The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Popularity Game: Trump Remains on Top

AP Photo/Toby Brusseau

The word “leader” elicits a different image, or individual, for each and every one of us. Oftentimes we tend to think of those that have defied social norms, broken racial barriers or caused ripples that created marked changes in the way people think, how society is structured or how our governments function. Many, if not most people, consider one’s code of ethics when determining whom they would consider a leader. And oftentimes, an exemplary moral philosophy and societal change go hand in hand, making it particularly easy to distinguish who will go down in the history books as a pioneer, a trailblazer or a groundbreaking innovator. 

Nonetheless, this distinction is not always black and white. And, if I can think of one obnoxiously obvious gray area, it is Donald Trump. What is it about Donald Trump — a man who has been accused of sexual assault, twice impeached and now facing four indictments — that makes him so indestructibly popular within the American political lens? Is it his suave ability to charm a crowd? Certainly it is not his Justin Treudeu-ian looks, nor his Barack Obama-esque intelligence. However, Trump admittedly possesses a unique and laudable skill, one that has guaranteed him success thus far in the GOP primaries: the unwavering support of his defenders. 

But where does this support stem from? Trump’s failure in terms of track (and potentially criminal) record, even compared to some of his GOP rivals, does not diminish the enthusiasm of his most ardent supporters. However, it is not his political philosophy or stance on economic issues that makes him so popular. Rather, his confident character, exorbitant personality and unwavering belief in himself are what make him such a successful leader. We watched his poll numbers grow after the raid on Mar-a-Lago, and again after the indictment in New York. Yet, even with an abundance of evidence against him, Trump’s supporters are routinely blinded by their loyalty to him. In fact, most supporters feel as though the criminal charges he faces would not impede on his ability to serve as president, nor hurt his chances of being elected. 

To better understand this phenomenon, I consulted a recent CNN poll, which assessed justifications for support among those voting in the GOP primary. The poll found that 89 percent of Trump’s supporters were backing him due to his character traits. Contrarily, 63 percent of support for the other candidates was primarily due to alignment on political issues. So, which character traits does Trump possess that Republicans find particularly appealing? 

For one, Trump is not afraid to stand up for himself, and this often manifests itself through ruthless mocking and debasement. His aggressive and defensive nature has made his political rivals pale in comparison. Ron DeSantis — the Governor of Florida and current presidential candidate — was originally expected to be a strong contender during this election cycle. However, Trump has consistently questioned DeSantis’ ability to run the country. Oftentimes, DeSantis possesses a respectable degree of restraint in his response. This prudence has actually hurt his numbers.

This notion may seem wild to many of you, as it does to me as well. Growing up, I imagined politicians as individuals who possessed a certain degree of class and coolness. Apparently, these are not the traits the American public is searching for. Rather, they want a leader that will stand up for themselves in hopes that the president will stand up for them with the same fervor and passion. 

So, what does this mean for Democrats, or rather, those who simply can’t bear yet another four years of Trump? Is all hope lost? 

Well, I think we may be able to take a beat and a breath. Many GOP senators and representatives have spoken out against Trump, claiming that his current rise in popularity is unsustainable. And, aside from the cloud of unpredictability surrounding his current legal proceedings, Trump’s role as a political divider is also a growing worry. Yes, he has connected with a group of loyal voters willing to storm the Capitol for him. However, he has simultaneously ripped a country in two by taking partisan pride to a level it has failed to reach before. 

It is this sentiment exactly that makes me feel a bit better about the 2024 elections. Trump’s four year reign generated a mass commitment to civic duty, and the United States has reached historic rates in terms of political participation. Let’s hope this turnout and sustaining civic engagement will be the catalyst that inspires Americans to vote and push Trump out of the Oval Office.

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