By now only the most willfully gullible expect Trump to stick by whatever his current policy positions might happen to be. Even on his signature immigration issue, these literally change from one hour to the next. So why do people who define themselves as being angry continue to choose Trump as a solution to their anger? This graph displaying the correlation between support for Trump and authoritarian tendencies offers a clue:
The anger so loudly proclaimed by Trump supporters might also be called fear — a largely legitimate fear of drastic social change that has not been for the better combined with alarming foreign threats. The gut-level response to this fear among authoritarians is to rally behind a strongman who will rule by decree. The actual policies don’t matter as much as the way they are implemented. Cruz is more conservative in every respect regarding policy, and does not come across as autocratic. Consequently, conservatives back Cruz, and authoritarians back Trump.
This exchange from the Detroit debate on March 3 sums up the appeal:
Trump in a nutshell: “If I say do it, they’re going to do it.” Even if the orders are unlawful and immoral.
National outrage has forced Trump to walk back his assertion that he would order Americans to commit war crimes, but even the torture and murder that he has championed may be less alarming than the persona he deliberately projected during the debate. He was assuring his followers that his arbitrary orders will be obeyed unquestioningly. Authoritarians believe that a government run on this principle will keep them safe from corrosive change and foreign threats.
Remember the famous Ben Franklin quote:
Trump will not be deporting all of the millions of illegal immigrants, even on a touchback basis. He will not prevent all Muslims from entering the country. He will not pull out the fingernails or assassinate the children of suspected terrorists. Even if he intends to do some of these things, there will be too much political resistance. He may be running for dictator, but as of yet that office does not exist in America.
But Trump would move us a big step closer to the day it does exist. For his most devoted supporters, that’s his appeal.
On a tip from Torcer.