Donald Trump’s stunning success has been attributed by some voters to his independence, made possible by his massive wealth (and ego). The previous billionaire phenom, Ross Perot, conditioned us to think that one advantage of wealth is the freedom to say unpopular things. But Trump’s success shows the opposite: His wealth makes him free to say popular things.
Well, you might think, do candidates actually have to be “really rich” to follow the polls? Isn’t that just what politicians do from the moment they emerge, grinning, from the womb?
Actually, no. They chase polls sometimes—but a lot of the time they chase money. And post-Citizens United that means they spend tremendous time courting a small number of big donors, who often espouse views at odds with those of the rank-and-file Republican voters.
Trump’s total lack of concern for the Republican donor class has freed him to take positions that actually line up well with the views of the primary electorate.
The Republican business establishment supports more immigration, not less. Trump has ignored the Chamber of Commerce position. The Republican donor class wants more trade, not less. Trump has railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals.