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Home To Understand Trump, You Have to Understand New York

To Understand Trump, You Have to Understand New York

The conservative consensus around Trump has solidified into, "He's the devil" or "He's our savior." Either Trump is going to destroy the establishment and save us all. Or he's secretly in league with Hillary Clinton to rig the election. There's very little room for the middle ground here.

But Trump isn't either of these things. He's just Trump. And it's important to understand who he is.  Instead of the narratives that the different sides are building around him.

Trump seems exotic in a Republican system dominated by D.C. insiders from northeastern suburbs and filled with southern and western candidates. But local politics in New York is filled with guys who have the same blend of liberal-conservative politics and talk and sound just like him.

Giuliani's political career really began with him yelling, "He blames it on me! He blames it on you! Bulls__t" at a police rally. The cops then took over City Hall chanting, "No justice, no police."

Christie's national rise began with the release of videos in which he berated union members and humiliated questioners. Republicans fell in love, at least until the infamous Obama hug happened. And yet the establishment forgets that some of its key members were begging a guy who has the same personality, attitude and style as Trump to run for president before the last election.

Call it New York values, but some of what Trump's critics object to is a New York-Jersey-Philly abrasive political style that puts a premium on "telling it like it is" at the expense of civility and sometimes substance. You can catch Bill O'Reilly doing the same thing on FOX News.

It's disingenuous for the establishment to pretend that Trump is some sort of complete break from civility. It's not. It's just New York Values taken to their most obnoxious extreme. If the establishment thought that President Chris "Numbn__s" Christie had enough class, why not Trump? 

But the trouble with the common sense tough guy style in urban politics is that it compensates for weakness elsewhere. Giuliani and Christie were very tough in one specific area. In Giuliani's case that was crime and it was such a major issue for the city that some of his more liberal positions didn't matter. In national politics, those positions did matter when Giuliani ran for president.

But the positions did matter even in local politics. Giuliani did a great job cleaning up the city, but he didn't change the system. Today the city is once again wholly run by the left-wing machine. And if you don't change the system, then all you're doing is buying a little more time.

That's arguably the only thing Republicans have really been doing anyway since FDR.

The other thing to understand about this style of politics is that it reactively taps into the frustrations that people have toward the system. It doesn't offer a political insider critique of it, but a man on the street shout. Sometimes the people doing that understand the issues very well. They're just pitching it at the level of the angry voter.

But what makes Trump so frustrating is that he actually seems to be reacting. No one really believes that Obama finds out about his scandals from the media. It's plausible though that Trump arrives at his positions by watching FOX News or clicking through the Drudge Report and reacting to what he sees. If you listen to his explanation for his shift on Syrian migrants, that seems to be what happened.

The power of the reactive style is that it channels the exact same reactions that people had when hearing about some of the more shocking implications and facts about Syrian migrants, and realizing that another position was not only possible, but made more sense.

The average Republican voter is not a policy expert. Like Trump, he's often learning about some of these things for the first time. Trump is excellent at capturing that bar/barbershop angry reaction and it may even be completely authentic. His responses are much more relatable than that of the politician or the expert who already understands the issue. But reacting isn't leadership. Leaders are supposed to understand the issue. And when you can't know everything, you need to work from firm principles.

Here some conservatives object that Trump channels a conservative outrage machine, rather than conservative principles. And they're probably right. He isn't the only candidate in the race doing that. Conservatives won their victories by mobilizing outrage, not through position papers. Conservative candidates in the race have turned to the right because of pressure from the base.

The trouble with Trump though is that he has no positions, only reactions. Beyond the outrage, his actual plans grow vague or backtrack. Obama loves calling his think tank leftist plans "common sense". Trump's plans actually are common sense, but they're a common sense produced by some combination of FOX News, unknown websites and chats with some of his friends.

And they're liable to change depending on whom he talks to and what he reads and watches.

What are Trump's plans for health care? The details are vague. But they're going to be whatever he thinks is a common sense solution. And the same thing is true all the way down the line.

But at the same time dismissing Trump's political skills is foolish and wrong. Trump has managed to do what no Republican in fifteen years had accomplished.

There's a simple fact that is key to understanding why Trump is winning. He's the first Republican presidential candidate since Bush II to lay out a positive, specific and easy to understand plan for making things better. Cruz has plan for eliminating everything Obama did. Rubio has a vague plan for being really positive about America. Jeb Bush can barely articulate a message at all.

Bush II's compassionate conservatism was a mess. But the point isn't who is right. The point is what works. Ever since Obama's victory, I have argued that Republicans desperately need a positive agenda that connects with working class Americans who are worried about the economy.

Whether or not Trump's plan would work in real life is also not the point. The messaging is.

Trump is labeled as a destructive candidate, yet he's the only one to have grasped the most basic principle of politics, which is that you have to tell people how you will improve their lives in a way that is easy for them to understand and remember. Trump has done that. His rivals haven't.

Republican dysfunction and left-wing extremism made Trump's candidacy happen. And that's usually how Republicans get ahead in New York. Trump is doing nationally what successful Republican candidates do locally, bypass a broken New York party organization and make their own campaign happen. Giuliani did it. So did Bloomberg, despite having zero conservative credentials.

In New York, the GOP is not going to make your campaign happen. You have to make your campaign happen, often by fighting an apathetic and rotten GOP establishment, while doing everything on your own. Trump is just running the same type of campaign nationally.

Overall, Trump becomes much easier to understand if you understand New York.

Tough talking socially liberal, fiscally conservative, sorta Republican candidates who operate outside the party bubble and push the rhetoric as hard as they can through the other side are the norm here.

New York values recently became a controversy. Even though New Yorkers don't like Trump (his
negative approval rating is in the seventies), he's a perfect representative of a particular type that is independent, drifting between parties, that believes in strong leadership, abroad and at home, that wants more social services, but lower taxes, a strong military, but without the nation building, that has no strong religious attachments, but a certain sense of public decency, that sounds working class while running a successful business, and that gets his view of the world from the New York Post and the Daily News morning paper reads. There are contradictions and hypocrisies in that mix, but also a set of values, if not ideas. It's a Democratic-Republican mix that may sometimes vote for Democrats, but that watches FOX News, because it's the closest thing to a fit for its worldview.

The rise of Trump is not that baffling if you understand that dysfunction, national, movement and party, has consequences. And in this case, the consequence is that the 2016 election is being dominated by New York candidates and worldviews. New York Values are a difficult thing to describe and boil down. But it does seem as if New York Values will determine this election.

The D.C. establishment has been widely rejected in both parties. Disgust and hatred for the establishment has tainted the capital. Political power centers around cities. We may well be looking at a national election defined by three insurgent New York candidates, Trump, Sanders and Bloomberg.

New York has the money. It's also a melting pot of ideas. Trump, Sanders and Bloomberg encompass the range of politics in the city, from the radical Socialist left to a man-on-the-street Republican reaction to the technocratic man of the middle ground who promises to split the difference. None of this has worked out too well for New York. Only time will tell how well it will work out for America.


  1. Sorry to disagree. Trump is in it elect Hillary. Why? That's the interesting thing. Probably, more why not? Being president would be tedious and boring for him. Maybe he wants to be appointment to the Cabinet, UN, ambassador? What's the dif.

    ... and yes, I am an a corker.

  2. in it to elect hilary? you sound like a comment from last summer..

  3. Hey, I saw the Bonfire of the Vanities. It is all about the Vain Donald Trump. Or should we get a head start and say, "Hail Caesar Trump!" He is NOT the US Constitution's best friend. What Obobo tore down over 7 years soon to be 8 yrs, Trump will rebuild into his Empire....courtesy of the Empire State. Like Julius before him, Trump crossed the Hudson into Jersey and beyond, and will soon proclaim "I went, I saw, and I conquered!"

  4. Interesting analysis! What do you think about the comments made by Caroline Glick in this Facebook post?

    "John Podhoretz wrote an interesting piece about New Hampshire in the New York Post. Here are what I think his most important points are:
    1. "Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have a remarkably similar and remarkably simple message, and it’s this: You’re being screwed. They agree that international trade is screwing you, that health-care companies are screwing you and that Wall Street is screwing you."
    2. "On the Republican side, Ted Cruz has been trying to figure out a way to layer Trumpism on his own anti-establishment conservatism — and he may be Trump’s only viable rival after Tuesday night."
    On the first point, it resonates something I've been feeling, particularly with regard to their treatment of "donors" and "Wall Street." I fear that anti-Semitism is fast becoming a key force in the election. The politics of envy, which Sanders embraces, are inherently hostile to Jews, who are hated for their success. Trump's assaults on donors -- particularly his insulting brush off of RJC members -- indicates that he feels comfortable channeling anti-Semitism. He's alright Jack because he doesn't care, doesn't need, isn't beholden to Jewish money - unlike all the other guys.
    At another time, Trump was reported to have said that Jewish voters are irrelevant because he doesn't need their money, so he has no reason to be supportive of Israel.
    By the way, the fact that Sanders is Jewish makes no difference. Trotsky was also a Jew and a dangerous anti-Semite. Sanders announced that his foreign policy team is comprised of three serial Israel bashers. His Judaism is not what animates him. It is his socialism -- which is anti-Jewish by its nature -- that makes Sanders tick.
    As for Podhoretz's acknowledgment of Cruz as the alternative to Trump, well, I've made very clear that I believe Cruz is also the best candidate. I hope very much that the people who have been leery of him and hoping that Rubio could pull out in front of the pack will take a second look at Cruz now and realize, as I do, that he is worthy of their enthusiastic support."


  5. Oh thank you soopergenious for that incredible dull insight.

  6. Algorithms11/2/16

    Thanks, very enlightening article.

  7. Anonymous11/2/16

    In some ways, Trumps hearkens back to the type of Democrat that existed in JFK's time, when Dems believed in American exceptionalism, the free market, and fighting for their country. The political spectrum has shifted so far to the Left over the last 50 years that the Sons of Che now believe they're centrists.

    If I recall correctly, JFK Democrats were about as conservative as Republicans today---just read the Democrat Party platform of 1960. Republicans of 50 years ago would hardly recognize the corrupt pansies passing for 'conservatives' these days. They'd fail their own litmus test.

    At this critical point in our history, when we're about to lose our country, I'd like to give a shot to someone with a completely different perspective, a strong and effective leader who loves America. Trump has enough crossover appeal to get Ds and Rs of good will to work together. He made his chops getting disparate interests to work together while the so-called conservatives were throwing away our society and feeding us to the Left.

    And a guy who can get us to agree about the important things is just what we most need right now.

  8. DenisO11/2/16

    It's all about NYC; again? Lots of Presidents from N.Y.?
    You gotta be kiddin' me.
    Nobody from NYC is trusted outside the City, and Trump, Bloomberg, and Sanders are not exceptions. Sorry to break it to you.

  9. Daniel, this was an excellent piece explaining Trump. I wrote my own piece on this but not exactly on Trump, more on the zeitgeist of the country in regards to both Republicans and Democrats, our ruling class as they have utterly failed this nation. And they've done it for far too long while betraying their supporters, the constitution, and the rule of law with outright impunity.

    My advice to all Americans in regards to this coming election is to be no longer the dupes and property of the hypocrites and traitors to our country who make up the ruling class. We must conserve what we have left before it is soon gone as whatever the betrayers of our country get, we the people must lose; and what is worse, must lose a great deal more than the others can get; for the ruling class cannot successfully remain in power without destroying, perverting, and corrupting that which is left of our America. http://politicallyshort.com/2016/01/24/americas-ruling-class-vs-all/

  10. Anonymous12/2/16

    Trump has hit a nerve--big money wants open borders for cheap labor, votes, and George Soros has bought Clinton, Sanders, Rubio, Bush, and kasich, directly or through his partners, who will all be obligated to leave borders open if elected. Americans will continue to loose jobs, suffer stagnant wages, high crime rates, drug addiction, and islamic terrorists to make the top 1% wealthier. Trump is the only candidate not beholden to Soros who can stop the immigration threat to our safety and economy. Cruz, although i can find no ties to Soros, will be obligated by religion money to insert their bias into law, defunding women's health care available through planned parenthood, and attempting to replace supreme court justices with those who would take away a woman's right to choose, or not, abortion, due to health concerns, rape, incest, etc, and deny legal rights to gay, lesbians to marry. not as evil as the "religion" of islam, but still does not belong in our separation of church and state government. I am elated to know we finally have a choice, and hope the trump movement continues.

  11. Anonymous12/2/16

    Neo-fascim is not a solution just because the candidate espouses some legitimate conservative or pro American policies. Trump's "I am going to do stuff' is just as bad as Sander's and Clinton's "I am going to give you stuff".

  12. D.D,Mao12/2/16

    There is one other trait you learn while growing up in NYC and that is skepticism. The reason Mr. Trump is running in the 70% unfavorable range with New Yorkers is his three card monte game that is so intricate to his campaign. He refers to it as "the art of the deal" while in reality it's targeting your mark. All of his policies come with details T.B.A. and his remarks are equivalent to the character Chance Gardner in the movie "Being There".

  13. Excellent article. I agree that Cruz is the best candidate. He is and has been more consistent than the other candidates. He is a Constitutional Conservative and if we have any hope of survival as a Sovereign Nation, we need to preserve and UPHOLD our Constitution.

  14. This is a good and different analysis of Trump and it does explain a lot about his popularity. I too believe this "connecting with average voters" strategy is so important and that few Republicans manage to do it properly and certainly none in recent history have done so the way Trump has.

    Our society plays a big role in this too in that we have lost the common understanding of the importance of the Constitution and that no matter which political philosophy you favored, individual liberty must be at its core.

    Trump never mentions our Founding Fathers nor the importance of the documents they created, nor the evils of too much power concentrated in the Executive Branch and why would he, he is the epitome of a "strong man" leader who craves power and people should trust he will not abuse it because, well he is Donald Trump and will make America great. His diehard followers see no problems with this, in fact seem they seem to relish getting a tyrant in office as long as he is on their side.

    I write more about this here if anyone is interested, https://freedomthroughempowerment.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/what-is-a-conservative-hint-not-trump/

  15. The refreshing thing about Trump is that he's so rich that he can say what everybody's thinking and not lose his financial backing, allowing the adoring crowds to flock to him. But not really, since he's borrowed big bucks from Wall St. banks and I don't see him knocking them like Bernie does. Could it be he's Wall St.'s answer to Bernie? The other troubling thing is that Trump easily flip-flops on every issue at will, so how long after he's in the White House till the next flip-flop? If he fails to deliver on his promises during his first Hundred Days, then what? Still, his win-win image couldn't hurt the U.S. after what Obama did.

  16. yes, Trump certainly has that New York attitude/personality...it goes without saying...and it's good for sales

    what amazes me is that everyone attempts to analyze Trump as if he was a politician, (which he is not).

    they don't get him, can't figure him out
    Trump is interpreted as a joke, a huckster, a clown...

    all out of ignorance

    his actions/strategies/tactics are reflective of a multitude of business/sales/negotiation techniques, in force 24/7, and are applied to something as silly as politics...
    fairly easy for a fellow businessman to recognize

    Examples: getting his opponents to turn on each other, rather than having to attack them himself...
    which would not be good for image, not good for sales...
    but a very effective tactic

    making outrageous statements for the purpose of staying the center of attention...
    the more they attend to me, the less they attend to you...
    all pretty basic stuff

    and the dolts he's running against have/had fallen for this for months...Jeb will be scratching his head for years to come trying to figure it out

    he is a businessman...and a pretty successful one
    it is what he knows...it is what he does...and it's working

    the media should start looking at him from that point of view if they really want to understand him

    the hacks in the Lame Stream Media (CNBC, CNN, SeeBS) wouldn't know a business tactic if it poked one of their myopic eyes out

    and they will be shocked next January...and they still probably won't get it

    and please be advised that the LSM comments above ABSOLUTELY do not apply to this blog!!

  17. Just a common 'tater13/2/16

    Thanks, that explains something that I would not know, since I have had very little NYC contact. I suspected this about Trump, but now it is clear.

    That being said, I still have a great distrust of Trump for several reasons. First, he reminds me of the disaster that Schwarzenegger turned out to be. Big tough talk, call people names, get nothing accomplished. When he finally figured out that he could not bully the legislature into doing his command, he gave the progressives a lot of what they wanted. He was a RINO and a liberal at heart.

    Next, I am concerned that he is used to doing things the way he does in his business, but DC is not his boardroom. He cannot just wildly fire people he does not like or want around.

    Lastly, business people get a lot done by finding some way to compromise so that both parties get something they like. Unfortunately, for the past few decades the political version of this game has been for conservatives to give into liberal pressure with a promise to reciprocate. The return favor never happens. Reagan gave away the farm (AKA amnesty) in return for a secure border. We are still waiting while we get overwhelmed by illegals and terrorists. Obama gets his supreme court and federal court justices, but Democrats blocked attempts by Bush to fill court seats.

    As far as people like Sharpton hanging around him, if Trump did not have money falling out of his nose, these two-bit street punks would not give him the time of day. If Big Al Sharpton thought the Donald would give him and his two bit extortionists more stuff and money than Hillary, Sharpton would jump on the Trump wagon so fast, Hillary would get whiplash watching him.

    You are right, we get a lot of feel good talk, but no plans. That is exactly what we got from Arnold, other than an illegitimate kid to support. Arnold had a real Republican opponent that was articulate and had real plans with real numbers and real common sense. The pundits told California "you can't vote for him, he won't get elected because no one will vote for him." California bought the tautology and voted, as demanded by the MSM, for Arnold.

    Ultimately the US has no one to blame but us for voting in the same frauds, liars, and party hacks year after year. My best guess is regardless of how these next few weeks go, we will ultimately end up with Bush 3 v Clinton 2. The fix is in. Tweedle dum and Tweedle dee. Hope I am wrong.

  18. Anonymous13/2/16

    On the mark article with great analysis Daniel. Trump is easy to figure out because as a successful business man he consciously faces reality and he tells us what we already know.While the others are elitist and lawyers who make up lies and argue their lies.

  19. Is anyone else having frozen computer from linking to the Point Blog?

  20. Yes, there are definitive Schwarzenegger parallels. I hope it's not the case, but the history is there. Arnold is campaigning for Kasich "sweet spot between Hillary Clinton and Sanders" now.

  21. Y. Ben-David14/2/16

    Business and politics are two separate realms. A brilliant businessman does not necessarily have the skills needed to be a successful President. A president has to understand the issues, he has to be able to persuade people who don't really agree with him to support his policies and he has to have a sixth sense to understand how the public would react to something he said or did.
    Lincoln, at the height of the civil war, would keep open a couple of hours every week to talk to ordinary citizens, who usually came to the White House looking for jobs. His secretary asked him why he spent precious time on this seemingly insignificant task. Lincoln replied that he would talk to the people about what they thought of his policies and this kept him in touch with the grassroots.
    Similarly, Truman said upon Eisenhower's election: "poor Ike, he is going to sit at this desk and say 'do this, do that' AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!" He was saying that being a good general was not necessarily a good preparation for being President (actually Ike already had experience in politics as Supreme Commander so he knew how to be President).
    Thus, I view Trump as completely unqualified to be President. After having an arrogant, polarizing figure like Obama in the Oval Office, do the American people really want a replay?

  22. If you want to understand the popularity of Trump you should really read this article.


  23. very interesting, thanks for posting it

  24. This country is in the process of falling apart, a process which cannot be stopped. Therefore, I want Trump because he is more entertaining than the rest.

  25. When Ann Coulter told Trump she would send a copy of her best selling book 'Adios, America' to Donald - Trump proudly stated that he "doesn't read" - kind of tells you everything, but you wouldn't read about it.

  26. Anonymous14/2/16

    The reason for Trump’s popularity became evident in the last debate when he was asked about waterboarding, Trump’s answer was simple. He said he’d do “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” if he was president. Ted Cruz responded to the same question by saying that he would not “bring it back in any sort of widespread use," adequate but lacking the pizzazz of Trump’s response. And that’s why Trump has been so successful.

    Y. Ben-David, the man in the White House is not just arrogant, he is also a narcissist, and that’s what makes him so dangerous. He thinks the world was created just for him. Trump is bombastic, but not a narcissist. By the way, Hillary Clinton is also a narcissist. If she is elected, we’ll have a replay of Obama’s presidency.

  27. On healthcare reform Trump has two concrete positions: Medicare and Medicaid will bid out drug contracts competitively (something none of the donor-supported candidates can do) and remove state lines on health insurance companies bidding (ditto). And of course you can't get much more concrete and specific than a wall and tariffs. His statement on "immigration moderation" is hardly without content.

  28. Are you aware that the links to the Point Blog freeze the computer screen?

  29. Anonymous16/2/16

    Islamists, leftists and elites share a dream: universal government. Only patriotism can stop them

  30. AlgorithmicAnalyst8/3/16

    This is still the best article on Trump I've read.


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