Krauthammer is puzzled by Trump’s appeal

Right wing commentator Charles Krauthammer is no fan of Donald Trump and in his latest column tries to understand why Republicans voters have chosen him as their standard bearer.

He says that the conventional analysis of Trump’s rise being due to the base being angry with the feckless leadership of the party establishment does not make sense.

This is the narrative: GOP political leaders made promises of all kinds and received in return, during President Obama’s years, major electoral victories that gave them the House, the Senate, 12 new governorships and 30 statehouses. Yet they didn’t deliver. Exit polls consistently showed that a majority of GOP primary voters (60 percent in some states) feel “betrayed” by their leaders.

Not just let down or disappointed. Betrayed. By RINOs who, corrupted by donors and lobbyists, sold out. Did they repeal Obamacare? No. Did they defund Planned Parenthood? No. Did they stop President Obama’s tax-and-spend hyperliberalism? No. Whether from incompetence or venality, they let Obama walk all over them.

But he says that this analysis cannot be right because the person whom these disenchanted party members have turned to has views that don’t correspond to what they are supposedly looking for.

Trump has expressed sympathy for a single-payer system of socialized medicine, far to the left of Obamacare. Trump lists health care as one of the federal government’s three main responsibilities (after national security); Republicans adamantly oppose federal intervention in health care. He also lists education, which Republicans believe should instead be left to the states.

As for Planned Parenthood, the very same conservatives who railed against the Republican establishment for failing to defund it now rally around a candidate who sings the praises of its good works (save for the provision of abortion).

Krauthammer then arrives at a somewhat startling conclusion.

The ideological realignment is stark. On major issues — such as the central question of retaining America’s global preeminence as leader of the free world, sustainer of Western alliances and protector of the post-World War II order — the GOP candidate stands decidedly to the left of the Democrat.

The idea that Trump is some kind of stealth left-wing candidate is a bit much to take. But Trump’s recent musings suggesting that he is in favor of higher taxes for the rich and higher minimum wages (though as Greg Sargent points out, he presented these ideas in his usual confused style that leaves them open to multiple interpretations), suggest that he, in this election where populism on economic issues has been a major draw, may be trying to be ‘more populist-than-thou’ with the person he expects to be the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    Did they stop President Obama’s tax-and-spend hyperliberalism? No.

    Trump has expressed sympathy for a single-payer system of socialized medicine, far to the left of Obamacare.

    Trump is “far to the left” of “hyperliberalism”? Really?
    Methinks Krauthammer doth hyper his bole too much.

  2. smrnda says

    Krauthammer’s mistake is assuming that your average Republican voter is attached to the party for consistent ideological reasons, or really for any coherent reason at all. Krauthammer believes that being a Republicans means accepting ideas about limited government or at least limiting the federal government.

    The Republican voters are functioning on an “us vs. them” level and don’t have time or patience for discussions about economic policy. Trump’s pointed the finger at the right people and won them over.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Krauthammer is an idiot. Thing is, I can’t tell if he is an idiot for actually believing that soft soap the GOP has been peddling -- anyone can be rich if they work hard and the damned gummint doesn’t get in your way -- is true, or that he does know it is BS but he think the rubes in the red states will still buy it if he just says it forcefully enough.
    Either way, it is past time to put poor ol’ Charley in the home for feeble-minded pundits.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    It is funny watching pundit brains fritz and sizzle trying to comprehend the Donald’s appeal.

    Trump is now just trolling them -- “I’m a conservative, but at this point, who cares?”. Answer: not the voters. Enough of them have stopped giving a monkey’s about conservative/liberal distinctions among politicians. It’s amazing to me the Democrats aren’t taking him more seriously, and instead seem to be actively rooting for him. Clinton is putting out campaign ads that look like Trump paid for them. It’s baffling.

  5. says

    Maybe the republican voters voted for Trump as a protest vote because they’re sick of conservative douchebags like Krauthammer! O the irony!

  6. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I read Krauthammer’s article, with some skimming. I didn’t notice any dog-whistles towards racism, xenophobia, bigotry, hatred. Throw on a good helping of populism in the vein of tribalism and “everything is the fault of the other, i.e. Muslim, Mexican, etc.”. Surely those things are what explains the success of Trump. Republicans are not “true conservatives”. Republicans are fucking assholes who are racist, sexist, and many other forms of bigotry, and that nothing is the fault of the white male Christian. These people found their candidate.

  7. naturalcynic says

    A very interesting poll by PPP shown on the Rachel Maddow tonight showed that the average Republican is fine with Trump as the candidates: by a margin of about 75%, Romney voters are fine with Trump -- only slightly smaller than Obama voters who support Hillary [15% undecided now]. Another poll question of all voters found that lice and used car salesmen were more popular than Trump and he barely edged out cockroaches.

  8. doublereed says

    Yea, I think EnlightenmentLiberal has it right. The fact that Krauthammer is ignoring Trump’s most famous headline comments about racism and xenophobia tells me that the reason he doesn’t see it is because he doesn’t want to see it.

  9. themadtapper says

    Trump’s appeal is simple. He peddles a virulent strain of hyper-nationalism. Krauthammer should try looking at some of the Trump-train corners of the internet. There’s a mania there that boggles the mind. Worst of all, it’s contagious. I chose the word ‘virulent’ quite deliberately. Not only is it dangerous, but it spreads. There’s energy there, and a camaraderie born from shared anger and shared delusions. They long for the mythical “lost greatness” that for years the GOP has promised to reclaim. Now Trump is here, embodying all of their hopes and dreams, all of their frustrations and hates. It really is a religious fervor they have, and Trump is their Messiah, their prophet, their deliverer. The Democrats underestimate Trump to their own peril. They’ve seen for years the political power that can be wielded through religious zeal, and the golden calf that is Trump is not a force to be taken lightly.

  10. Nick Gotts says

    Trump’s rhetoric combines xenophobia, racism, misogyny and violence with economic populism. You know who else…

  11. Dunc says

    doublereed, @9: Oh, I’m pretty sure Krauthammer 40K* sees those things, he just isn’t interested in talking about them. His job is to put a socially acceptable pseudo-intellectual face on neoconservatism. He’s made an entire career out of ignoring the obvious in order to argue in favour of endless war. He makes StevoR look like a peacenik.

    The racism and xenophobia isn’t a big issue either way (although I suspect it’s a plus), but the prospect of a GOP candidate that isn’t 110% committed to blowing shit up all over the world in the name of freedom and democracy is anathema. Of course that’s what he’s going to focus on.

    (* An old joke that I owe to a commenter at the now-defunct blog “Who is IOZ?”, and have never been able to get out of my head.)

  12. doublereed says

    Hahaha, I guess I’m the one giving him the benefit of doubt by saying he’s willfully blind.

  13. sonofrojblake says

    the prospect of a GOP candidate that isn’t 110% committed to blowing shit up all over the world in the name of freedom and democracy is anathema

    That’s one of the most incongruous bits of ridiculousness in the whole affair -- if you favour world peace, vote Trump.

  14. Nick Gotts says

    That’s one of the most incongruous bits of ridiculousness in the whole affair – if you favour world peace, vote Trump.

    That’s one of the most incongruous bits of ridiculousness in the whole affair – if you favour world peace nuclear proliferation, the rejection of the agreement with Iran, a trade war with America’s Chinese “enemies”, and the prospect of nuclear war because a huge but fragile ego has been bruised, vote Trump.

    FIFY. But nice to see you’ve finally been honest enough to come out as a Trump supporter.

  15. Nick Gotts says

    In #15 I forgot to mention: a ban on all Muslim immigrants and visitors to the USA, the expulsion of some 11 million people, and a giant wall along the Mexican border, which Mexico is to be forced to pay for. Trump didn’t really mean these things, you say -- he just said them to appeal to the bigots who are his key support? That’s so reassuring -- because if true, it means we haven’t the least idea what Trump’s foreign policy would be as President, because he’ll say anything at all in his campaign for election, and none of it means doodly-squat.

  16. sonofrojblake says

    I’ve not “come out as a Trump supporter”. I don’t get a vote. It’s not possible for me to support either side. I’m strictly an observer, and from a gratifyingly long distance, I might add.

  17. sonofrojblake says

    Trump didn’t really mean these things, you say – he just said them to appeal to the bigots who are his key support?

    Did I say that? Or did I say something more like -- he didn’t mean those things, any more than the ticket price on a car on a forecourt means that’s what you pay for it. Trump is selling himself as a deal-maker, not a politician, and almost his entire schtick is about making ludicrously high-ball opening offers on things. It seems amazing to me that this far into his candidacy you’re still not “getting” that.

    Also, that line about bigots being his key support? Even commentators on the left are starting, just starting, to acknowledge that maybe it’s not quite as simple as that.

    From the sub-head: “time to stop the hysterical moralising “. Think you can?

    And finally: Trump’s fundamental unpredictability is not a bug, it’s a feature. The alternatives were/are people who were prepared to tell you, in July 2015, what they’d do in and after 2017 about Isis, or whatever. Any comfort you took from that certainty is surely illusory, isn’t it?

  18. Nick Gotts says


    It’s not possible for me to support either side.

    Dishonest crapola. You don’t need to have a vote to be a supporter. And you said @14:

    if you favour world peace, vote Trump

    Someone who urges others to vote for a candidate is a supporter, if that word means anything.

    time to stop the hysterical moralising

    Anyone who thinks it is “hysterical moralising” to be appalled by the bigotry of Trump’s vile spewings -- whether he means them or not -- is an immoral scumbucket.

  19. Nick Gotts says

    Harris’s article, BTW, is a mixture of the painfully obvious -- there’s literally nothing there about the “unappealing” nature of the American political system, the weaknesses of Clinton as a candiate, or the overlap between the economic populism of Trump and Sanders that I wasn’t already quite familiar with -- and the downright stupid:

    No one mentioned his assuredly unpleasant ideas about excluding Muslims from the US, nor his absurd proposal to build a wall between America and Mexico, at the latter country’s expense.

    And that couldn’t possibly be because they are aware they would come across as bigots, and retain some shame in a personal encounter with a British journalist that they don’t feel in responding to polls?

    Herein lies a vulnerability that should chill the liberal left to the bone. Five days after I got back from Indiana, polls suggested that the presumed contest between Clinton and Trump will be much closer than some people imagine. For those who yell at him and his supporters from the sidelines, that news ought to give pause for thought

    First, it was entirely predictable (indeed, I saw it predicted, though I don’t recall where) that the Trump/Clinton matchup polls would move in Trump’s direction in the wake of him effectively wrapping up the nomination. Second, I’ve been alarmed at the possibility Trump could win the Presidency since last autumn. If I thought he was sure to lose, I wouldn’t bother arguing with a bladderheaded Trump supporter like you.

  20. Nick Gotts says

    Trump’s fundamental unpredictability is not a bug, it’s a feature. -- sonofrojblake@18

    But your: “if you favour world peace, vote Trump” is predicated on the fact that we know what his foreign policy would be. You contradict yourself almost as freely as Trump himself, The only constant feature is your hero-worship of this blustering bigot.

  21. John Morales says

    Nick, I think you’ve made a rather good case, but “your hero-worship of this blustering bigot” is over-egging the hyperbole pudding.

    You don’t dispute Clinton is a known hawk, and you claim your position is that Trump’s position is unknown (and perhaps inchoate).

    I agree that in that context sonofrojblake is advocating the devil unknown.

  22. Nick Gotts says

    John Morales@22,

    I hardly think you can be contesting the “blustering”, or the fact of sonofrojblake’s hero-worship. And apart from the fact that anyone who says the kinds of things Trump does is a bigot as judged by his behaviour, which is what matters, there is abundant evidence from the past of his racism.

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