The Mast-Head: Trump Puzzle

Donald Trump is not normally a name that would turn up in The Star

Amid the serious implications of this week’s terror attacks in Brussels, the pronounced lack of seriousness that the Republican presidential front-runner has brought to the race became all the more glaring.

Donald Trump is not normally a name that would turn up in The Star, though he has been on my mind a lot lately. What has been puzzling me is how a number of people around the South Fork whom I know and respect, and think of as reasonable, can like him.

From all appearances there is little to merit his wide support other than that the other candidates in the Republican nomination hunt have been uninspiring. Mr. Trump’s negatives are many, and in a foreign policy context made urgent after the Brussels horror, his ignorance is clear. And yet his poll numbers continue to be solid.

Among all the analyses of this phenomenon — that a hate-filled, misogynistic, and woefully underprepared narcissist could be the Grand Old Party’s nominee — something I read on about political authoritarianism has rung true. Citing the work of several academics, Amanda Taub reported that a tendency to favor authoritarian leaders among Republicans polled was the best single predictor of Mr. Trump’s support.

The voters cited by the researchers in Ms. Taub’s article were individuals who express dislike of minorities coupled with a desire for a strongman leader. This is perhaps why those voters who have not lost their jobs, or otherwise do not fit into the dubious narrative about so-called dispossessed voters, might find Mr. Trump appealing.

Forceful action against perceived threats is attractive to those with hard-edged leanings. As Ms. Taub put it, “If you were to read every word these theorists ever wrote on authoritarians, and then try to design a hypothetical candidate to match their predictions of what would appeal to authoritarian voters, the result would look a lot like Donald Trump.”

Maybe that explains it.