Politics ain’t business

Love this Chait post on Trump (what a perfect match between writer and subject).  It’s got some really nice analysis on the populist niche in the Republican Party that is totally unfilled, but that Trump is so adeptly stepping into (maybe another post from me, but really, just read Chait).  But since I’m feeling lazy, I’m just going to paste this nicely quotable portion about Trump’s business versus political acumen:

In the short run, this can work. Trump is a polarizer. His grotesque, bombastic arrogance has worked very well as a business strategy. Everybody has an opinion about Trump, positive or negative. From a commercial standpoint, it doesn’t matter much which is which. Trump-haters will tune in to his show just as Trump-lovers will. Even if three-quarters of the public wants nothing to do with him, the quarter that admires Trump forms a massive customer base. That is how he has built a lucrative brand for golf courses, hotels, restaurants, beauty pageants, and so on.

But politics does not work like business. [emphasis mine] You can get rich being loved by a quarter of the country and hated by the rest, but you can’t get elected president that way. Trump has a brilliant strategy for winning the loyalty of a quarter of the primary electorate, or perhaps a third. He has no strategy for winning a majority, which is what you need to get the nomination. Indeed, the things Trump has done to elevate his profile have pushed that majority further from his reach. If the campaign gets to the point where there is one candidate left standing against Trump, that candidate will enjoy the unified support of the party’s financial, media, and organizational strength. Trump has the power to destroy, but not to conquer.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to Politics ain’t business

  1. ohwilleke says:

    I wouldn’t be so confident. To become President you basically need to:

    1. Win plurality support from one of the two major political parties in the primary.
    2. (In a two way race) win majority support from unaffiliated voters in the general election.

    A Republican nominee is overwhelmingly going to capture GOP affiliated voters and to lose almost all Democratic Party affiliated voters and visa versa in essentially every plausible scenario.

    Why does the fact that independent voters rather than partisan voters decide the general election matter?

    Because partisan voters make their decision based upon the candidate’s stance on issues, while unaffiliated voters decision is very weakly related to issue.

    Even though two-thirds or so of general election voters are voting based upon issues, they largely cancel each other out. So, the general election decision is made as much based upon personality and character (and based upon referendum voting for the incumbent President’s party in good times and against it in bad times) as it is based upon ideological positions which these voters tend to ignore.

    Even more notably, one of the few issues that does tend to resonate with unaffiliated voters is a tendency towards xenophobia on immigration issues.

    In other words, if Trump can win the GOP nomination with a swing to the right, the independent voters who tend to sympathize with his expressed views on immigration, probably don’t care if they feel (1) that Trump is the alpha dog of the two candidates, and (2) that they disapprove of the results that they have seen under President Obama in a referendum type vote.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Not going to spend a lot of time on this– sorry– but just not right. The vast majority of voters, including those labeling themselves “independent” vote primarily on partisanship. Issues play a comparatively modest role in presidential elections.

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