Trump’s Appeal: Explaining The Trump Factor — And It’s Not What You Think

From real estate mogul to reality TV personality to presidential hopeful, Donald Trump had long been a controversial and colorful figure. Brash and rude, he has surprised almost everyone with his meteoric rise in the primaries, leaving many to wonder what makes him appeal to American voters. There is even a name for it — The Trump Factor.

He was not taken very seriously when the primaries race began — people loved to laugh at his hair and scorn his jingoism. But nobody is laughing now. Many Americans seem to be scared of the possibility that Trump will soon stand on a podium with his right hand on the Bible and vow to defend the constitution and faithfully serve the American people. Given his clearly stated views, there is no doubt that Trump would defend the constitution of the United States, nor is there any doubt that he would faithfully serve the people. His opponents ask, “at what cost?”

Are These Reasons For Trump’s Appeal?

He is an “America First” and a “Make America Great Again” type of man. His love for and loyalty to the country are unquestionable. This is not to say that the other candidates love America less or are less loyal. But Trump seems to be willing to shout that out from the rooftops and not apologize for it. He invites American citizens to be proud, once more, of being American. Is that enough to explain Trump’s appeal?

Trump says he wants to protect American jobs from illegal immigrants and to severely limit the number of Muslim immigrants the USA admits within her borders. His opponents accuse him of racism. However, with many factories closing their doors and middle-aged people forced to rejoin the job market, on the one hand, and fear of terrorism on the other, Donald seems to be offering them relief. Is that enough to explain Trump’s appeal?

Donald Trump calls things as he sees them. His opponents see him as uncouth. Apparently, many others see him as not bowing down to the dictates of contemporary political correctness. And they find this refreshing, hence his appeal — perhaps. Blogger W.J. Astore, however, wonders how long it will be before he says something unforgivable.

“Trump is prone to gaffes. The man will say almost anything: Women seeking an abortion deserve to be punished. Women reporters who challenge him are cranky from their period. Mexican immigrants are thugs and rapists. Muslims must be banned from the U.S. Terrorists’ families should be hunted down and killed. Protesters at his rallies should be punched and thrown out. And on and on. So far, Trump has been a Teflon candidate: His outlandish statements have not harmed him appreciably.”

Perhaps his ability to say whatever is on his mind however it occurs to him — and to get away with it — is part of Trump’s appeal. Perhaps some of The Trump Factor is due to his being a rich man who does not behave on stage with the dignity and reserve the public may expect of rich men. That may make him seem more real, more honest, less the trickster politician many Americans (and indeed people around the world) have grown to expect of their leaders to a degree.

Trump at a rally - Trump's appeal to voters
Trump at a rally in Charleston, West Virginia. [Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images]
Apparently, Trump does not really care what other people say about him, as long as he can manage to pull along enough of the electorate to get a chance at the keys to the White House. It raises the question if Trump, himself, ever believed he would get this far in the primaries. Given his high opinion of himself, it is possible that, from the start, Donald J. Trump has long believed he will one day sit in the Oval Office. Self-confidence can be appealing as well.

According to an analysis by Ana Swanson of the Washington Post, Trump’s businesses combine access to his parents’ fortune, talent in real estate, megalomaniac branding of his name, and some questionable ventures perhaps bordering on criminality.

“His business decisions over the years show that Trump is a mix of braggadocio, business failures, and real success.”

In other words, he is human — he has made mistakes. Is part of The Trump Factor admitting he is not perfect? Admitting that he has made errors?

Actually, The Trump Factor May Be Something Else Entirely

It seems to be generally accepted that Trump’s appeal pertains to the white working class voters without a college education. At least, it is most comfortable to think that. If Trump promises to keep jobs in America, for example, and uneducated working class people are losing their jobs, then obviously they will support him even if he is thought by others to be a despicable racist.

A study by Jonathan Weiler, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Global Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, revealed something else. Weiler and Ph.D. candidate, Matthew C. MacWilliams, found that Trump’s appeal reaches across the socioeconomic divide. You cannot distinguish Trump supporters on the basis of race, income, education or employment. Rather, the Trump Factor involves authoritarianism, the wish for someone to take hold of the reins and lead. The authoritarian personality prefers clarity over ambiguity and a well-defined social structure. Trump does seem to offer that.

Will The Trump Factor Stand The Test Of Time?

As his candidacy for president seems certain at this time, Trump will have to widen his appeal if he is to have a chance at the White House. That means he would need to maintain his appeal to those who need clarity and honesty and improve on those areas that make him so disliked by his opponents. Can Trump gradually soften his image without compromising his values?

Can he learn the military and foreign affairs materials that will make him a worthy debater on the campaign circuit and appear more presidential? If he gathers around him the right advisors, and if he listens to them, he may well draw on traditional Democrat voters.

If not, at least he has been a good source of jokes (for non-Americans, in any case). And that is another part of the Trump appeal that one should not minimize.

Want To Learn More About The Trump Factor?

You can take a course this summer at Savannah State University called, “The Trump Factor in American Politics.” And you can take an online test to assess how much Trump Factor you possess. I got a score that showed I am a Soft Donald. Please don’t think that means anything about my political leanings; see what you get — for the fun of it.

[Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images]

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