Why people like Trump

The other day I happened to catch a Trump campaign livestream, and like people slowing down to look at traffic accidents, I decided to…

The other day I happened to catch a Trump campaign livestream, and like people slowing down to look at traffic accidents, I decided to check it out. After making a joke out of the spectacle, I watched the next 20 minutes or so and I was struck by how different it was than anything I’d seen him do before.

I’ve known of Trump since back in the 1980s and I’ve only ever seen his pompous blustery side in those old real estate/hotel/casino days as well as his recent debate appearances (I’ve skipped his TV shows). However, when he was speaking to this crowd it was completely different and after watching a good bit of it, I could begin to understand why someone might think he was a guy they’d vote for.

I point out these observations not to say he’s a good candidate—I don’t think he’s prepared for any higher office than a dog catcher—but to maybe point out what is potentially resonating with people.

Lack of formality

When you see Trump speaking at his stops, he’s clearly talking off the top of his head, and that can be refreshing when compared other political candidates that go off prepared remarks. Politics tackles big important problems that require research, so remarks are usually prepared well in advance. I came away from watching Trump realizing he’s the next phase of George W. Bush, who famously spoke in simple terms that when analyzed for grammar showed up as 8th grade level (most political speeches are at 11th-12th grade level). Everyone watching can understand every word and every sentence, even though what he says usually doesn’t have any specific steps or concrete information on how he’d combat problems.

In these venues Trump is clearly a guy talking off the top of his head, telling you what he really thinks, and it really did feel like he was “not like all the other guys” as he would describe it. People like that for the same reason they liked George W. Bush who I often heard described as “a guy you’d like to have a beer with.”

Intimacy in a space that never has any at all

Trump talking at one of his events is like listening to a podcast, and people might like him for all the same reasons they’d like podcasts. There’s a combo of informality and intimacy that makes you feel like this one person is talking to just you, and telling you amazing things. He says all the right things—that he hears you are frustrated with your stagnant wages and money not going as far as it used to, and he’s gonna be a tough guy against all our enemies, and how everything will be magically better once he’s in charge. It’s all confidence with little specific information.

Politics is a sport for egg heads, policy wonks, and nerds. Presidential speeches (no matter who is the office holder) are dry, boring affairs. Campaign rallies can be exciting, but Trump’s feel different. They’re like a fireside chat with a guy telling you what you want to hear in a setting that usually was far from intimate.

I don’t know how far this combo of intimacy and informality will take him, but it’s clear ignoring him and writing him off as a buffoon isn’t what everyone else is doing and I’m curious to see how GOP voters cast their ballots over the next few months.