A Catch of the Day to Kevin Drum at Mother Jones for pointing to polling showing that, no, Republicans in 2016 arenâ€™t especially angry about the economy. And HuffPollster notes that Republicans arenâ€™t really angry, period, at least compared with the 2012 cycle. Drum puts it this way:
People arenâ€™t more angry, or more bigoted, or more scared than usual. Itâ€™s just that we didnâ€™t have a guy like Trump fanning these flames quite so crudely in past elections. This year we do.
My view is that Trump is doing well precisely because things arenâ€™t particularly bad for the U.S. right now. In difficult times, voters take their responsibilities more seriously, and wouldnâ€™t embrace the buffoonery of a reality- television star. People can indulge in Trumpâ€™s fantasies in a period of (more or less) peace and (sort of) prosperity.
Or perhaps itâ€™s just a consequence of cartoonish characterizations of the Barack Obama administration. Republican politicians (and talk-show hosts and pundits) have been telling their constituents for seven years that Obama is a full-fledged disaster. Yet unemployment is way down since he took office, and tangible signs of foreign-policy losses are difficult to identify.
For people with a strong ideological point of view, Obamacare â€” with its principle that access to health care is a responsibility of the federal government â€” represents a disaster by itself, but most voters donâ€™t care about the principle. They care about health care, and for the most part they are unaffected by the Affordable Care Act.
This doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t make a sensible case against some results of Obamaâ€™s policies. Itâ€™s just that the apocalyptic view of Republican and conservative leaders doesnâ€™t correspond to the lived experience of most Americans, including Republicans. So if youâ€™re going with a fictional portrait of America, you might as well (perhaps) go with a candidate who does fiction well.
Of course, this isnâ€™t a joke. Some real bigots are on Trumpâ€™s bandwagon â€” no surprise given his rhetoric. And some voters are genuinely furious about the nationâ€™s direction. Thereâ€™s some evidence that voters going through personal hard times are more drawn to Trump.
Overall, however, the Obama years havenâ€™t resulted in recession, soaring inflation or a foreign misadventure with major American casualties â€” in other words, anything that produces serious political reaction. Barring that, an entertainment version of politics has some appeal. And Trump puts on a good show.
Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist covering U.S. politics. A political scientist, he previously wrote â€œA Plain Blog About Politics.â€ He is co-editor of â€œThe Making of the Presidential Candidates 2012â€