by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
After the Paris attack, conventional wisdom held that Republican voters would finally turn away from political outsiders and reward candidates representing sobriety and experience. No one stopped to consider that, actually, voters might be drawn to the guy who memorably said of ISIS that he would “bomb the [expletive] out of them.”
Not only has Donald Trump not been hurt by Paris, he has bumped up in the aftermath (Ben Carson, on the other hand, has indeed dropped). The cliché about Trump is that he’s defying the laws of political gravity. If Trump is cutting against the contemporary political grain — certainly, no one else could get away with being as routinely careless and insulting in his statements — he is also tapping into one of America’s deepest cultural and political wellsprings.
In large part, Donald Trump is a Jacksonian, the tradition originally associated with the Scotch-Irish heritage in America and best represented historically by the tough old bird himself, Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory might be mystified that a celebrity New York billionaire is holding up his banner (but, then again, Jackson himself was a rich planter). Trump is nonetheless a powerful voice for Jacksonian attitudes.
Historian Walter Russell Mead once wrote a memorable essay on the Jacksonianism that, so many years later, serves as a very rough guide to the anti-PC and fiercely nationalistic populism of the 2016 Trump campaign.
Trump has trampled on almost every political piety, and gotten away with it, even when he has been factually wrong or had to backtrack. “The Jacksonian hero dares to say what the people feel and defies the entrenched elites,” Mead writes. “The hero may make mistakes, but he will command the unswerving loyalty of Jacksonian America so long as his heart is perceived to be in the right place.”