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Why Trump is Winning

As the long slow race to beat Hillary drags on, there will be a thousand conservative stories and blog posts demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump is a hypocrite, that he supported illegal immigrants, Hillary, abortion and higher taxes. And few of them will leave our small bubble.

Trump may indeed be a liar and a hypocrite, though he wouldn't be the only candidate in the race who has moved to the right or abandoned previous positions, but he understands what the others don't.

The Republican field is a mass of highly qualified and talented people with poor media skills and worse communication skills. Some consciously choose to play it safe. Others seem to have no clue how to win a debate or a drive a message home.

Donald Trump has been a joke of one kind or another for most of his adult life, and until now he's been an incredibly successful joke. He is burning the empire that allowed him to enjoy a highly privileged lifestyle by marketing his brand as a blatant luxury item that anyone could have.

Trump made wealth populist. He made a seeming upper class lifestyle appear accessible in all its ridiculously tacky glory. He might be betting that he can get it all back once the furor dies down and his run becomes another chapter that keeps him in public view. But he's betting a lot as the corporations that enabled him to play billionaire are cutting their ties with him.

And without those companies marketing his brand, he's a moderately wealthy man with a lot of debts and a troubled business plan.

So Trump is taking a huge gamble. Whatever he believes, he appears to be betting that he can become president. Unlike some other candidates, this doesn't come down to speaking fees. If no company will touch his brand, being able to charge a few thousand more per speech won't make up for his losses.

Like the Confederate flag, the more he comes under fire, the more conservatives rally around him. It's a perverse dynamic that the media feeds on. The media would love to see Trump in the race long enough to make it come down to him and Jeb Bush. They might regret that, but they probably won't.

Conservative punditry is mourning a field in which talented and promising Republican leaders are being ground under. And they have a point, but if those Republicans were really so talented and promising they wouldn't be falling behind to a man whose big talent is brash self-confidence.

Brash self-confidence, an outsized personality, a willingness to take great personal risks are what is absent from the Republican field. And those define Trump's brand. They may be fake, but in an age where the camera defines truth, your messaging is only as good as your acting and your sales skills.

Donald Trump is a great salesman. His Republican rivals aren't. Some are talented lawyers. They understand policy and political tactics. But they couldn't sell a discounted heater to Eskimos.

His entry into the race may be an important wake up call.

If the genuine conservatives can't outsell Trump, they're not going to be able to outsell bland corporate brands like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. It won't matter who is left standing because no one will be left standing.

Like most great salesmen, Donald Trump is an instinctive populist. He knows how to get people's attention and how to promise them a better life. Those are also the skills of a good politician.

And like most salesmen, plenty of people hate him instinctively. Others are willing to believe in him all the way.

Trump has changed the race from a huddle of politicians trying to lock down distinct blocs and lines of appeal in the party, Evangelicals, libertarians, candidates who can appeal to minorities, youth votes, to blatant populism. Trump doesn't appeal to any blocs. He has the FOX News sensibility of shouting the right sorts of things at the right time with a fake working class edge.

In short, he's Bill O'Reilly.

The more he does it, the more he's identified with genuine conservatism. The liberal backlash feeds into his image because he's doing what none of the candidates seem to consistently do, which is fight.

Like Bill O'Reilly, Donald Trump is probably fake. But it doesn't really matter. Politics is itself fake. Trump's entry moves it from a race about blocs to a race about issues. It shows the other candidates what they aren't doing.

The gifted populist knows how to echo the anger of the people, to speak for those who feel unrepresented, to offer the common sense responses that most people think they would offer in his place. That is what some of the candidates have tried to do, it's what Trump is actually doing.

The Republican field is filled with candidates who offer workshopped solutions. Even the best of them don't quite channel the public outrage, the sense of persecution that so many people feel.

They're sensible, reasonably personable, somewhat articulate, possessed of a measured sense of humor and all those things that Mitt Romney couldn't figure out how to be in front of a camera.

By 2012 standards, they're a vast improvement. By 2016 standards, that may not be enough.

A lot of people are going to embrace Trump because he says what they're thinking and feeling. They're going to nod along to Ted Cruz or Scott Walker without feeling engaged in the same way.

That's just human nature.

Trump is a wake-up call that conservative candidates need to take it to the next level. That doesn't mean moving to the "right" of Trump. If Trump is willing to say anything, there may be no such place. It means connecting with people at a deeper level than just the rhetoric. It means doing more than retelling their own compelling personal stories.

People need someone to fight for them. They need more from a politician than a great story. They need the feeling that the politician will do everything he can to fight for their way of life.

If they want to win, they are going to have to silence their inner lawyer, shut down some of the skills they learned as politicians, and learn to project what their audience is feeling. A good politician knows what you want to hear. A good salesman knows what you want to feel.

Trump isn't fighting this as a battle of ideas or policies. He's talking about what people feel. 


  1. Excellent assessment of what Trump is doing and what the republicans need to learn, Daniel.
    I'm not a fan of populism but the fact that it resonates with a lot of voters makes it necessary to consider. A lot of voters are influenced by their emotions and successful candidates will need to know how to appeal to that.

    Being willing to fight for what voters want is a must. As it is, most of the candidates don't seem to be aware of what most voters want, and they need to know that before they can fight effectively, as well as communicate well so that it resonates among most voters.

    1. By all accounts establishment doesn't represent the people.Not sure if even Trump can fix that.However, boner,pelosi, Mcaine, and other politicos and academic are some of the dumbest in history.You need to run the country like a business.It must return value or its doesn't work.There is no reason for a Kennedy simply by name to be ambassador to Japan
      What deals have been made to balance trade.0. You think she has worked in a steel mill and would understand what happens when domestic production dies? Then their is wall street just gives us the money and everything fine until it isnt.There are so many laws broken with wall street everyday it would boggle the mind.Your left now with robots pricing securities and the fed providing liquidity.How is that a market? in sane society Clinton would not be running with all of the pay for play chronysim.Oh you can't prove that.I will say you can't prove I am wrong.No one just deletes emails unless they are hiding something. Chelsea wedding who cares release all that garbage.An affair.Well we already know that too.So you see she has done so much crap no one cares she's a democrate and a woman.Boner and McConnell are also a joke.As are all these idiots.Just watch Cspan and you will see how stupid and overtly corrupt these people really are.Can trump fix it I don't know.I am sure the others can't and have no will nor experience to do so that I am positive.

  2. Excellent diagnosis and prognosis, Daniel. “People need someone to fight for them. They need more from a politician than a great story. They need the feeling that the politician will do everything he can to fight for their way of life.” Yes, Trump has taken the pulse of the nation and knows that many Americans feel that they’ve been repeatedly crapped on by Obama, played a fool by Hillary, screwed by the Democrats, and abandoned by the Republicans, and also lied to by the MSM, which is about as hostile to America and Americans as is Obama. Trump is saying the right things, but the question is: Is what he’s saying coming from a set of core values? I don’t think so. I don’t think Trump has a set of core values; he’s a showman and a pragmatist. I don’t trust him. He has too many financial connections via construction projects in Muslim World. He’s just another Bill Clinton at root.

  3. Human nature is what it is - even in the Matrix. The natural reaction to frustration with the way things are in the moment is to rush, hair on fire, toward anything that is the opposite. Back and forth the pendulum swings from one extreme to the next. I love the quote by Brian Andreas - ‘I know there is balance in life because I can see it as I swing by’ because it is so true that humans aren’t really content to live in a state of balance. Like children we become too quickly bored in status quo.

    Unfortunately this inherent flaw in the human condition leaves us vulnerable to being duped by clever psychopaths to enable themselves into positions of power. 1932 Germany comes to mind.

    I watched Trump’s 110 minute Phoenix speech. Then I watched Scott Walker’s much shorter launch speech. In short, Trump spent more time talking about how great he is than the actual issues. Walker cut to the chase. For me, Trump represents extreme, Walker balance.

    And none of this matters because we are in the Matrix.

  4. Anonymous17/7/15

    Nail...meet hammer.
    - BarbaCat

  5. Anonymous17/7/15

    " The Republican field is filled with candidates who offer workshopped solutions. Even the best of them don't quite channel the public outrage, the sense of persecution that so many people feel." Palin does. And she is the ONLY one. And you don't know that she's not running. She is still the only one that can muster the people to action. And that's what it's going to take. I just can't see any other way. We need a bit of evangelism right now. To wake up the slumbering masses and to get God on our side, if that is still possible. Thanks for another real good article. Steve Brennan

  6. Anonymous17/7/15

    Donald can further weaponize his personality traits in an intelligent fashion. We have seen one way in which he got 30,000 Macy customers to cancel their credit cards. Ouch that hurt. Now he can march into the Sweet Cakes bake shop in Portland take out his wallet and pay their fine for them...THEN issue a statement that Christianity founded America and Christtianity is the basis for all Western law.not the other way around. Then he can go to Chatanooga and declare that Sharia Law in any form is intolerable as It preaches the violent overthrow of the Constitution. In fact he should have said that last week..and let Islam show its hand. Then he can start enviscerating the indoctrination system known as Common Core.by appearing with real scholars. Yes a fully weaponized and intelligent Trump personality could work the way that the Teddy Roosevelt personality worked or the Reagan personality worked. Or he can fade out as quickly as last seasons reality show

    1. He can't touch the Muslims because he does so much business with the Muslim world.

  7. If you took every dime from Trump today, he'd be back in business by noon tomorrow---that's why he's not afraid. He's lost everything before and he's recovered everything before. He knows he has the power to do it again. And, if necessary, he will.

    I've worked with a couple of self-made millionaires in my life, and that's just the way they are. Their critics may think it's all about the money, but it's really all about conquering whatever challenges life throws at them---winning. They do things successfully for the fun of it; money is just a way of keeping score. That's why they always bounce back. And that's why they are misunderstood by people who see work as nothing more than a way to pay the bills. In fact, there is existential meaning in work. Grasping this idea can change your life.

    Trump's political past might be varied---pragmatism is part of the business world---but he's as entitled as any of us to change his mind based on the events of the last 6 years. Who hasn't? Everyone with a brain is alarmed. I sense that Trump is deeply worried about the US and is passionate about doing whatever he can to save it, even at his own expense. You can't say that about most other politicians. He's running for office because he's trying to save the day.

    Direct and decisive, Trump's entry into the political field is having the effect of a Bouncing Betty mine. Great. The cowardly, mediocre, greedy, lawless and two-faced hacks that are literally throwing away our sovereignty, our money, our culture and our very freedom deserve to be cut off at the knees.

    We shouldn't buy the left's condescending, mocking narrative. They would not pay attention to him if he were not so dangerous to them.

    Donald Trump is a patriot and deserves our admiration. His presence in the race is punching through the walls of the political bubble in which we have been imprisoned for the last 40 years and is allowing rare candour and honest debate. He doesn't have to win; he already won by waking a sleeping public, which may hve been his primary purpose to being with.

    This courage is long overdue. Thank god, someone finally snapped their fingers to break the spell. I don't give a damn that he is brash and crass and egotistical and has funny hair. Let us recognize the opportunity he has given us and follow his courageous example and go and get our freedom back.

  8. Nadzieja Batki17/7/15

    Trump woke America up. Thank GOd for that. America don't go back to sleep.

  9. Left right left right, yet we get the same old excuses to justify Americas so called right to bear arms?, the amount of mass shootings has become almost embarrassing, the rest of the world are not just laughing at America but almost pitiful?

    Not one article from Daniel in recent months about gun control. I wonder why?

  10. Anonymous17/7/15

    Halevi: It seems that Cruz and Trump are cozying up to each other. Hopefully, some of Trump's media and communication skills rub off on Cruz.

  11. Anonymous17/7/15

    Conservative Treehouse has a couple of must read posts about how the GOP establishment has long ago set in place an infallible strategy for Jeb Bush to win the nomination so that whether it's Hilary or Jeb, Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce get what they want. Donald Trump is the only one who can throw a wrench into their plans.

  12. Anonymous17/7/15

    One thing I love about Trump. He is risking it all and has never taken a lobbyist money to change a vote. It has been said for the last 6 years between me and my brother that only an unusual and very strong personality has to be the next President or there will be no change in our country's descent and lo and behold we have Trump and Sanders. Sanders will make things way worse. Trump is a huge unknown but for many he appears as our only hope for now. Super great article thanks again.

  13. Your thoughts about Trump are right on the mark.

    One reason he resonates with many people is because the quality of the competition in both parties is, at this stage, so very miserable.

    Hillary, the dealer in socialist poison, versus the slippery, cowardly, semi-socialist Jeb Bush?! How can one stand to make such a choice?

    But there are others seeking the Republican nomination who may stand up well as the race continues. We'll see.

  14. Anonymous17/7/15

    Trump isn't a politician
    This is what we need at this point
    He is saying what all the others probably think, but are too afraid to say
    I'm PC'd to death...tired of weak leaders


  15. Deserttrek17/7/15

    Where to start ..... the call on billyO being a phony is accurate but I believed that from most all radio and tv political personalities and the vast majority of so called insiders and political commenters. Trump is half phony, what Trump does have is real world experience and regardless of the carpet and drapes covering possible shoddy construction he is what the average person could be. the middle class and many logical persons in all economic classes see the pending doom from the establishment and the dangers of illegal aliens and unfettered immigration and the chamber of commerce

    George C Scott in Patton said America loves a fighter, that is now Trump. Plain speakers, call them populists as a smear, are what is needed. politicians are the enemy and the people know it.

    Thank you

  16. DenisO17/7/15

    I don't trust Trump, but I trust few of the Repub candidates more, unfortunately. Aside from Trump's egotism and brashness, I think he honestly sees the mindless policies of Government are hurting the People and the economy. He speaks my mind, and probably the mind of most Joe Sixpack Demorat voters. He could just as easily convince the Union dues-payers that their leaders' unquestioning support for the Demorat Party has been devastating to their jobs and a waste of their dues.
    Inviting millions of illegal immigrants with welfare benefits, medical and dental care, and the opportunity to work doing what was formerly Union member jobs is hard to ignore. To think they are all stupid and can't figure it out after 30 years of seeing Union jobs disappear out of their Blue states or over-seas, is unrealistic. The Demorat leaders have to fear that Trump will actually say it, and their, in-the-bag, Union members will hear it loud and clear. There is no greater hate than from the unconscious who wake to realize they have paid a heavy price to be betrayed. He might mention their families' pressure to leave the cities they grew up in, for safer places to live and raise families. If you think this won't strike a chord, you're asleep. Because Trump is not a politician, the blue-collar guys are very likely to hear what he says. Somebody has to say these things; the Republican candidates don't have the instinct to go for the jugular. For Trump, it comes naturally.

  17. DenisO, plus trump uses union labor in his construction projects. How many politicians of either party can say that?

  18. Trump-Cruz ticket.

    Hillary will lose to Biden in primaries. Not even close..

  19. Just a common 'tater18/7/15

    I have watched Trump fade out before, but perhaps this time he will have enough backing to get through the primaries with some real clout. Unfortunately, I suspect the GOP will do everything they can to sideline, minimize, ridicule, and force him out of the race. It is clear to me from listening to many of the so called conservative talk show hosts (shills) that Bush III or Rubio are the anointed ones.

    The main weakness I see is Trump's lack of actual legislative experience, but I think that is also his draw. Most of us are sick of the usual batch of lobby purchased hacks. Scott Walker I think really has what it takes to do the job, but does not seem to see that he needs to come out ready to fight (Romney II). The primary concern I have is that Trump could turn out to be a worthless, self-centered, narcissist like Schwarzenegger. Big talk, but get nothing done but give the state away to the "progressives."

    As for Pa. D., you either do not know history or do not understand current events. Actually, probably both due to your life view. The Second Amendment is what has allowed private citizens to defend themselves. Gun free zones like schools, the Denver theatre, and the Marine recruiting station work great, don't they? The Second Amendment is what keeps our government from rounding us up like the Soviets, Chi-Coms, and Nazis did. Our great progressive liberal leaders Earl Warren and FDR saw nothing wrong with rounding up loyal citizens of Japanese ancestry (including kids) and imprisoning them. The SCOTUS rolled over and played dead (where have we seen that before?). Now, try reading the history and the debates behind our Bill of Rights, and you will see that your linking of the Second Amendment to the "gun violence" you see is illogical. The firearms used in the crimes noted above did not fire themselves. Where guns are scarce, people have been hacked, stabbed, stoned, and burned to death in large numbers.

    Perhaps you can move to an enlightened country like Australia or England and have your home broken into while you are there. However, do not defend yourself or you will be charged with injuring the poor misunderstood burglar. Or, you may end up beheaded by a Jihadi. Get the picture? You may also want to ask why so many Jewish citizens are arming themselves. Some people are not fond of victimhood.

  20. Anonymous18/7/15

    Trump is not a phony. He is genuine Trump and O Reilly is genuine O Reilly. And these two are not the same person by a long stretch. Your off-handed cynicism in this piece is an unfortunate departure from your usual clear-thinking and original commentary.

    1. Anonymous19/7/15

      Glad I'm not the only one who read the article the same way. What do you want Daniel? We can agree on what the Democrats are and all these so called conservative candidates have baggage and won't say or vote on what the people support. Trump has his flaws but once he's in charge he will do the best out of anyone else who could get elected. Obama has destroyed our country to the point a fake conservative politician will never fix it. We need a leader who will give us the best chance at a return to better times even if he could very well be a wildcard. Trump is the only one who can. Im surprised you don't see this.

  21. Rich Fader18/7/15

    I think Trump is, in part, punishment on the GOP/conservative professional class who went after Palin. They disdained her because they saw her as uneducated, vulgar and not a team player (to put it mildly, not entirely fairly). Now they're dealing with a guy who's rich, vulgar and really doesn't care about playing nice with the team.

  22. I think he will be spit roasted in the Primaries.

    Never underestimate the American media, they managed to put an America-hating, white-hating, Jew-hating, race-baiting Muslim Socialist in the White House. Twice!

  23. What is it about O'Reilly you think is fake? I grant he has an enormous ego, but he has put his money where his mouth is for years, Jessica's law, Kate's law, track chairs for vets, etc. The list is long and impressive. He has been a force for good.

  24. Trump has some drawbacks some people do not take into consideration. I agree with his stand on immigration but I am not a one issue voter. Money: No man ever has enough. Imminent Domain: How fast will he use it? Gun Rights: Some disturbing comments. I understand that a business man must play with both sides in the game but take a good look at his political contributions. Is he the conservative he claims to be? He has no voting record we can check. I will vote for Trump only if he is the last Republican standing come November, 2016.

  25. Scary that your definition of a populist is exactly what makes our society ready for the next Hitler, God forbid. And that man won't be Trump.

  26. Anonymous18/7/15

    I think he has made a horrific mistake with his outburst on McCain. Neil Watson

  27. Neil, I disagree...McCain is a politician, first and foremost, and, as such...he is accountable to the electorate for his policies --- there will be no hiding behind his military service (as admirable as it was), this go round. We are in no mood to put up with people who are ready to sell us down the road, all in the name of political expediency.
    If you're an elected official, you are subject to review and criticism; that's the nature of something called freedom of speech.

  28. Anonymous19/7/15

    Your article sucks pecker and you are either a shathead or a liar trying to con your readers. Either way I am done with Sultan Knish for spewing this garbage. You completely disrespect that he might have the correct position on illegal immigration, probably because you are in favor of it. You also disrespect that he might ne the kind of leader a country like Iran would never succeed at screwing over in negotiations. So, screw you and Sultan Knish

  29. Anonymous19/7/15

    Maybe in NYC , But out here in flyover country (I live in 90% republican central Kentucky) if you say "Donald Trump" most people will double over laughing. --Ray

  30. To Obscene Anonymous, if you had spent any time reading me, you would already that I've been out front on illegal immigration.

    To Anonymous 2: "Trump has his flaws but once he's in charge he will do the best out of anyone else who could get elected."

    How do you know?

    Anonymous 3: Yes, Trump seems to be polling worst in the South. Any ideas why?

  31. Anonymous19/7/15

    No Rabbi I don't, but if you want a laugh "Trump for president" will get one in a heartbeat. Weirdly he seams most un popular with the crowd down at the gun stores (18 within ten miles of my house . I'm known by name in ten of them). Another strange thing is how almost none of the current Republican frontrunners have any traction down here. The sentiment I hear on most days for both the Democrats AND Republicans ,from almost everyone under 70 is: "A pox on all of them". You get the same reaction if you say Mc Connell or Obama, people spit on the ground. The feeling in the south toward DC is UGLY to say the least. The topic of conversation most weekends is not IF civil war will come but WHEN , and how many will have to die to restore constitutional government. This is not coming from right wingnuts or the militias ,but from soccer moms and Vets on walkers talking in Church. With former Gen. Clark talking about putting "radicals" and "home grown terrorist" in "pre crime" "KZ type" "detention camps" this week on fox news, that rage is near the breaking point. All I know is that the "rural" southern white Christian has had about all of DC, "national security" "Gay pride" and the left they can stand. That is the best report I can give on the true "feel" in my narrow field of view---Ray

  32. Common 'tater19/7/15

    Dear Sultan,

    I agree that you have made your position on illegal immigration quite clear. I am not sure how some people interpreted your comments otherwise. Well, here we are several days later, and now Trump appears to be doing his best to leave himself open to all sorts of mayhem from Hillary, the Rinos, and MSM.

    I am getting more concerned by the minute that Trump is going to let his ego go onto warp drive and go off in a wrong direction at light speed, just like the great Arnold. Besides, for all of his money and business acumen, I would think that by now he could afford the following: 1.) A decent hair do or 2.) a decent rug or hair weave, or 3.) a hair transplant 4.) some real polls that show what the average voter wants to hear about 5.) a coach to help him stay on topic and not allow himself to go off on tangents that ultimately are non issues. For example: McCain's political views and legislative record turn off conservative voters, but since he is past history, why waste time on him? His war record is truly amazing but has no bearing on current events and politics. Why go there and step on a bouncing betty?

  33. Anonymous20/7/15

    I am not anonymous, I am 'goatheads' for the record. I am in the rural western plains and have NOT heard anyone around here laugh at Trump. He resonates and is hitting on all eight with many outlier thoughts we 'cling' to here in the west. We hope this horse of a different color is serious, because we are humming the same tune and verse........the rest of the politicians seem to be bedwetters.......

  34. DenisO23/7/15

    Trump gets the "ink" that all politicians crave. Leave him alone. Sultan, and let him stir-up the electorate that distrusts everyone in D.C.
    It seems his words have been distorted to claims that he insulted military vets. He didn't insult any of them, including McCain, who was not a war hero. I was there on a different aircraft carrier, when he got shot down. He was what we called a "nugget" pilot, and he got himself shot down early-on. He was no hero prior to, or after, being captured, and his book was self-serving. Here is the honest story of John McCain, who was not well thought of by his squadron mates:
    As a contemporary of McCain, I respected him until he decided to enter politics and attracted the strong anti-war side, making his mark with the Left by coming out strongly against the POW/MIA movement, which was pressuring Congress to insist on getting all records before giving up and leaving Viet Nam. When a popular POW went against it, the movement died, and many MIA's, who we believed were never released.
    Trump could have said more about McCain, but he was restrained, and never insulted veterans, as the MSM has dishonestly claimed.
    Leave him play his "shake-'em-up" part, to worry the wobbly Republican leadership that only worries about offending voting blocks that don't like them.

  35. Anonymous30/7/15

    They certainly need to articulate anti-immigration sentiment more clearly. Bernie Sanders just did that in his VOX interview by pointing out that cheap imported labor means fewer and lower-paying jobs for Americans. This is an issue that cuts across race and creates a significant wedge for Republicans. But Republicans are largelyowned by the CHamber of Commerce types and they are unwilling to challenge their major donors from that camp. So they will probably lose to Democrats who will promise everything to everyone by special interest group.

  36. We took a chance on a community-organizer with no experience, no achievements and no qualifications. I can't see why we shouldn't take a chance on Trump. He's got real-world experience, achievements and qualifications up the wazoo.

  37. I hate that trump more than anyone at all.


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