The punditocracy has decreed anger to be the official emotion of the 2016 election, with Donald Trump as the beneficiary. Little noticed: Trump has doubled down on the very approaches that caused the sense of betrayal in the first place.
Theory one: they’re mad that Republican leaders didn’t deliver on their promises. FoxNews.com put it this way: “The appeal of outsiders comes from significant dissatisfaction with the party establishment: 62 percent of Republican primary voters feel ‘betrayed’ by politicians in their party, and another 66 percent say the recent Republican majorities in Washington have failed to do all they could to block or reverse President Obama’s agenda.”
This misstates why Republican leaders have failed to deliver. Republicans made outright repeal of Obamacare a key issue. They didn’t fail to keep the promise because they didn’t try; they failed because the promise was unkeepable. It was a pre-broken promise – void as the words passed their lips – because Obama obviously was going to veto a repeal, they did not have the votes to override and perhaps most important, it is nearly impossible to repeal Obamacare while simultaneously preserving some of its popular elements (like preventing discrimination against pre-existing conditions). Republican leaders were dishonest with their own voters about what was possible.
How does Trump improve on this situation? He wants to “completely repeal Obamacare.” And he wants to have universal health care. “I am going to take care of everybody.” So that means subsidies. And he wants to cover pre-existing conditions. Well the main purpose of the individual mandate – which he opposes – is to allow for coverage of pre-existing conditions. So Trump’s health care propose promise is as pre-broken as those offered by those betraying leaders of the Republican “establishment.”
Theory #2 – They’re angry about the economy. To his credit, Trump does actually talk about the problems with the economy and the financial collapse that triggered so much of the despair. But I have not found any example of Trump saying he would have actually done the one thing that could have prevented it – better regulation of the financial markets.
In fact, he actually ran a mortgage business that reflected a lot of the ugly facets of the housing bubble. “As it sought a toehold in the residential market, Trump Mortgage offered residential mortgages with promises of quick approvals. It recruited a team of aggressive salesmen,” the Washington Post explained. Not only was he not fighting against the practices that led to catastrophe, he was actually engaging in them!
Theory #3 – Money in politics. It is now a bipartisan view that money has too much influence in politics. Clearly Trump has benefited from the fact that he’s not owned. But what solution is he really providing? He hasn’t called for campaign finance reform. His only remedy is being a billionaire. That’s not really a scalable solution, unless we’re saying only billionaires can hold public office.
Of course in general, Trump making ridiculous, unrealistic promises is kind his core value proposition. So to the extent unkept promises is a core cause of voter anger, these Trump supporters seem to be guaranteeing their own future frustration.