Donald Trump

A Different Policy Agenda Won't Win Over Donald Trump's Supporters

New endorsements from GOP representatives make clear that Trump backers don't care about policy.

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Gage skidmore / Foter

If you want to understand the essence of Donald Trump's appeal, look to California Republican Duncan Hunter endorsement.

"We don't need a policy wonk as president. We need a leader as president," Hunter told Politico this morning. Hunter's endorsement, one of the first for Trump from a sitting representative, makes explicit a point I tried to make yesterday: Policy is utterly irrelevant to Trump's campaign.

It's not that Trump's supporters don't have issues they care about; immigration is certainly a priority, as are jobs, health care, and trade. But even the most basic policy details are unimportant to both Trump and his fans. Instead, they are attracted to his attitude and to his rhetoric. As New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins said in his endorsement yesterday, he likes Trump because he has "guts and fortitude." Trump's supporters view him as strong and capable and direct, and that's enough.

That is why I am somewhat skeptical when I see pundits and political analysts argue, as Ross Douthat of The New York Times does today, that, in the aftermath of a Trump nomination, the voters Trump is now winning could be brought over to a more conventional Republican party candidate through the advocacy of a policy agenda.

So in a post-Trump-as-nominee landscape Republicans will face a pretty clear choice: Either continue to ride the tiger, or try to actually craft an agenda that might appeal pan-ethnically, to middle-class Hispanics and blacks as well as Rust Belt whites. And for all that I make mock of the party's donors and consultants, at bottom I'm confident they don't want Trumpism, they don't want to work for a trending-toward-ethno-nationalism party, they don't want to go through this agony every four or eight years. So I think there will be some real impetus, in the wake of a Donald-wrought degringolade, to actually try some new things — things that might not work, yes, but if they did work could actually succeed in bringing a better Republican Party out of the Trumpian wreckage.

Douthat is right, I think, that a Trump victory in the GOP nominating contest could spur panic and innovation in the Republican party, a willingness amongst politicians, donors, and intellectuals alike to experiment, and perhaps even to reexamine some of the party's most cherished and long-held ideas. And that sort of experimentation and change, born from hitting bottom, could be interesting and perhaps even valuable for a party too stuck in its ways. 

The problem is that there's precious little evidence that policy-focused experimentation would be successful at winning over the Trump enthusiasts who are currently driving the candidate's primary wins. Yes, it's true that a Trump victory in the primary would prove that sticking with party dogma on key policy issues isn't necessary to winning the GOP nomination. But what Trump's campaign really suggests is not so much that the GOP agenda is wrong but that policy agendas don't matter much at all.

Trump barely understands the policies he talks about, blatantly lies about the positions he's held and the policies he has proposed, and he has cynically switched positions enough times on enough issues that anyone who is looking for a particular policy or coherent policy agenda, or even the suggestion of one, would have jumped off the Trump-train a long time ago.

But as Hunter's endorsement makes clear, Trump's supporters are looking for no such thing. They are backing Trump based on generalized dissatisfaction with the political status quo and long-simmering cultural resentments that cannot be easily satisfied with white paper solutions and legislative tweaks.

Indeed, what many of his supporters appear to like about Trump is that he is not running a policy-focused campaign. So the problem with trying to win his voters over with a new and better policy agenda wouldn't be the specifics of the agenda but with the basic fact that it's a policy agenda.

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  1. Jesus, Suderman, how many times does John have to say it? Trump supporters just *know* that politicians’ promises on policy mean nothing, and that they’re just super down with that. Get with it!

    http://www.FedGovurMom.com

    1. ‘Server not found’.

    2. I still think you need a Suderman fan club youtube channel. You seem to have a real gift for this stuff. It always makes me laugh anyway.

        1. Not well enough for an edit button, though.

          1. Oh I get it!

            Thanks for making me feel like an idiot.

    3. One of these days (in about 2 years) all of you dimwit Libertarians are going to realize that Trump is as close to God as we will ever see on this earth.

      And you can take that to the bank!

      1. If you have been trolling us all this time as a genuine Trumpalo, well played.

  2. Is Bernie pretending that he is going to implement $3 trillion in healthcare spending a legitimate policy proposal?

    I also loath how the conservative consultant speaks. No principles there. We just need to generate our policy based on what could appeal to enough people so we can win elections. No shock there, of course.

    1. Promising the world is a form of policy.

    2. Easier than slicing a loath of breade!

  3. We need a leader as president,

    Barf. No we don’t need a leader, period. The president is supposed to run the executive branch, not be the king. I don’t want a leader, just someone to do the job required by the constitution and shut the fuck up.

    1. A-men.

    2. I agree Zeb. It is almost as if Trump is just not the right kind of top man or something.

      1. It is almost as if Trump is just not the right kind of top man or something.

        What do you mean by this?

        1. An African or a European swallow?

          1. In my experience, both do.

            1. “Well, I never…”

            2. *stands and applauds*

              1. Are you suggesting that an African swallow can carry a 1 pound coconut? It’s a simple question of weight ratios!

            3. HM, are you talking about an African-American, or a Nigerian prince?

  4. Trump got 46% of Hispanic voters in Nevada. Trump is in numerous polls pulling more black voters than any Republican Candidate since Eisenhower. So how exactly is his platform “ethno nationalist”, whatever the fuck that made up buzz word means?

    I think Sudderman confuses a class based party with an ethnic based one. I am sorry Peter, it is not that Trump’s supporters hate blacks and Mexicans. It is that they hate people like you.

    1. It is that they hate people like you.

      That is the sound of a 2×4 hitting a forehead.

    2. It is that they hate people like you.

      We get it John. You’ll be jeering and throwing things at Suder-man as he’s led into the Trump Camps, also known as Trumps. I’m sure you’ll look very snappy in that gold-festooned uniform.

      Go easy on the nightstick, will ya?

      1. No silly, I will be running the camp. I won’t have time to be jeering the arriving inmates.

        1. It’s important to have goals in life.

          [shakes fist] SuderMAN!

          1. Oh that is not a goal. It is a certainty.

            1. Commander, Trumplag 13.

    3. Thats basically it. Trump’s big appeal is he says the things elitist snobs say you’re not allowed to say, and the more they attack him, the more that appeal grows.

      He’s voice for people who feel like they’ve been bullied by the PC crowd.

      1. He’s voice for people who feel like they’ve been bullied by the PC crowd.

        So it is OK for me to call them babies?

        1. The PC crowd? Sure.

      2. I’m all in favor of letting people say offensive things that elitist snobs don’t like. I just don’t respond by electing those people to the office of the President.
        You’re confusing the difference between tolerating offensive speech and approving of offensive speech.

      3. I agree but for different reasons. By saying the stuff he has said, he has burned his bridges to reversing any policy utterances (ie lying before the election). It’s not some meaningless anti-PC ‘breath of fresh air’. Trump’s supporters have not ‘been bullied by the PC crowd’. They’ve been gutted by cronyist trade pacts sold as ‘free trade’ and failure to enforce existing immigration laws – by elitists in both parties who think of themselves as ‘global citizens’ rather than ‘American’.

        Nationalists (and all of Trump’s outrageousness is nothing but raw nationalism) can tend to be minimalists. Trump is not running to be President of the ‘indispensable country’ or the ‘free world’ or any other idealistic interventionist Wilsonian crap. This part of his appeal could quite easily be adopted by a libertarian as well – except that most libertarians are more globally idealistic and unrealistic than even Marxists.

        Of course nationalists can also tend towards internally authoritarian as hell – and Trump is certainly stretching into that direction too. But since he is the only nationalist in the race, that is more the fault of everyone else in the race who is quite deliberately ignoring the group of voters that Trump is speaking to. So Trump is free to do/say whatever he wants with no electoral consequence.

    4. “Trump got 46% of Hispanic voters in Nevada.”

      46% of Latinos who attended the Republican caucuses and took an exit poll. That is an extremely small snapshot of the total Latino population. Polling consistently shows he has a net favorability rating between -50 and -60 among Latinos nationally. That is historically awful.

      1. Sure. But so what? Whatever that number is it is more than zero isn’t it? How can you square him getting any of the Latino vote with the claim that he is an “ethno nationalist movement”?

        You can’t. Suderman just claims it is because doing so is an easy way to dismiss it.

        1. Maybe Latinos are less educated and more likely to have watched Trump’s TV show.

      2. In this poll at least he is getting 40% of the Hispanic vote and 20% of the black vote.

        http://www.independentsentinel…..m-serious/

        Maybe it is an outlier. It probably is but even so, it can’t be that much of an outlier. Even if he got half of that, you could not fairly call him an ehtno nationalist movement.

        1. Trump hasn’t run an explicitly ethno-nationalist campaign, I would agree with that, but he has definitely courted those voters with many of his statements and positions. And there’s ample evidence that those people disproportionately support Trump. You can’t just throw aside all the criticism Trump gets from various communities just because small minorities within those communities support him. Also, the number in the poll you cited is 30%, not 40

          1. Why can’t you? If you don’t, you are saying that 30% or whatever know better about who is and is not racist against them than you do.

            And every Republican gets called a racist. It is all the left has. I don’t understand why you would take any of that criticism seriously. it is not like they wouldn’t be saying the same exact thing about any other Republican nominee.

            1. In Trump’s case, it’s definitely true.
              Only one candidate has called for a national registry of Muslims.

              1. Muslim isn’t a race.

  5. They are backing Trump based on generalized dissatisfaction with the political status quo and long-simmering cultural resentments that cannot be easily satisfied with white paper solutions and legislative tweaks.

    That is true. I am pretty sure hanging a few people might do it. There is always that.

  6. Trump supporters can be easily led away by a trail of Faygo.

  7. Trump doesn’t scare me. I think half of what he might push for could be good, and half bad. But is that any different than any other president? (Except for Obama who was pretty much all bad).

    What does scare me (a little) is that so many people seem so enthusiastic in supporting him without a clue in the world of what he actually wants to accomplish (yeah I know: Make America Great Again!).

    The thing is, the true dictators of the world were not exactly shy about their ideals. But other than a few off the cuff remarks, I don’t think Trump has published his version of Mein Kampf. Or been president of the local International Worker’s Union (Or the KKK, or any other fringe group). Hasn’t called for armed takeover.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan. But, I think the things that are anti-libertarian that he might push for are no worse than Hillary or Bernie. And there are a few things he might even get right. OR hell, he might just enjoy being President so much, he won’t actually push for anything substantive.

    So lets just all take a deep breath and get used to President Trump. I don’t know about making America great again, but at least SNL ought to have lots of material to work with!

    1. I don’t think Trump has published his version of Mein Kampf.

      Oh?

      Though, this isn’t chopped liver either.

      1. 100% free small loans of a million dollars for everyone!

      2. 4.5 star rating. From Amazon reviews:

        “Bought the book. Haven’t read a book in years. Loved his “to the point” as he didn’t try to coddle or speak to the reader like a preschooler. He is down to earth and is very in touch with the middle class. When I first heard of him running, I laughed and even told friends who were talking about it that he was just playing games. All it took was his first speech that I heard and I truly realized that everything he talks about are the very things that I want in my next President…”

        The opening two lines are brilliant.

        1. 5.0 out of 5 stars He’s the man who puts the testeron back into the U.S.!

          Some may criticise me, oh well! But this man has put Faith back into the country. This is a book that explains his intentions in an easy to read format. I have to tell you I have never been so involved in politics. Although I have illnesses, I work full time, and have never been more inspired to push further, because I too believe we can make the United States great again! We must come together, and grow strong! We can see this through, if we do it together!

          Posted without comment as any comment would invariably be “elitist”.

          1. Surely trump is more putin than hitler though.

            1. He’s more Peron (Juan or Evita) than anything.

    2. This is pretty much my opinion too. Worse case scenario is he’s a giant turd like everyone else who becomes president. I really don’t understand all the anti-Trump hysteria.

      1. I really don’t understand all the anti-Trump hysteria.

        Seriously? And what’s the best-case scenario?

        1. Democracy is a dish best served stupid.

        2. 4 years of gridlock?

          1. If that’s the endgame, I’d go full Bern.

        3. That trump is a do nothing buffoon. I give it a 30% chance.

        4. The best case scenario is anyone but Hillary.

          I don’t see a non-politician with an attitude getting much through Congress (especially a Republican with an attitude). Congress seems to be very jealous of its powers when the President isn’t ….well, just isn’t.

      2. It’s democratic, which is terrifying enough for those whose well-being comes at the expense of the demos, and will at minimum suffer a loss of status if the people ever get any real kratos.

        1. I think what terrifies people like Suderman most is the creeping thought that Trump might not be a disaster as President. It is just possible that a circus barking buffoon could be a passable if not good President. If that is true, then what is so special about people like Suderman and all of the rest of the “wonks’ in Washington.

          If there is anything that causes Suderman and the rest of them to shit their pants it is that possibility not the possibility of Trump being a Nazi.

          1. That’s what I think they fear most. Not that his policies will be a failure, but that they’ll succeed.

            If Trump actually does succeed at booting out immigrants and implementing tariffs, and the country not only fails to tank, but prospers mightily, that’s pretty much game over for at least a few strains of libertarianism.

            1. After TARP, the auto bailouts, and Obama’s stimulus the country hasn’t tanked. I mean, it’s not like Greece or the Weimar Republic, and libertarian ideas are about as popular as they’ve ever been–not very.

            2. The case for freedom won’t die simply because a non-libertarian “succeeds” at something unlibertarian.

      3. Worse case scenario is he’s a giant turd like everyone else who becomes president.

        More like …
        Worst case scenario is he starts nuclear war with Russia.
        Or destroys the economy by abrogating NAFTA.
        Or does something else equally stupid and disasterous.

    3. I think the things that are anti-libertarian that he might push for are no worse than Hillary or Bernie.

      A) National Registry of Muslims?

      B) He would shift the Republican party even further away from libertarian ideals than it already is. It would be game over for the size and scope of the federal government.

  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Adrdmmh7bMo

    Watch this video and then think about why Trump supporters don’t care about policy and just want the place to burn down. This little bastard ruined tens of millions of people’s health insurance. And is not even sorry and thinks he is smarter than everyone else. You just want to reach through the screen and shove the little weasel’s head in a toilet.

    And he is just one of an entire class of people in both parties who have run the country in the ground. And now the GOP wonders why no one is interested in listening to some new policy proposals.

    1. Jonathan Gruber is exactly what I think of when somebody tosses around a phrase like “policy agenda” as if they had a clue what one was. He had a policy agenda, that’s for sure, but it sucked.

      Absent some specifics of what actions the “policy agenda” implies, the phrase is the lazy argle bargle of somebody trying to sound smart.

  9. Douthat is right, I think, that a Trump victory in the GOP nominating contest could spur panic and innovation in the Republican party, a willingness amongst politicians, donors, and intellectuals alike to experiment, and perhaps even to reexamine some of the party’s most cherished and long-held ideas.

    Could, yes. Will it happen? I highly doubt it. When Trump wins it will be the old guard GOP, the Dems and the vast majority of the media vs Trump and his legion, therefore continuing what has happened in politics for the past few months.

  10. “They’re nihilists, Donny.”

    1. Does that count as an ethos?

      1. “Say what you want about National Socialism, Dude, but at least its an ethos”

        Trigger warning: above is a movie quote, don’t put me on a CIA watchlist!!!

  11. a Trump victory in the GOP nominating contest could spur panic and innovation in the Republican party, a willingness amongst politicians, donors, and intellectuals alike to experiment, and perhaps even to reexamine some of the party’s most cherished and long-held ideas.

    You slay me, Suderman.

  12. One thing I have learned from this is that the electorate is much MUCH dumber than I thought they were.
    I suspect a large number of people are supporting trump merely because they like him as an entertainer.

    They’ve watched his TV show and retardedly thought “Yeah, that guy would make a good President.” Because he’s funny on TV.

    And that’s as far as it goes.

    Idiocracy here we come.

    1. They’ve watched his TV show…

      You think enough people have watch his show to get him elected?

      1. No, but maybe enough to win the Republican primary.

    2. I keep wondering why the ethical and intelligent people confine themselves to writing blog comments and let the idiots and charlatans run the country.

    3. It has nothing to do with this tv show. It is just a large group of people who pay attention to politics (primary voters), who are rebelling against party politics and the media who they perceive as supporting them (which many do).

    4. I suspect a large number of people are supporting trump merely because they like him as an entertainer

      One man’s stupidity is another man’s cynicism.

  13. I thought Reason would be a breath of fresh air about The Donald but you are as FOS as NRO or any of the other GOP websites.

    Trump is flamboyant, sometimes offensively so.

    He is loud and says stuff that is patently BS.

    No other politicians do this?

    He is not stupid and neither are his potential voters.

    1. They may not be stupid but they sure are gullible. /PT Barnum

      1. I’m sticking with stupid. Final answer.

        1. “I’ll take dipshittery for $1000, Alex.”

      2. I said this above but I will say it again, has it ever occurred to you that it isn’t that hard to be a decent President and that the political class only pretends it is to cover up just how stupid and incompetent they actually are?

        1. John, you have a point. After 7 going on 8 years of The Waggle-eared Idiot as Prez of the USA, and our recent election of The Snowboard Instructor-in-Chief, AKA The Hair That Walks Like A Man, as the PM of Canada, I have finally come to the conclusion after a long and sad life that any *idiot* can be a leader of a Western democracy, and indeed two of them already are.

        2. Really? So what do you think about the argument that it’s not hard to be a decent CEO, so they shouldn’t get paid millions of dollars a year?

          1. It probably isn’t, & lots of jobs are over-rated. You can probably read a book or 2 of instructions on mgmt. & be as good as 90% of CEOs just by paying att’n.

      3. It is your attitude – that 30% or so of the American people are simply suckers (with the corollary that they are sheep to be fleeced) – that explains more of Trump’s appeal than anything Trump says.

    2. Trump is flamboyant, sometimes offensively so.

      He is loud and says stuff that is patently BS.

      And you think this would make him a good President?

      Part of what makes it stupid to vote for him is because such a man does not have the temperment necessary to do the job. The President is a person who has to engage diplomatically with foreign leaders and members of the opposite party. Trump is the opposite of diplomatic, BECAUSE he is loud flamboyant and says stuff that is patently BS.

  14. We need a libertarian that will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. ™

    1. Actually that’s exactly what we need. I’m fucking sick of libertarians who prattle on about ideology – and end up justifying their stance on pretty much every issue (free trade, open borders, non-interventionism, etc) by pointing to the benefits that everyone else outside the US will get from that.

      Trump’s example SHOULD be pointing out to libertarians that there is a big untapped market for actually implementing freedom inside the US – and FUCK OFF to everyone else in the world. But libertarians are too clueless and precious to get it.

  15. A Different Policy Agenda Won’t Win Over Donald Trump’s Supporters
    New endorsements from GOP representatives make clear that Trump backers don’t care about policy.

    Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like proven experience crafting, passing, and implementing policy. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

  16. That trump dude likes to hear himself talk.

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

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  18. Dream On?:

    “Dreams, that governments will make you free,
    Dreams, that they ain’t just war and slavery,
    Dreams, of your god democracy,
    You keep dreamin’, of more enforced equality,
    Yes you’re dreamin’, dreamin’ you are free
    In your dreams”

    “……In your dream, Donald Trump is not a fraud,
    In your dream, Sanders is not a fraud,
    In your dream,all the rest are not frauds,
    In your dream, Obama is not a fraud,
    In your dream, Reagan was not a fraud,
    In your dream, all the rest were not frauds,

    In your dream, the constitution was not a scam,
    In your dream, the Supreme court is not a scam,
    In your dream, 9/11 was not a scam…….”

    Lyrics excerpted from:

    “Dreams [Anarchist Blues]”:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMXtoUtXrTU

    Regards, onebornfree.
    onebornfreedotblogspotdotcom

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  20. Since when has the GOP had any reliable, consistent policy? Stupid article, even for an anti-Trump article.

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