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What’s So Good About Donald Trump? (Forbes.com) September 2, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.

It seems like everybody has something bad to say about Donald Trump—everyone except Republican voters who are speaking through the polls. One headline says he is a “mortal threat” to the GOP. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner calls him “outrageous.” Jeb Bush screwed up his courage and charged that Trump is a “germophobe” over his reluctance to shake hands. Trump piñatas are flying off the shelves in immigrant communities in California. And that’s just this week.

So let me tell you what’s good about Donald Trump and why his candidacy makes sense at this stage of the presidential campaign. Republicans can thank him later.

First, Trump is the voice of midlife crisis, the answer to voters’ disappointing question, “Is this all there is?” Voters are obviously tired of the same old roster of candidates talking about the same things in the same ways. We all recognize if there was a place on the ballot for “none of the above,” that listing would win a lot of races. It’s no accident that joining Trump at the top of the polls right now is the other political novice and outsider, Ben Carson, with businesswoman Carly Fiorina charging hard from the rear. Voters in midlife crisis need a voice and Trump provides it. But they won’t marry him later.

Second, Trump is talking about things that some voters care about. While everybody else discusses building a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, Trump speaks for those who are still concerned about the rule of law in rewarding those who are in the country illegally. Voters hear his cockiness and bluster and think, “Well, at least he won’t be leading from behind in the world.” A guy who has made a ton of money might know something about economic growth, instead of the stagnation we’ve been living through for years. So rather than Common Core or teacher unions or issues other candidates are advancing, Trump seems to articulate things at least some people would like to hear.

Third, Trump is reminding the other Republican candidates of how to run to the right. Richard Nixon, who campaigned twice for the vice presidency and three times for the presidency, used to say that in order to win, a Republican had to first run to the right to consolidate his own party, then run to the center to win the general election. Today’s Republicans are having trouble with the first part, running to the right. Presumed front-runner Jeb Bush, who has characterized himself as a reform candidate, wants a lot of the same big government reforms as liberals and Democrats in education and immigration, for example. As Mitt Romney learned in 2012, Republicans will not win without energizing their conservative base and a candidate like Trump will force the conversation in that direction.

A classic political book, E.J. Dionne’s Why Americans Hate Politics, sets up Trump’s early success beautifully. Dionne points out that typically in political campaigns, candidates run around chanting and beating their chests about things voters don’t care about. Then, when they win, they go back to Washington or their state capitols, do nothing, and then go back out in two or four years for more pitched battles. It is precisely this paradigm that Trump breaks through—a guy who is not a professional politician who is talking about things that at least some regular people care about.

Of course the professional politicians won’t like a candidate like Trump. Who could like the star of “Donald Trump and the Sixteen Dwarfs,” especially if you are one of the dwarfs? As Jeb Bush whined, “He should be treated like a front-runner, not like some kind of alternative universe to the political system.” But that’s the point isn’t it? A year out, people who are frustrated about the political system and those who lead it have the time, and thanks to Donald Trump, the opportunity, to fantasize about life in an alternate political universe.

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