by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The French writer Charles Péguy once said that “one must always say what one sees. Above all, which is more difficult, one must always see what one sees.”
While it may seem odd to begin an analysis of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy with a reference to a French intellectual, it is, in this case, à propos. Because, with respect to Trump, the greatest challenge facing Republicans is not to say what they see, but to see what they see. And the failure of the GOP establishment (and even of many conservatives outside it) to see what they see — their blindness to the infuriated alienation of their middle- and working-class voters — explains a great deal about the Trump phenomenon.
Trump, despite all his vulgarity and boorishness, has, along with fellow anti-establishment candidates such as Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, given these voters a voice that has not recently been heard. The Beltway GOP believes its voters are having a temper tantrum. But it would be more accurate to say that they are responding with understandable anger to a party that has failed over several election cycles to address their legitimate fears and concerns.
This failure manifests itself not just in support for Trump, but in the fact that among those expressing a candidate preference in the most recent polling averages, 85 percent of likely GOP-presidential-primary voters support candidates who either have never held office or have come to power during or after the 2010 tea-party revolt. This despite the fact that out of 17 serious candidates who originally began the race for the Republican nomination, eleven did not fit that profile.