Even after Iowa, Donald Trump is 'real'

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When the glow of a Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) night-light only makes the shadows on the wall look scarier, there's just one thing to do: Pull the covers over your head and keep repeating "Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: Muslim soldier was a hero but his father 'has no right' to criticize me Mother of soldier killed in Iraq: I was too 'in pain' to speak at convention Top Koch network adviser rejects Trump's talk of law and order MORE isn't real."

Media tombstone-makers are working overtime this week after Republican candidate Trump finished second in Iowa. In his new column, "Donald Trump Isn't Real," David Brooks of The New York Times referred to Trump's campaign in the past tense: "Trump's whole campaign was based on success breeding success, the citing of self-referential poll victories to justify his own candidacy."

And he attributed Trump's second-place to finish to the generally lowly nature of Trump supporters:

Many supporters may have been interested in symbolically sticking their thumb in somebody's eye, but they are reality TV watchers, not actually interested in politics or governance. They didn't show up. We can expect similar Trump underperformance in state after state.

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Of course, this explanation for Trump's underperformance is based entirely on Brooks's disdain for Trump supporters. A more feasible explanation for why polls overestimated Trump would be simple voter enthusiasm. The more enthusiastic a group of voters is, the more likely those voters are to spend several minutes answering survey questions.

Another explanation would be that Trump didn't blow funds on a big operation in a state that wasn't as attainable as others. According to The Washington Post, Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) each spent at least twice as much per vote as Trump did.

After Brooks finished pounding on second-place Trump, he took the opportunity to laud third-place Rubio. He calls Trump's concession speech "an act of self-delusion." But Trump admitted defeat with humilty, congratulated the winner, thanked everyone and said he'd win the nomination. There's not a word of self-delusion in Trump's three-minute speech.

Rubio's 12-minute speech was the self-delusional one. He delivered a King Henry V post-Agincourt-level victory speech. "This is the moment they said would never happen!” he said. Really? Who is the "they" that said Rubio couldn't finish third? Whatever no-third-place-for-Rubio naysaying was going on in the media, I missed it completely.

If Rubio had somehow pulled off an Iowa victory, the speech would have been nearly identical.

So Trump's speech was about what actually happened in Iowa, while Rubio's speech claimed a nonexistent victory. Which of those is self-delusional?

In the end, Brooks's column won't convince one single Trump supporter to abandon the "Make America Great Again" bandwagon. That's not his purpose. His purpose is to spike the football in Trump's face. However, spiking the football on your opponent's 5-yard-line with 14:56 left in the first quarter comes off a bit desperate.

Another of Brooks's lamentations in this column centers around the idea that Trump assaults the manners of established powers. The problem is, what Brooks sees as manners, Trump supporters call political correctness. Those manners are the pretentions of ivory-tower culture, and they have done nothing to stop a $19 trillion debt, a swelling-till-it-pops bureaucracy or a political class that tosses out solutions and sound governance in exchange for power on a regular basis.

The tone of the column is one of seething condescension toward not only Trump, but his supporters as well, as though reality-TV watching brands one with a scarlet letter of disinterest. But reality-TV watching is no more mutually exclusive from civic-mindness than rug shopping (subject of an earlier Brooks column). The people Brooks condescends to in this piece are not beneath him; what's beneath him is the cavalier marginalizing of a group of Americans who feel the political establishment has failed them.

There's a reason every American, from The New York Times columnist all the way down to the reality-TV watcher, gets one vote: We are all in this together. We are all affected by the choices made in Washington, even if we watch reality TV. A great writer (hint: it was Brooks) once wrote, "Humility is the awareness that there's a lot you don't know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong." I'm guessing David Brooks doesn't know much about what it's like to feel steamrolled by your own government. If he did, he'd understand where Donald Trump's supporters are coming from instead of dismissing them as though they were beneath him.

Manners aren't real. Marco Rubio's Iowa victory isn't real.

Donald Trump is real.

Zipperer is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College.

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