Genius Panel: Divergent Views on the Rise of Trump

icons V1 01This week’s question: Who’s most responsible for the rise of Trump – the indifferent political elites, or the uninformed masses?

Steve Kroes, president, Utah Foundation. I think a number of forces are combining to create interest in a strongman character like Trump. If it wasn’t him, someone else would rise to fill the role.

In his new book, liberal columnist E.J. Dionne blames Republicans for 50 years of unachievable promises, starting with Goldwater. He claims that the perennial promises of smaller government, lower taxes, lower national debt, a stronger military, freedom from government regulation, combined with a general nostalgia for an idyllic American past are simply unworkable, and continuing to promise these outcomes while being unable to deliver has angered the Republican base to the point that they want a strong-willed outsider to smash through the logjams.

On the other hand, political scientist Samuel Huntington has described the tension between American ideals and institutions, and that we go through long cycles that periodically result in upheaval because our institutions become so incapable of delivering on our ideals. He sums the dilemma up like this: “Being human, Americans have never been able to live up to their ideals; being Americans, they have also been unable to abandon them.” We’re in one of those periods now, when complacency has fallen away, our desires to reach our egalitarian and individualistic ideals is strong, and our political system is unable to deliver. Upheaval is to be expected, Trump or no Trump.

Peter Corroon, state Democratic chair, and former Salt Lake County Mayor. Donald Trump is the Frankenstein that the Republican Party has been creating since the 1960s.  Goldwater’s 1964 run set the party on the conservative path it is on today.  His opposition to the Civil Rights Act simultaneously defined the party as a place for conservative white voters.

As the civil rights and feminist movements gained momentum in the following decades, but white, working class salaries were declining, Reagan appealed to this latter voting block. While he gained their admiration, his administration was actually responsible for cutting taxes for the wealthy, exacerbating the wealth gap to the highest in history. 

The GOP has also been using race and homophobia to try to gain political advantage.  They have been pitting the struggling working class against immigrants and the religious right against the gay population. However, the Republican Party, while evolving to align itself with staunch conservative values has ignored the white, working class base they created as their supporters.

This base is angry at the whole political game for feeling like it hasn’t served them, and feel Trump will turn over the whole political system that has been ignoring them.  

Pat Jones, CEO, Women’s Leadership Institute, and former state senator. Who’s responsible for Trump? The uninformed asses. Sorry, but it’s not a misspelling. 

Nolan Karras, former state House speaker and gubernatorial candidate. Trump is the result of frustration with the dysfunction in Washington and the growing skepticism that no one is in control.

LaVarr Webb, publisher, Both the indifferent elites and the uninformed masses are responsible. I am convinced that economic insecurity, caused mostly by ineffective federal policies, along with government dysfunction at the federal level, are causing the anger, fear, and disillusionment many Americans feel. The result is resentment and anger toward the establishment and vulnerability to a strong figure who promises to blow things up and start over.

The “blowing up” that really needs to happen is significant devolution of government power to state and local levels, where citizens can have more control and be a part of decision-making. The centralization of power in Washington is the cause of economic malaise, government dysfunction, and citizen alienation. The federal government is simply incapable of taking care of every American from cradle to grave and keeping them all happy along the way.