In his own way, he’s very New York—and not really a Republicanby Andrew Stuttaford / December 20, 2015 / Leave a comment
At a lunchtime meeting in Manhattan a month or so ago, a prominent member of America’s conservative commentariat—it wouldn’t be fair to name him—was invited to give his predictions for the 2016 election. He laughed and said that, as he had been forecasting the imminent bursting of the Trump bubble for months, he might not be the best person to ask.
But no one, not even, I suspect, the Donald, had expected that his campaign would do as well as it has. Within days of announcing his bid for the Republican nomination back in June, Trump was running at 11 per cent, sharing the top ranking with two senators. And that was just the beginning.
At the time of that lunch meeting, Trump was leading in the polls, followed by Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, in second place and Carly Fiorina, a businesswoman, in third. What these three had in common was that they had never held elective office, which, our speaker suggested, showed that Republicans were very unhappy with the politicians they had. And so they were. And so they are.
Trump’s genius lay in spotting one of the issues that made Republicans unhappiest—immigration—and making it his own. The reluctance of the Republican establishment to respond to the anxiety on the right—and not just the right—on this topic had opened up a gap in American politics. And in politics, if there’s a gap that is big enough, and promising enough, someone will come along to fill it. Trump, never previously known as an immigration hawk, swooped on the issue that, more than any other, has made his campaign what it is, basing a good portion of it on something that is easy to understand, if difficult to build: a wall along the southern border of the United States. Message sent. Message received. According to an August survey by Rasmussen Reports (admittedly a Republican-leaning polling group) some 70 per cent of likely Republican voters supported Trump’s wall, as, incidentally, did 51 per cent of all likely voters.