Monday, August 10, 2015

The World Wide Wrestling Phase of the Election Cycle

Donald Trump: He leads all Republican candidates for President
(Daily Kos photo)
In the summer heat, seven months before the first primaries, we often see fringe politicians polling ahead of the pack. Presently we have Donald Trump and his toupee leading all Republican contenders. We expect him to disappear by the time the voting starts.

What accounts for the Donald's success now?

Over at Don's Basement, Don Shearn (no toupee, very smart, often very funny, a poet, and much more inventive and interesting than I am) surmises that perhaps it's zombie voters listening to too much right wing talk radio, who are drawn to the Donald and his toupee for the substance now--but who, by the time the voting starts, will realize that he is really not a nice man (although they will still like the substance).

As I read Don's Basement piece, another theory occurred to me: the WWF phase of politics.

Although I can't say I know why one in five Republican voters like Trump and his toupee at this time, I think I know better why Rush Limbaugh, the top conservative radio talk host (with 13.5 million unique listeners every week) does what he does: it draws listeners. Why does Limbaugh draw listeners? He's entertaining. Do listeners take the political "arguments" Rush Limbaugh makes seriously, or are they drawn to him the same way they are drawn to the spectacle of WWF wrestling?

Here's my theory, and tell me what's wrong with it.  Rush Limbaugh's listeners know he is a fake; but what a show! Fans of WWF know the wrestling is fake; but what a show! Is the summer before the first primaries the WWF wrestling phase of elections? Maybe buffoon politicians fizzle out when the voting gets real because the 23% of registered Republican voters who are cheering for Trump's toupee now, know he is a fake, just like they know deep down that Rush Limbaugh is just an entertainer. The reason buffoon politicians fade away as we get towards the actual voting is that when it comes to voting, the 23% of Republicans who are cheering for the Donald and his toupee now, are doing so for entertainment value. When it comes time for them to cast their vote, they are in fact considerably more sober about it.


  1. I agree that people listen to Rush because he is entertaining. I disagree that most people who listen to him think he is a fake.
    In that respect, you can compare him to Jon Stewart. He is (was) entertaining but was he a fake.
    They are both entertainers. Neither started out to be the pundit-Americans that they became.
    The Rush listeners et al are often in the camp of "he is saying things that I feel."
    It is difficult for many liberal/left people to believe that there are people out and about the country who do feel that "political correctness" is a stifling attack on their liberty.
    Trump will lose not because people think he is a fake conservative. Ultimately, he will lose because there are enough Evangelical Christian Conservatives who believe he is a sinner.
    Now, if Trump confesses and admits his sins...then we'll have to revisit the argument.

  2. Although I agree that both Limbaugh and Stewart are entertainers and that both viewing publics respond with "he is saying what I feel", I don't think they are birds of a feather: Stewart is much more earnest about the substance.

    We are, of course, speaking in a factual void here. A brief search has not brought me to good social science research that answers this question. I will keep on the lookout.

    This is not Trump's first rodeo. He has been a political candidate before, and has been a known quantity for many years. So I don't buy the explanation that the 23% of Republican support he has now will evaporate because people will have an epiphany between now and February that he is a "sinner." If Trump is a "sinner" he is a "sinner now." What explains the support for this sinner today, but not in February? Now if Trump starts winning primaries... then we'll have to revisit the argument. :)