In the hit sitcom "Seinfeld," character George Costanza is, at one point in the show, relieved of his job with the New York Yankees. After discovering that his severance package from the organization will last him about three months, character Costanza vows to use that summer most effectively. As one example, he offers that he'll read a book from beginning to end, in that order. Concluding his hopeful and confident thoughts on his three months of paid unemployment, Costanza rises and emphatically shouts, "I proclaim this, the 'Summer of George'!"
While we can't be certain that the "Summer of Trump" was proclaimed as vociferously, one thing we can be certain of is that as Trump's campaign continues to build steam, pundits and analysts are clamoring to understand how such a character could be leading the Republican presidential field in New Hampshire.
According to an NBC-Marist poll, Trump has garnered support from 21 percent of potential GOP primary voters. He's followed by former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) at 14 percent, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) at 12 percent and Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) at 7 percent. While this still means that 80 percent of those polled don't support Trump, his unfiltered approach, initially perceived as nonthreatening, has generated an upward trend and a buzz that has analysts and candidates scratching their collective heads.
"There's a movement going on; this is more than me," Trump said last Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" when discussing the latest poll results. "People are tired of these incompetent politicians in Washington. I can't say I'm unhappy or anything, I'm just not that surprised."
A CNN/ORC International poll released on Sunday revealed that 52 percent of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents want the brazen billionaire to stay in the race. This is the same guy who, at a summit in Ames, Iowa last weekend, said of former prisoner-of-war Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight A pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Virginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden's agenda MORE (R-Ariz.), "I like people that weren't captured, ok?"
Trump is reality television in an age in which sound bites and sensationalism proliferate. Voters at this point in the elective process don't look at Trump as a politician. They don't see him as a part of the political machine that they hate — the part that is poll- and focus-group driven, the part that is polished and inauthentic.
Trump reflects the public's anger about politics. He has a stylistic appeal and a directness that resonates with a vocal minority of voters who feel left behind economically, culturally and as a result, politically. Trump is not rooted in a dogmatic ideology. No one knows what he really believes on policy. But the people who turn out at his rallies don't care. His inconsistency may actually be endearing.
The reason Trump is leading in polls is that he effectively sells a loud and proud, straight-shooting authenticity to a base that is sick and tired of politicians. There is a vocal, small market to which Trump's xenophobic rhetoric appeals. One of those markets, as I wrote in The Hill back in May, is in Iowa. Trump is playing to a part of the Republican Party that traffics in prejudice and fear. A part that believes immigrants are rapist, drug-dealing criminals; that homosexuals are corrupting the "sanctity" of marriage and ... yada, yada, yada.
Trump is not going to win the Republican nomination. At some point, he'll go away. At some point, the 80 percent of Republicans who do not support him will coalesce and the Summer of Trump will end. While his style may be fresh and appealing, he is ultimately Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE, and, with that fact, comes a lot of baggage. Voters may not trust presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (D) or Bush, but Trump is infinitely more untrustworthy than either.
The paradox with Trump is that, while a national election will never take him seriously, the thirst for a bold candidate has been real. If you ignore his race-baiting rhetoric for a moment, what you see is a candidate who has struck an angry, populist tone that has risen above the white noise of a crowded Republican primary. Americans are fed up with the establishment. They are fed up with politicians who perpetuate a broken system and who only care about winning the next election. Americans are tired of the same old ideology.
While markets in national elections have a way of self-correcting, the one thing we've learned from Trump's bombastic approach is that there is a market, and a tangible thirst for an anti-establishment, instinctive approach to campaigning. The question post-Trump will be if a serious candidate can tap into the emotional, tell-it-like-it-is authenticity that Trump has employed. History and, perhaps more to the point, politics would suggest it is an unlikely strategy.
For now, we may just have to sit back and marvel at the Summer of Trump, and recognize that it's real — and spectacular.
Spatola is a West Point graduate and former captain in the U.S. Army. He currently serves as a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports and SiriusXM radio.