August 15, 2015


Trumpismo and its limits (The Economist, Aug 12th 2015)

It may be working for now, but it's doubtful that Trumpismo can prevail in America's peculiar two-party primary system. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Mr Trump is most popular among less-educated Republican voters, but does poorly with those with college degrees. A standard finding of political scientists who study public opinion is that the views of well-educated, "high-information" voters tend to closely mirror those of agenda-setting party elites. By comparison, the views of less-educated, "low-information" voters are all over the map.

The evidence that Mr Trump is a "fake" conservative will hurt him among well-educated Republicans who stay on top of current events. But the voters to whom the famous Mr Trump owes his success in the polls are those least likely to know or care about his lack of consistency with the standard party line. This gives Mr Trump a great deal of room to say whatever he likes, so long as he promises vaguely to make America great again and comes down hard on the Hispanic immigrants low-skilled white voters worry are suppressing their wages and taking "their" jobs.
The problem for Mr Trump is that he's unlikely to prevail in the long run with so little support among better-educated primary voters. Trumpismo is an excellent way to ignite enthusiasm among angry, low-information voters and grab a commanding early lead over a huge, fractured field. But a political party is a coalition of interest groups, and a party platform is the negotiated consensus of the party's vital constituencies. Candidates neglect that consensus at their peril.

The support of party elites is currently divided among an unusual surfeit of strong candidates. By winter, establishment power brokers and party activists will have begun to coalesce behind two or three durable and well-financed prospects who have proven loyal and effective defenders of the party's platform, at which point the real contest will begin. August front-runners usually drop toward the back of the pack by December.

Posted by at August 15, 2015 3:48 PM

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