Peter Funt Peter Funt, 7/21/2016 [Archive]

Six Factors that Gave Us Trump

By Peter Funt

With Donald Trump basking in the GOP convention's glow, tortured analysis persists among those seeking to explain how he ever got this far.

A recurring view has it that Americans are fed up with politicians and now want an "outsider" to run things. Also, there's the notion that it will take an accomplished businessman to fix our economy, ideally one who's also enough of a bully to deal with our enemies.

But in searching for additional explanations we sometimes leap over the obvious. I believe Trump's perfect storm swirls around...

(1) Fear. Nothing motivates people to take rash action and suspend rational thinking more than genuine fright. Nowadays a lot of people are scared ---- of foreign terrorists, of domestic violence, of unwelcome immigrants and of deranged people with weapons.

When cornered and fearful, the public's fight-or-flight instinct takes over, opening the door for someone like Trump.

(2) Celebrity. Journalists who tried to compute how much "free" TV time Trump got during the primary campaign were looking at the wrong spot on the timeline. The most valuable publicity boosting Trump above his 16 GOP competitors came before he announced his candidacy. Having his name on everything from skyscrapers to cocktail napkins, and his face on NBC's prime-time lineup for over a decade created name recognition and branding that no ordinary politician could match.

You'd have go back over half a century to Dwight Eisenhower's landslide election win to find a candidate who had never held elected office and yet was also a household name ---- in Ike's case, as a five-star general and as NATO's first Supreme Commander.

(3) Wealth. Trump is now said to be worth about $3 billion, although the real value of his many business entanglements is mysterious. Regardless, he's rich, very rich. The only president to come close was John Kennedy, who lived off a $10 million annual stipend from his family's $1 billion estate.

To many, extraordinary wealth and a lavish lifestyle are off-putting. But in Trump's case it seems to have elevated him above the financial fray ---- at least in the primary campaigns ---- and allowed him to avoid appearing beholden to special interests. Moreover, Trump's wealth goes hand-in-pocket with his celebrity status, making his star power even more appealing.

(4) Family. Never in our history has a thrice-married man, who once boasted that he had no role whatsoever in caring for his children, been viewed so favorably as a Family Guy. Yet, Trump's articulate and polished kids stole the show at the GOP convention. Was it manipulative to use them that way? Sure.

But the younger Trumps actually served to humanize their father, creating a rub-off effect that normally works in the opposite direction.

(5) Twitter. Laugh as we might about Trump's poorly worded middle-of-the-night missives, he's the first presidential candidate to effectively harness this powerful tool. It's allowed him to save money on paid ads, to beat the news cycles with instant responses to world events and to hog the conversation without the annoying filter imposed by professional journalists.

These five factors combined to make Donald J. Trump the Republican Party's nominee for president of the United States. That's a sentence no reasonable person would have written a year ago.

But for Democrats and anti-Trump conservatives, things will get worse between now and November. And that brings us to...

(6) Time. The extraordinary length of the campaign process works in Trump's favor. The longer he spends acting like a politician and being treated like a politician, the more he is perceived as deserving the role. Those who predict Trump will be out of his depth on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton might be surprised at how comfortable he is likely to appear in that setting.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, you'll recall, parlayed celebrity status and wealth into the Governor's job in California. And what did that get him? This fall he goes through the looking glass and takes over for Trump as host of "The Apprentice."

By then Trump might wish he had his old job back. But as we move from the convention stage to the general election campaign, there's no doubt that Trump can rightly say: I am what I have become.


Peter Funt can be reached at

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, "Cautiously Optimistic," is available at and © 2016 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.

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