The year 2016 will be remembered as the “we’ve had enough” election.
Candidates don’t need more voter opinion surveys to figure out that conservatives are angry, that they feel they’ve voted time and again for candidates who promise change, but then deliver none.
For example, no Republican candidate for Congress can, with credibility, campaign on a platform of tax cuts. Republican voters just don’t believe it anymore. Twenty years ago, that platform plank was the norm in Republican campaigns.
Candidates claiming they’ll “stop deficit spending” and “reduce debt” are also being met with a credibility gap. Republicans won back the U.S. House of Representatives – the constitutional originator of spending bills – in 2010, when the national debt was $14 trillion. Today it’s $19 trillion.
Granted, there have been attempts to slow spending, but those attempts have met with the usual high-pressure tactics from interest groups, along with the crawling pace of government change.
In Washington, D.C., change takes time. But, the GOP’s conservative base isn’t interested in hearing the excuses.
That’s why Donald Trump is receiving such a broad reception.
Why Trump? It’s not some great secret. Trump is the only candidate who can articulate, with all believability, that he doesn’t care what lobbyists, corporate interests, big-government do-gooders and others think. When Trump says he’ll “fire” the bureaucracy, voters believe it. Veto unbalanced budgets? Trump. Stand firm in the face of pressure from the spending lobby? Trump.
In fact, Trump is the only candidate from either party who has the demonstrated moxie to kick over a few chairs, fire a few department heads and effectively stop the runaway spending machine in Washington.
Yes, Trump has a track record of abrasiveness; of knocking-heads and brazenly firing people; of going against the grain; of picking fights; and of thriving in the ugly, cut-throat world of billionaire real estate. In normal election times, these might be liabilities. But, in the eyes of conservatives, Trump has the right qualifications to be president at this time in history.
Does Trump have flaws? Definitely. But will he be his own man, impervious to lobbying pressure? Absolutely.
Every time new multimillion-dollar attack ads are spent against Trump, it only reinforces what base Republican voters like most – his independence to get the job done.
So, then, can Trump be elected? I mean, look; has America ever elected a blatantly outspoken, independently wealthy presidential candidate, a maverick among his own party’s leadership, who has a larger-than-life personality, accused of being an egotist, drawing huge crowds and continually defying conventional wisdom? And with unruly hair?
Sure. Look no further than Teddy Roosevelt.
Roosevelt and Trump are uniquely American, both in bravado and sheer presence. And both have the obstinate moxie and financial success to buck their own political party.
Conservatives want someone who will knock some heads and stop the madness in Washington. Looks like Trump may be their man for the job.
Tim Clark is a longtime GOP strategist and president of Clark Strategy Group, based in Sacramento.