend to the top of the political world, become the nominee of a major political party, and be put in a position where he has a real shot of becoming the next leader of the free world. Sure enough, with just one week to Election Day, we are faced with the possibility that he could win. How could this have happened?

Trump’s political strategy has combined two tactics: (1) Identify the lowest-hanging political fruit and (2) Use that “fruit” to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the voting public. That is, you create the simplest message possible, which is designed to appeal to the least educated and least informed among us. And we see this at every Trump rally on an almost daily basis. Trump delivers uniquely-simple stump speeches to throngs of uneducated white people. We have yet to see if this strategy is enough to get Trump to the Oval Office; but even if he loses; his strategy has been a frighteningly-effective one.

At the root of Trump’s political strategy lies a very simple tactic: Look at the world and point out the imperfect. That’s the Trump strategy in a nutshell. We hear this strategy verbalized at all of his rallies. He routinely says things like, “Look around…,” “Just look…,” “Everyone can see…,” “Everyone knows…,” etc.

In a world chalk full of challenges, it does not take an intellectual giant to identify problems, especially as they pertain to the lives of everyday Americans. In a country where people have inflated senses of self-worth and where they are taught that they deserve happiness, it’s gratifying for them to identify scapegoats for their imperfect lives. Rather than approach problems in a thoughtful way and identify the multifactorial nature of an imperfect system, it’s easier to imagine that someone larger than life will swoop down, save them from their troubled realities, and offer up the American Dream that always seems to elude them.

People could invest the energy to learn and understand how various business interests, geopolitical interests, and big money interests have helped mold a political landscape that largely works against the American middle class. Unfortunately, learning takes effort—a resource Americans are too often reticent to use. So what’s an easier way? What’s the path of least resistance for a collectively-lazy electorate? Answer: Identify problems and point fingers.

Think about the tiny amount of intellectual prowess it takes to implement this political strategy. Looking out any window in America, any person is likely to see something that could be improved upon. Finding a scapegoat for these problems is even easier. Can’t find work? Blame illegal immigrants. Increased racial tension? Blame liberals for not

honoring our police officers. Increased global terrorism? Blame Obama’s soft spot for Muslims and his inability to say the words “Islamic terrorism.” Poor schools? Blame Common Core and the teachers’ union. Low GDP? Blame overregulation and high business taxes. Shrinking middle class? Blame illegal immigrants for taking jobs (a common theme) and blame taxes for being too high (another common theme). Degradation of society? Blame liberal activist judges. The loss of American values? Liberals again. Christmas under attack? Liberals hate God. Government not honest or trustworthy? Blame Hillary.

You see how this works. Every complex problem in America, real or manufactured, can be boiled down to a simple bumper sticker-sized sentence where blame inevitably falls on liberals.

Identifying problems is fine, but one of the things political candidates are supposed to do is offer us ideas for a different direction. There are no real solutions posited by Team Trump, only vague promises to enforce law and order, improve the economy, fix the healthcare system, repair our schools, strengthen the military, etc. When pressed on anything resembling a detail, Trump lets a plan slip that is so ridiculous, if any other person was to say it, it would be taken as an obvious joke (e.g. build a giant wall and have Mexico pay for it; locate, apprehend, and export millions of illegal immigrants; ban Muslims from entering the country; prosecute women for getting abortions; etc.).

On a side note, if conservatives want to blame Obama and Hillary Clinton for destroying this once-great country, they’re going to have to explain what role Republicans played in our nation’s demise. For the last six years, we’ve had a Democratic president, but we’ve also had a Republican-controlled US House, a Republican-controlled US Senate, a large majority of governorships belonging to Republicans, a majority of state senates controlled by Republicans, a majority of state houses controlled by Republicans, and until the death of Antonin Scalia earlier this year, a Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court.

For people struggling to achieve the American dream, I understand the allure of Trump, and I can appreciate the temptation to blame others. However, the irony is not lost on me that the Party of personal responsibility can’t seem to stop blaming others for all of their problems.

The problem we have before us is that we have a significant portion of Americans who are angry, uninformed, and hungry for a leader to tell them who to blame for their problems. The long-term solution is to create a more informed and more educated electorate. The short-term solution is ensure that we don’t encourage, endorse, or elect Donald Trump (or anyone like him) to any public office. Don’t forget to vote!

– Nathan

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