He’s not bound by conventions, unscripted, an outsider, supposedly, with an aura of machismo, and he hit a nerve with his opening salvo on immigration. None of which explains why Trump’s defenders forgive his support for partial birth abortion or his hob-nobbing with the Clintons.
I think I have an answer for that, and it’s not because Americans (or conservatives) are stupid or racist. My answer comes from Maurice Bloch’s Prey into Hunter, a book exceptionally annoying even by the French standards. I mentioned this book in the past a few times because, even though I can’t stand Bloch’s style, I value his insights. Looking at the hunting ritual in Africa, Bloch noted that hunters dress like prey and identify with prey in order to then go on an offensive against an animal in a hunt.
It’s not hard to notice similar rituals in the political world. A photo of a dead toddler washed up on the beach in Turkey is printed on the front pages of Western papers, bleeding hearts identify with the child (the Donald was among them for 5 minutes), demanding opening the borders to “refugees” without thinking through the consequences or even looking into the toddler’s story. (As Peter Hitchens pointed out, he was a victim of human traffickers.)
Back to Trump, when he burst into the race with his common sense remarks about Mexican illegals, the media, business and political elite all but declared a war on him. The perpetual defenders of the perpetually offended were screaming their heads off; Macy’s was dropping his merchandise, Univision was canceling his contracts. Any of that could happen to any one of us — if only we were so lucky. We identified with the Donald, the victim, not the underdog, but the victim; we wanted to stand up for him, we called for Macy’s boycotts.
Billionaire’s detractors can scream that he’s not a true conservative till they are blue in the face; it doesn’t matter. So many in the base already identified with Trump, the victim — the flashy victim! — and if you are against him, you are against us too, you are the establishment and you are the problem.
How wise Rush Limbaugh is to eschew criticism of Trump. He abstains, primarily I assume, because he will not attack a Republican presidential candidate, but, I think, he also understands that any such attempt would be counterproductive.
UPDATE: Many thanks to Professor Jacobson for linking and retweeting.