Whether you like him or not, the rise of Donald Trump was predictable and speaks to the problem of Western societies that have gone from the tyranny of the majority to the tyranny of the minority.
Or as one of my aphorisms explains:
The tail always wagged the dog: Now, because of political correctness, the flea on the hair on the tail wags the dog.
The political key to Trump is not just his appeal to populism, but how this upsets the traditional approach of politicians both left and right.
He asks, in effect, what is wrong with populism if it is what the majority want? It’s just another word for democracy. Spiro Agnew’s "silent majority” has found a voice in Trump. There is a reason he will get approximately 65 per cent of the vote.
Traditionally, those right or left of centre move to the centre in order to garner enough centrist (independent) votes to win the election. This tactic usually fails, because — as with Romney, Dole, McCain, and Harper, among others — the public are not fooled. In fact, they are insulted.
They know this shift is merely a compromise of principles to get votes. Those further to the right and left respond by simply refusing to vote all together.
In most populations, there is a uniform distribution of groups, as depicted in Figure 1.
The electorate is essentially split, with 15 per cent on the more extreme right or left, and 68 percent in the middle, within one standard deviation.
Uniquely, because he is not a politician, Trump has focused only on that 68 per cent. This figure is also approximately the per centage of his vote in the primaries since Cruz and Kasich dropped out.
Trump also benefits from ignoring the 15 per cent on the left or right who represent the political fanatics. He said he wouldn’t need the conservatives in the Republican Party to get this far, and he’s been proven correct. After all, that particular group includes all the professional politicians who scare the 68 per cent anyway.
This majority doesn’t align with the conservatism of Cruz or the socialism of Sanders. They have been unrepresented because they are fiscally conservative but socially liberal.
Trump is not playing the duplicitous game played by professional politicians, that of pretending to be all things to all people. He speaks to the two root causes of the collapse of western democracies: corrupt politicians, and a corrupt mainstream media.
Western democracy is collapsing because a few professional politicians, aided and abetted by mainstream media, ignore the true majority of the people, not just the “50+1” majority.
The same is true (but worse) in Canada. We just elected a federal government led by a Prime Minister appointed by an elite few, in a party that got 39 per cent of the popular vote.
How many Conservatives did not vote? How many socialists, which includes many Liberals, NDP, and Greens, did not vote?
Trump identified a need and built a structure to fit the need, but then that is what developers do. The one politician who figured this out in Canada and is very successful as a result is Brad Wall of the Saskatchewan Party. For decades, Saskatchewan people voted conservative federally, but socialist provincially. Wall shed the traditional party baggage that had simply created a form of political bipolar disorder, and went on to victory.
The hope is that power, which he already has in abundance, won’t pervert Trump further for, as Alexander Hamilton said,
“A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired."
The hope is that Trump is not one of the “most” men. Sadly, Hamilton’s contemporary James Madison summarized the larger challenge:
“It has been said that all Government is an evil. It would be more proper to say that the necessity of any Government is a misfortune.”
That is the view of the 68 per cent, too. Trump’s challenge now is to determine how much government is necessary, then prevent it growing.