Generally speaking, government and the politics surrounding it lag behind both culture and technology. The presidential campaign of Donald Trump has presented the political and media establishments with an innovation few were prepared for, but one which may have been inevitable. The conventional wisdom, as articulated by Associated Press writer Jill Colvin, has been that “Trump defies political gravity.” Colvin writes:
By the standard that voters typically use to judge presidential candidates, Trump probably should not have survived his first day in the 2016 race.
Yet as the summer draws to a close and the initial votes in the nominating calendar appear on the horizon, Trump has established himself as the Republican front-runner.
What if, instead of defying political gravity, Trump has inadvertently shifted it? Colvin goes on to note, regarding Trump’s supporters:
Some haven’t voted in years, or ever, and may not next year. But at this moment, they are entranced by Trump’s combination of utter self-assurance, record of business success and a promise that his bank account is big enough to remain insulated from the forces they believe have poisoned Washington.
The standard that voters typically use to judge presidential candidates doesn’t apply because Trump’s supporters aren’t typical voters. His constituency is patched together from the disaffected, the apathetic, the cynical — folks who don’t typically show up on the political radar because they are not typically politically active.
Other candidates and their advisers marvel at Trump’s success because everything they know about politics suggests he should fail. But everything they know about politics is informed by voters who have regularly participated in the electoral process. It doesn’t account for voters who have withdrawn their consent. Trump has defied conventional wisdom by, in part, diluting the electorate.
At some point, political professionals are going to study what Trump has done and begin to figure out how to use what they learn for future campaigns. When that happens, I think we will begin to see a shift in how political campaigns operate. Candidates will begin to look a lot more like reality television stars, and their campaigns will begin to look a lot more like tabloid marketing. That is to say more than they already do.
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