This week, a new CNN survey showed that despite the national outrage over the Confederate flag, a majority of Americans view it as “a symbol of Southern pride” rather than a “symbol of racism.” The poll results contrasted sharply with CNN’s editorial approach to the flag, which had been to inflame public opinion around the issue.
Much the same is happening with Donald Trump, the billionaire Republican running for president: the media hate him, but he is surging in GOP polls.
The left has a convenient, and false, explanation for all of this: America is racist, and the Republican Party is even more racist, so the racists in the party are rallying around him. More sophisticated observers might allow that some of Trump’s appeal to the party is the fact that he is willing to stand up to the media in the face of staggering pressure–boycotts, threats, and ridicule– when other Republican figures fold at the first sign of a challenge.
But there is another reason for his appeal: Trump is speaking for a large group of Americans who are ignored by the political system.
Take, for example, his now-infamous comments about Mexican immigrants:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
There is so much that is wrong with that statement that it is difficult to know where to begin. He fails to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. He says Mexico is “sending” people who are usually leaving on their own volition. He allows that “some” Mexican immigrants are good people, rather than giving “most” the benefit of the doubt. Worst of all, there is that jarring refrain: “They’re not sending you.” Who is the “you” to whom he refers? The implications are troubling.
And yet look at what happened in San Francisco this week.
A 31-year-old woman–young, beautiful, hard-working, loved by many–was gunned down at random while sightseeing with her family. They watched her suffer before she passed away at the hospital. The man suspected of killing her has been deported five times and has seven felony convictions, but he was on the street because local authorities have decided to push immigration reform by ignoring federal deportation requests.
Who speaks for the victim and her family?
Not the elected officials of San Francisco. Not the Democratic Party or its most likely presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who has vowed to expand President Barack Obama’s pro-amnesty policies. Not the Republican Party leadership, which is determined to pass immigration reform in a well-intended but misguided effort to stanch the bleeding of Latino support.
The media recite the growing list of companies that have cut ties with Trump, as if expecting him to back down. Those joining in include the City of New York, whose hapless far-left mayor, Bill de Blasio, threatened to cut Trump’s contracts with the city.
As numerous legal experts have pointed out, de Blasio’s threats are entirely unconstitutional and violate the First Amendment. But Instead of rallying around Trump as a victim of censorship, the media keep piling on the pressure.
Trump deserves better–even if his remarks about Mexicans do smack of bigotry, even if his policies are strange, even if his Birther crusade back in 2011 was ugly and offensive.
Recall that in 2009, when the media rounded on Miss California for daring to support traditional marriage, it was Trump–not quite an “out” Republican–who stood up for her when few would.
No one is stepping up to defend him now that he is the target. But instead of shrinking from the fight, he embraces it.
Trump is filling a vacuum on immigration, and other issues. He is also providing the kind of spirited opposition voters are craving–including the 10,000 who packed a stadium in Madison, Wisconsin to hear no-hope candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speak this week.
Elsewhere in Wisconsin, President Obama blasted Republicans on economic policy, days after they gave him “fast-track” authority on trade. When cooperation is so rudely punished, demand for opposition grows.
And so Trump is providing it. He is not just campaigning, but selling a product–opposition–to Americans who, rich or poor, enjoy more power as consumers than they ever will as voters. They might not actually vote for him, but they are rewarding him with attention–and high poll numbers.
The media do not understand consumers, which is why so many outlets are failing. But Trump “gets it”: his companies not only provide value for investors, but good service to customers.
Voters know they are not “getting value” from either party–or the media. He is a long shot to win, but Trump is challenging the D.C. monopolies. And they hate it.