Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Energy: Trump set to sign offshore drilling order Bush ethics lawyer: Trump should strip Flynn of military title Dems might begin again with Kamala Harris and California MORE's understanding of political campaigning as "essentially a marketing problem," the phrase David Reid used in his 1988 article, "Marketing the Political Product," is often overlooked. His success is one that is unique and unseen in the history of our political process and while others may have come close to being a "political phenomenon," Trump is the definiendum of the phrase.
He has identified a dedicated and loyal base of supporters who may be different in many ways, but have one common identifier: their anger and distrust of the establishment and political class. To his supporters, Trump is the antithesis of an image project by the political class, one that supposedly centers on voters but is only fundamentally concerned with the interest of the elites.
Many voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, feel abandoned by their respective parties. As it relates to the GOP in particular, many see the party elites as manipulators, willing to discredit anyone who attempts to critique them. From some voters' perspective, no sufficient efforts have been made to assess those individuals critically; at least, not until Trump came along. And to no surprise, the establishment is vehemently resisting Trump's presence.
Trump deems it his duty to correct a system perceived as flawed. He says that it is critical for America do things differently in order to be "great again." Trump claims that the political class is beholden to special interests and lobbyists, and in part, he is correct. As Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page noted in the journal "Perspective on Politics" in 2014, the influence of ordinary registered voters is "minuscule, near-zero, and non-significant." To his supporters, Trump has made it his incumbent duty as a leader to dwell upon and critique the political class, which is exactly what those voters want. He has positioned himself as a necessary product that the consumer — the voter — must have in order to feel complete.
Anger is not enough to explain the disillusionment voters feel toward the party establishment and its abandonment of conservatism. It is more than that; it is pain, it is disappointment, and those feelings are far deeper than the surface may reveal. Perhaps Jürgen Habermas was correct when he wrote that "Ideologies are, after all, illusions that are outfitted with the power of common convictions." The well-intentioned puppeteers have told voters that they, the establishment, know what is best as they formed an illusion of reality, fashioned by promises never meant to be kept and ideals never meant to be maintained. That perilous environment created an atmosphere for an outsider such as Trump to do so well.
The political elites and the donor class continue to struggle to understand how Trump has done so well for so long. Their apparent naivete shows the disconnect felt by voters and those who are elected to lead. For quite some time, there has been a lack of presence, perspective and purpose. Deception continues to play a huge role in the formation of the three and to some, Trump is unmasking the ideological elements of this type of thinking and showcasing it as not viable and flawed.
Singleton is a Republican political consultant. He's worked on the presidential campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, and most recently Ben Carson, serving as his coalitions adviser. Follow him on Twitter @Shermichael_.