So obsessed are we with leaders that we sideline those who make them. We sideline followers. The media particularly, particularly now, during the presidential campaign, is so obsessed with a handful of candidates that the American people get short shrift.
We’ve heard about the Angry American. But we have little additional sense of who is upending the Republican Party. Of who is transforming America’s political discourse. Of who come November will fashion our future.
One thing we do know or should – it is not Donald Trump. He is no more than, though no less than, the vessel into which millions of Americans pour their political sentiment. It is our response to Trump that has plucked him from political obscurity and plopped him on to the political equivalent of center stage. Had we the people not been so hysterically happy to have him into our political midst, he would have stayed in the political wilderness where he lived all his life – until he didn’t.
So who are we? More particularly, who are those among us who are Donald’s Apostles, his fervid and fervent supporters who have stuck by him in spite of (because of?) his notoriously, occasionally even obnoxiously bad behavior?
- Many are new to the Republican Party.
- Many are more populist, less ideological.
- Many are ready to break with traditional Republican positions.
- Many have an antipathy to party leaders.
- Many have an antipathy to anything that smacks of the establishment.
- Many have transitioned from being politically apathetic to being politically energized.
- Many are angry – and scared.
- Many have a high school education or less.
- Many are older not younger.
- Many are on the lower half of the income scale not the upper.
- Many are not traditional conservatives.
- Many have broken with traditional Republican orthodoxies.
- Many cheer the candidate even when he attacks otherwise sacred Republican cows.
- Many – about 60 percent – think that President Obama is a Muslim.
- Many have given up on the American Dream.
Bernie Sanders has been described as Donald Trump’s Democratic counterpart. But Trump is sui generis. He mirrors the moment. He mirrors us. He is us. Not all of us – but enough of us to change presidential politics forever.