Like many people, I have been wondering: What on Earth explains Donald Trump’s remarkable appeal to voters?
I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is fairly simple. The message of his Republican opponents has effectively been: We are more faithful to conservative principles. Trump’s message has been entirely different. He essentially says: I will protect you. I’m conservative, but if protecting you requires jettisoning conservative ideology, I will do so. Protecting you is the prime directive. This message has powerful resonance, especially for voters who feel the Republican Party has failed to protect their interests.
You see this pattern in all of Trump’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy. Take the debate over Planned Parenthood. Like all conservatives, Trump opposes abortions. But he stresses he does not want to stop funding their wonderful work protecting women from cervical and breast cancer. The other Republican candidates simply express a desire to destroy Planned Parenthood outright. Trump’s message to voters: The other candidates will adhere rigidly to ideology, even if it needlessly fails to protect millions of women from cancer. I won’t.
Or consider the debate over Obamacare. Again, like all conservatives, Trump promises to repeal and replace it. But he stresses that he is not going to let poor people die because they lack access to health care. The other candidates say: Aha! Trump is not a purist opponent of government-funded health care. Neither Trump nor his opponents offer many specifics, but the message to voters is that at least Trump’s goal is to protect them from the financial burdens of Obamacare without sacrificing their health. His opponents suggest their goal is just the ideological purge of Obamacare, regardless of the health implications.