As the 2016 presidential campaign continues to ramp up, the traction of Donald Trump is leaving the traditional model in shambles. In a short time, Trump seems to have sucked all the air out of the national spectrum of politics.
This weekend alone, as other candidates stumped at preordained engagements, networks chose to stream only one live – Trump. Standing in front of a frothy 30,000 people in Alabama, Trump whipped up the crowd with a blend of populist themes, nationalist speak, as well as using a broad brush to paint all politicians as the problem. Not only are Republican Party candidates finding themselves on the outside looking in, but also Democratic Party candidates are increasingly discovering the same problem.
What is remarkable is the increasing base of political traction Trump is gaining – thus threatening to upset the time-honored coronation process of the presidential race for both parties.
We all know Donald Trump. As a matter of fact, you could’ve lived under a rock for the past several decades and not avoided him. Trump, like him or not, is a master of creating attention. Books, television shows, golf courses, and skyscrapers – there is no shortage of exposure of the Trump brand. He is big, he is bold, and he is all about getting the deal done.
And it is just this tool, his ability to read into people’s psyche that is making his foray into politics so interesting to witness.
My aunt grew up in a war-torn Europe. At times she would point to the rise of certain political figures and how they’d built a populist support based on nothing other than dissatisfaction of current circumstances. Long food lines, inability to find employment, feeling of disconnect from those in power all fed these movements she said. Short on details, long on passion seemed to be enough for these political candidates to ride into power. Be careful, she said in a hushed tone.
While I’m not about to compare Donald Trump to those my aunt warned me of, I do believe there is a lesson here. When things are good, people are happy with the status quo. When they are struggling, the more likely they are to become engaged and supportive of someone – anyone – who can take their anger or dissatisfaction up on stage.
And that is just what I witnessed the other night. As Trump spoke to not only tens of thousands of supporters, the networks built their coverage around his words and actions. If you’d just landed on planet earth you’d have thought this was the only guy running for office.
Trump is not stupid. He can read a market or opportunity. And only Trump knows his end game.
History points to a long line of candidate who tried to break the mold of our presidential coronation. It won’t last, historians say. But in the back of my mind, watching the frothed-up supporters of Trump, I can’t help but hear the warning of my aunt ringing in my head.