Voters are unsettled for reasons that go well beyond the economy. Trump speaks to the concerns, real and otherwise, that many white Americans feel in an increasingly diverse and culturally progressive country.
There is also a pervasive sense of loss, whereby the cornerstones of American life – homeownership, a decent wage that keeps pace with inflation, a college education – are becoming increasingly out of reach. within reach for many. Polls show voters are concerned about crime and nervous about the flow of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
Trump is adept at channeling and packaging these fears, while presenting himself as someone who comes from outside the American political system. He is both an arsonist and a firefighter, who declares that the country is in chaos and then offers himself as savior.
Trump’s actions do not disqualify many voters
While critics within his own party, the Democratic Party and the media view him as unfit for office, millions of voters disagree.
Instead, many of his supporters have become convinced that Trump is the victim of what he sees as a political witch hunt. At least half of Republicans surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos earlier this year said they would have no problem voting for Trump even if he were convicted of a crime.
Trump can also point to his four years in office and claim that the machinery of government has largely functioned, if sometimes chaotically, despite fears that he cannot govern and the worst allegations about him – such as his collusion with Russia – have never been proven.
Biden gets all the blame, but no credit
Trump can also benefit from a White House that has so far failed to convince much of the public that Biden’s job-creation policies — through heavy government investments in infrastructure, clean energy and chip manufacturing – have made a difference in their lives. .
Biden has also grappled with two foreign wars that have divided Americans. Trump’s hands-off “America First” message could resonate with voters who fear increased U.S. involvement in Ukraine or the war between Israel and Hamas, while Biden maintains a policy more traditional and interventionist American foreign.
Nothing is certain
Of course, none of this means that Trump is certain to win the election.
He remains deeply unpopular in many parts of the country and among many demographic groups, and if he is chosen as his party’s nominee, it could spark a strong Democratic turnout to counter him.
His incendiary rhetoric, including threats of vengeance against political enemies he denounces as “vermin,” could also turn off more moderate Republicans and independent voters, whom he will need to beat Biden.
Democrats also successfully campaigned as abortion rights advocates to defeat Republicans across the country in a series of elections and will again make the issue central to their 2024 campaign.
But right now, with Election Day 11 months away, Trump is more likely to return to the White House than at any time since he left office.