One of Donald Trump’s shrewdest moves this election cycle may have been embracing the “mantle of anger” a day after Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley implored voters to “resist the siren call of the angriest voices” in her self-loathing response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union.
It showed that Trump’s political instincts are better than those of the GOP establishment/punditocracy that love to lose elections so long as they are able to control their respective intellectual/political fiefdoms. And it may be a key reason why Trump wins Iowa with an expected record turnout tonight and potentially the GOP nomination.
The day after Haley’s address, Trump said he is “very angry because I hate what’s happening to our country.” At the Fox Business GOP debate, Trump said he is “angry at stupidity” and “incompetence.” He recently told Iowans that he will be “angry” until illegal immigration is controlled. And he has said that he would “gladly embrace” the “mantle of anger.”
Trump needs to galvanize voters outside of the political system—many of whom are livid at politicians of both parties who represent the permanent political class—to vote for him, and anger may be the force that drives them to the polls even during a snowstorm.
A 2011 University of Michigan study found that anger actually motivates people to vote.
“Anger in politics can play a particularly vital role, motivating some people to participate in ways they might ordinarily not,” Nicholas Valentino, the study’s lead author and a professor of communication studies and political science, said. “We normally think people with a lot of resources and political skills are the ones who participate, but many citizens in this category regularly abstain from politics. Furthermore, many citizens with few resources can be mobilized if they experience strong anger.”
Valentino added that “anger leads citizens to harness existing skills and resources in a given election. Therefore, the process by which emotions are produced in each campaign can powerfully alter electoral outcomes.”
A recent McClatchy report pointed out that “in interviews with dozens of voters in both parties” in Iowa, “the driving motivation across the state is anger and uprising. They’re fed up with lawmakers in Washington, who seem to work two or three days a week and get little done aside from raising money to stay in office. They’re mad about stagnant wages, companies sending jobs overseas and terrorists sneaking in across the border.” The report concluded that “the rage is driving the campaigns of the ‘outsiders.’”
One potential Iowa voter, a 66-year-old retired factory worker, told the outlet that “the whole country is going to hell.” McClatchy noted that his “fury is deep” because “roads and bridges in the U.S. are falling apart, jobs are scarce and the U.S. border is wide open.” He is likely to vote for Trump.
“We’re letting all these people into the country. No one even knows who the hell they are,” he told the outlet. “We don’t need any more Arabs. The United States… is just a dumping ground for everyone.”
Reuters recently observed that “the 2016 election is shaping up to be the year of angry voters, the disgruntled Americans shaking up the establishment by fueling the presidential campaigns of two very different candidates – billionaire businessman Donald Trump and self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders.” A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that “some 73 percent of voters likely to head to the polls in November’s election say they think the United States is on the wrong track,” including 87% of voters who support Trump. Reuters pointed out that “angry Americans” are “whiter, poorer, and less educated” and “they are less likely to support a candidate who has been involved in politics.”
According to a recent Monmouth University poll, more than 6-in-ten Americans believe that all (9%) or most (53%) of their fellow citizens are angry with Washington.
Even the New Yorker recently noted that “one of Trump’s great successes is in attracting people who are otherwise alienated from the political process” and most of Trump’s supporters “were people struggling to get by in an economy they no longer understand.” One Trump supporter told the New Yorker that, “We’re not racist… We’re not prejudiced. We just love everybody. But we’re tired of being run over.”
The Republican establishment and career Beltway pundits (see: Reformicons, emphasis on “cons”) have allergic reactions to anybody admitting that Americans should be “angry” at anything. Things are going swimmingly for them since they benefit from the status quo that candidates like Trump want to upend. But perhaps these Republican establishment types are not as dumb as they look. Maybe they do know that anger will drive voters outside of the traditional political process to vote for politicians—like Trump—who will put them out of business and actually oppose policies like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and comprehensive amnesty legislation that benefit their underwriters.