Why Donald Trump’s Continued Success Is Not That Surprising

I was in history class a few weeks ago and my history teacher made the assertion that, even though he does not like Donald Trump, the man is brilliant. I thought this was a very bold claim to make, even with Trump’s success in business, because everything I had seen to that point about Trump’s campaign on social media made him look like a fool. With that being said, I hadn’t paid too much attention to the election, so I felt I needed to look into the topic more. I began doing some of my own research on the topic, and what I found was that my teacher’s claim wasn’t far-fetched at all.

Donald Trump hasn’t really let go of the reigns since he took over the top poll ranking in July (1). Not long ago, many people, including myself, would’ve never seen this coming, even though he has expressed interest in seeking the presidency since 1988 (2). However as we can now see, Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. But why though? This is the answer that many can’t seem to grasp. With many outlandish and often politically insensitive remarks, such as wanting to build a wall on the Mexican border or wanting to ban Muslims from entering the United States, you would think that he would have committed political suicide 3. However the American public seems to continue supporting Trump. This is largely because he is mimicking what many other Presidents and political leaders have done in successful campaigns: he has played off of American’s fears and prejudices. That tactic, along with brilliantly manipulating the media, is what has allowed him to rise to the top of the Republican polls as he heads toward a possible presidential nomination.

Donald Trump has made many comments that society would not agree with because they are charged with prejudice. He has made generalizations that would upset a large number of people. For example, in relation to his proposed travel ban on Muslims, Trump said “I think Islam hates us”. Considering that there approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, that is a pretty bold statement and is sure to have upset the Muslim community (4). However he has made similar claims throughout his campaign toward other minority groups. Trump claims he wants Mexico to pay for a wall on the southern border of the United States because “Mexico’s leaders have been taking advantage of the United States by using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country”. This is a fear that many Americans have due to the large number of immigrants who illegally cross the U.S border, however to think that the Mexican government is actually sending over their unwanted criminals is false. Both statements are very far fetched and have accumulated a lot of backlash, however Americans are still voting for him.

Trump is also a master at spreading his ideas to the American public through the media. He purposely makes outrageous statements, like the ones about Muslims and Mexicans, in order to gain more media attention. This tactic has worked considerably well for Trump over the course of the campaign, as it has focused the attention on him during the Republican debates and given him much more speaking time compared to the other candidates. In the first Republican debate he had ten minutes and thirty seconds of talking time while most other candidates got between six and eight minutes (6). The extra speaking time definitely gives him an advantage, but it doesn’t stop there. Trump uses social media very well to spread his ideas as well. In comparison to the other Republican candidates, he has a significant advantage in this area. Ted Cruz, his closest challenger, has nearly one million followers on Twitter, one of the largest social media websites in the world. This seems like a large number, except Trump has seven times as many followers. These advantages are what helps Trump campaign along and allows him to influence more people.

Although Donald Trump has risen to the top of the Republican polls through uncivil tactics, like targeting other candidates and making outrageous claims, you can’t blame him for using that tactic as it has proven to be successful throughout American and world history. Major American examples of this come as early as the 1790’s, as John Adams and the Federalists faced off against Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans. In both the election of 1796 and 1800, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans attempted to sway the American public to their side using the newspaper and political cartoons. Although it was seen as unhonorable during that time to actively run for political office, the candidates were able to manipulate the media through their connections to their party’s newspapers. This is a large reason why Jefferson won the election of 1800, as he was able to portray Adams as a tyrant in the media after the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed. This became the precedent for modern politics and has been expanded throughout American history. More widely known examples of this were Presidents Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, who used a similar tactic to secure themselves the Presidency by appealing to the common people and using their military reputation to help them rise to the nation’s highest office (7). Similar technique has been used in other elections around the world as well. Listen I’m not saying that Donald Trump is Adolf Hitler or even remotely close to him, but Hitler used the media to manipulate the German people by exploiting their fears and anti-semitism to help the Nazi party get elected into power. If this method was able to get Hitler and the Nazi party elected into office, it could pretty much work for anybody.

I, like many other Americans, am surprised that Trump’s tactics have gotten him this far, however now I can understand how he got to where he is in the race. He was able to manipulate the American voters and gain their support better than any of the other Republican candidates. With that being said, the fact that he is still leading after saying that we need to put a travel ban on an entire race of people is troubling because it exposes how much fear and prejudice is out there. It also shows how weak some of the other candidates are as they have been unable to dethrone Trump. However the race is still heating up and there are still delegates to be won. Even though it is likely he will win the election, I am like many others including President Obama, who do not believe Trump is cut out to be President. However it is only March, and as election day comes closer we will have a better idea of what is going to happen.

  1. “RealClearPolitics — Election 2016–2016 Republican Presidential Nomination.” RealClearPolitics — Election 2016–2016 Republican Presidential Nomination. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
  2. CNN. “Donald Trump: Ban All Muslim Travel to U.S.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
  3. Mogul, Har. “Trump’s Comments on Islam Are Frightening.” CNN Opinion. CNN, n.d. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/10/opinions/trump-islam-hates-us-comment-opinion-moghul/index.html>.
  4. Trump, Donald J. “Immigration Reform.” Immigration Reform. Donald Trump for President, Inc., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2016. <https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/immigration-reform>.
  5. Chaggaris, Steve, and Stephanie Condon. “Trump’s Big Political “surprises”: A History.” CBS News. CBS, 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
  6. Mosendz, Polly. “Donald Trump Gets Most GOP Debate Talk Time, Rand Paul Least.” Newsweek. N.p., 6 Aug. 2015. Web. <http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-gets-most-gop-debate-talk-time-rand-paul-least-360724>.
  7. Kennedy, David M., Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas Andrew Bailey. The American Pageant: A History of the Republic. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.