Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why you should take the Donald Trump phenomenon seriously

Some of my friends have questioned whether Donald Trump is sincere in the ridiculous things he says. I don’t want to speculate as to whether he is personally sincere or not. I don’t think it matters much.

But I do think it is a mistake to dismiss the Trump phenomenon in this way: i.e. as an (increasingly less) amusing sideshow, or as the ravings of someone who has become ‘unhinged', or as the behavior of an attention-seeking spoiled child or as ‘Trump being Trump.'

Here's why: these two articles provide an overview of polling data. While I disagree with some of the conclusions and interpretations, I think the data contained in these articles persuasively show that a majority or plurality of Trump supporters and, crucially, a plurality of likely Republican voters in certain states and possibly overall, agree with positions as extreme or more extreme than those articulated by Trump. These include:

  • Supporting a ban on Muslims entering the US
  • Backing the creation of a national database of Muslims
  • The idea that government should engage in surveillance to monitor ‘most Muslims’ (i.e. absent specific reasons to suspect specific individuals of illegal activity)
  • That Islam should be made illegal in the United States (seriously, a plurality of Trump supporters in North Carolina -- 44%! -- believe this according to that second article)

Again - all of these are supported by a majority or plurality of Trump supporters and/or all Republican voters in various polls. ‘Majority’ means ‘more than half’. ‘Plurality’ means ‘more people support this than not.'

So, yeah, I think Trump should be taken seriously. 

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