February 27, 2024

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What I want to understand is: why?  Why Trump?

What I want to understand is: why? Why Trump?

Zainab Tawfiqi is an opinion maker New York times. She is looking for an answer to the question why Donald Trump still has such appeal to American voters.

Zainab Tawfiqi

Cheryl Sharp, a 47-year-old sales representative and one of several Iowans who attended a Trump rally in their state last month, said she's pretty sure she knows why Donald Trump is attractive to so many voters. For her and many others, she said, his most important quality is strength: He has the ability to keep the country safe, prevent new wars, and keep the economy going.

“It is important for your president to show strength on a global level, so that there is mutual respect between us and other countries, and maybe a little fear for us,” she told me. “Not everyone likes him, but it's okay not to be liked. Being strong is best.” Sharpe readily admitted that not everything Trump says is great, but she saw it as part of a fit character for the presidency.

Three days later, at a rally in New Hampshire, Scott Bobbitt and his wife, Heather, also brought up Trump's authority. “He is respected and feared around the world,” Scott Bobbitt told me. “A lot of people are afraid of him because he does what he says.”

I first started attending Trump rallies eight years ago to try to understand him better. At the time, he was still viewed as a joke, and someone with little to no chance of winning the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency. I was impressed by his charisma and control over his audience.

I was expecting a bumbling celebrity, but I saw a politician who had laid the groundwork for a strong political reorientation on issues that the international community could easily push aside. Bipartisan institution in Washington. These include: the decline of domestic industry, the ills of globalization, the legacy of the Iraq War and American involvement in foreign wars in general, and, of course, immigration.

Critics have been calling Trump an authoritarian for years, especially after his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which culminated in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. I have been studying the phenomenon of authoritarianism for years and I believe it is. It is important to focus on the views and motivations of voters who support authoritarian politicians, even when many view these figures as threats to the democratic system.

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Across the world, such politicians are not only democratically elected, but they often retain enough popular support after their first term to be able to be re-elected. Polls strongly suggest that Trump has a reasonable chance of becoming president again in November. He has clearly maintained his grip on the Republican base: his Republican rivals appear to be eyeing the vice presidency or struggling to move up in the polls.

What I want to understand is: why? Why Trump? Even if these voters are dissatisfied with Joe Biden, why wouldn't they vote for a Republican who is less polarizing, who is not facing charges and who does not show dictatorial tendencies?

Strength and charisma

In my conversations with more than 100 voters, not one person used the word “authoritarian.” This should not be surprising; Many ordinary people don't think this way. If you focus only on ratings, you're missing the point.

Authoritarian leaders have qualities that many voters — not just Trump voters — admire: power, control, and sometimes even an “ends justify the means” attitude. “What I hear from voters who tend to vote for Trump is that he has a special ability to make the economy work better for the people and that he is a strong man.”do not mess with me-Absolutism, which they believe will help prevent new wars. His supporters also view him as a real strongman rather than a typical politician, and Trump promotes this message well to his supporters.

In New Hampshire, Jackie Vashian told me of Trump's term: “He hasn't started any new wars. Our economy was great. Fuel prices were less than $2 a gallon. To me it's just common sense. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Voter after voter told me they think Biden is too weak and too old to be president again. They say the same things Trump says: he has dementia, falls down the stairs, forgets what he's talking about while he speaks, etc. “I can't say two coherent sentences in a row, but he is responsible for the nuclear arms negotiations in World War III,” Trump, Joe Biden, warned the crowd in Iowa.

National polls show voters are more concerned with Biden's age than Trump's. When Biden and Trump face each other again in the presidential election this year, they will be 81 and 78 years old, respectively.

Polls also show that voters believe Trump will do better than Biden on the economy, immigration and foreign policy. Now take the latter. Many Trump supporters have told me that if Trump had been president, war would not have broken out in Ukraine because he would have been strong enough for Vladimir Putin to fear or smart enough to make a deal with him if necessary. Some also believe that Hamas would not have dared to attack Israel. The evidence for this is that they saw that these wars did not begin until after the end of Trump’s term.

Projecting strength and appearing authentic are matters of concern to a certain group of political scientists.Competitive authorities' To call. Their systems violate many basic principles of liberal democracy, but elections are held regularly and largely without widespread fraud. Political scientists include Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in this category.

Like many of these right-wing populists, Trump preaches the message that he alone is strong enough to keep his country prosperous and ensure a peaceful future in this terrifying world. Shortly after being re-elected by a landslide, Orban said his party had won even though everyone was against it, and that he would now ensure that Hungary became “strong, rich and green.” In Iowa, Trump praised Orban and then said: “For four years you kept America safe. You kept Israel safe. You kept Ukraine safe and you kept the whole world safe.”

When he says such words, the audience often interrupts him with applause and cheers, while from another politician such words might seem completely unbelievable. This is the effect of his charisma. Charisma is a significant aspect of political success and is not necessarily linked to the political position of the politician. For example, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were also charismatic.

Charisma is so important in politics that Max Weber, one of the founders of sociology, described charismatic authority – along with legal and traditional authority – as one of the three types of authority that people consider legitimate. Weber wrote that charismatic leaders “have a certain personality quality that sets them apart from ordinary people,” and people like to have such individuals as leaders, especially when they feel that times are tough.

Dictatorship tendencies

What about democracy then? I have spoken to many Trump supporters about the events of January 6, 2021 at the Capitol. I haven't met any outspoken supporters of what happened that day, but many people have put the events in perspective. The increasingly separate information environments and fragmented media landscape in the United States are shaping the way people view today.

Some Trump supporters said that the storming was carried out by extremists who do not represent Trump's base. “Didn't some Black Lives Matter protesters get carried away and even destroy black businesses?” Jackie Vashian said. Debbie Finch asked me whether Kamala Harris should be held responsible for the harm done during the Black Lives Matter protests.

Cheryl Sharp said she's not worried about Trump's alleged dictatorial tendencies. For her, the biased mainstream media distorts his image: “He wanted to say it from day one Executive orders You will use it, as others do. Executive orders Bypassing Congress, but that's how things work these days. “He was being sarcastic and did not say he would be a real dictator.”

It's easy to understand why Trump's political message overshadows concerns about the democratic process for many. A small violation of the right to a fair trial here, a small bribe there… is it so bad? All politicians are corrupt, right?

The exercise of power by politicians at the expense of liberal democracy is not a new phenomenon in the United States, nor in the rest of the world. Thomas Jefferson was actually worried about that. Plato too. Perhaps understanding that Trump's appeal is not so mysterious will help people cope.

© New York times