A Public Policy Polling (PPP) national survey released on September 1st, finds Donald Trump still way ahead in the Republican race for president. Trump leads with 29 percent of the vote, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 15 percent. Jeb Bush is in a distant third place, polling just 9 percent.
Trump’s popularity has proven resilient all summer, and the PPP poll gives us clues as to why Trump is dominating the GOP field. To put it bluntly, Trump appeals to a xenophobic base of voters who live in an alternate reality, where Barack Obama is perceived as a foreign-born Muslim. To these bigoted and confused voters, “making America great again” means deposing the “foreign Muslim tyrant”, building a wall around the country, and putting a rich white guy back in charge.
That may sound like an exaggerated caricature of the GOP primary voter, but based on Republican responses to the PPP survey, it is all too real. According to the poll, 54 percent of Republican voters believe Barack Obama is Muslim, and only 29 percent of GOP voters think Barack Obama was born in the United States. Astonishingly a higher percentage of Republicans, 40 percent, think Ted Cruz was born in the United States than believe Obama was. Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
However, not all GOP voters are alike. For example, a majority of John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush supporters are reality-based enough to believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Yet, only 21 percent of Donald Trump supporters think Obama was born on American soil. Two-thirds of Trump supporters also incorrectly believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.
The entire Republican electorate struggles with reality, but Trump has mastered the art of appealing to the demented and the delusional. He has lured conspiracy theorists and low information voters into the pro-Trump fold, forming a dominant coalition within the ranks of the GOP.
While Republican strategists grow increasingly concerned that the Trump phenomena isn’t dying down, they have only themselves to blame. After years of trying to subtly whisper that Barack Obama isn’t a “real American”, by raising questions about his birth certificate and his faith, the Republican Party has cultivated a “know nothing” base. Like a pied piper, Donald Trump has tapped into that vast reservoir of bigotry and ignorance to attract a cavalcade of Republican followers. Given the GOP electorate’s disconnect from reality, Trump may be hard to stop in the Republican primaries.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.