When Donald Trump said the Second Amendment people might go after Hillary Clinton, I assumed he was mostly joking. I didn’t believe he was advocating violence. I didn’t get outraged over the comment.
But I thought it was a really dumb thing to say because the Democrats, the traditional media, and some Republicans went apoplectic, once again. It diverted the Trump campaign from more substantive things — like attacking Clinton on her many vulnerabilities.
But on second thought, while Trump is crazy, he’s crazy like a fox. I’m viewing his antics through the lens of a traditional (and old) political observer. Trump has tapped in to an untraditional source of support — Americans angry at anything that smells of the establishment. Trump doesn’t play by traditional rules, and he makes it work – at least to some extent.
Many voters likely saw Trump’s comment about the Second Amendment people the way I did. It might not have been politically correct, but he was being flippant and unscripted. Then when these voters saw the establishment media and politicians predictably go berserk over the comment, it reinforced their sympathy for Trump — he can’t get a fair shake from the media and the establishment continually overreacts and tries to crush him.
Certainly, Trump can go too far, like he did with the Gold Star mother. That upset even some of his strongest supporters. But while most politicians avoid being edgy, Trump thrives on it. He’s offensive on purpose. His pattern is predictable: say something edgy, elicit outrage from the establishment, get a lot of publicity, all of which consolidates support among disenchanted voters.
The more the establishment rails against Trump, the more his supporters rally around him.
So while traditionalists like me wonder how Trump could be so dumb as to continually go off message with silly side issues, his supporters love him for riling up the establishment. The more hate he gets, the more they sympathize with him.
I’m not sure if Trump plans all of this. And I’m not sure there are enough anti-establishment types for him to win the election. But he’s certainly tapped in to a reservoir of support that people like me have a hard time understanding.