Manhattan to Main Street: The Trump Phenomenon

Photo by: Skidmore, G. (n.d.). Donald Trump Speaking at CPAC. In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 5, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Trump_presidential_campaign,_2016

Politics has always been a fairly static industry, if one wishes to call it an “industry”. Very little changes. Campaigns in most parts of the country are managed by the same people, using the same playbook. Political power within both major parties has been passed down from generation to generation, party officials typically grooming their successors from an early age. However, party time appears to be over for several officials in The Grand Ole Party, even in Knox County, Tennessee.

A blue-collar billionaire has stepped down from his ivory tower, and wooed constituencies away from those who in many regards know them best. The case is no different here in Knox County. The billionaire won Knox County by impressive margins over Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in its March first primary.

Rubio and Cruz, both sitting Senators who have made a career in politics, have the connections and experience in elections Trump can only dream of having at this point. That, along with their rhetoric that more effectively caters to the evangelical Christian crowd that largely comprises the Knox County GOP, should have resulted in a natural advantage for the Senators in East Tennessee. However, Donald J. Trump took not only Knox County in the primary, but 93 of the other 94 counties in the state. Which poses a hard yet simple question… How?

“He’s provocative.” Chase Newsome, a young conservative in Knoxville, said.“He gets people goin’. He gets people riled up. He points out all the problems this country has had for a while that have just been forgotten and it gets people mad, pissed off, they’re genuinely mad. I think that’s why people like him so much. I think that’s his biggest strength.”

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A Trump supporter looks across the Brooklyn Bridge toward the candidates real estate empire.

Newsome insinuates the crux of the Trump effect is the festering, primeval rage that grows stronger amongst the common folk of this county every day.

“The incompetence of our politicians in Washington. The government being in bed with Wall street. Shit just hasn’t gotten done since I don’t know when. I mean, nothing is getting done, people are mad, people are looking for a dramatic change, and Trump is that dramatic change. And, you can blame people all you want for Trump, and what not, because he is a little bit brash, but in all reality the people you need to blame for the following that Trump has gotten are the incompetent politicians and bankers on Wall street. I mean that’s the root of all this country’s problems, is the government being in bed with Wall street. I think everybody can agree with that. When you have that huge problem, and you want a radical solution, you get someone like Trump.”

Clearly, the voters of the GOP are ready for a change. The career politicians they have continually placed at the helm have done nothing but disappoint them, and many would say, betrayed them.

“I think that where the founding fathers were to where we are today things have gotten dramatically worse, and the country hasn’t made positive moves in the last 3-4 decades.” Kurt Zimmermann, a longtime Knox County GOP voter, stated. “I think things are worse because the government now is no longer a plus but a negative toward the people. They have decided to enrich themselves first and foremost. It’s a group of people who are a part of what they refer to as an establishment club. Think of the club as a house and inside the house are many rooms. You have the democrat room, the republican room, the media room, and they’re all there enriching themselves.”

Trump’s appeal is simple. He is a plainspoken, straight to the point “blue collar billionaire”. People like him because they believe that he is one of them, and no matter how much one may dislike him, he/she has to admit the Trump effect is real. He has a following as large as anyone’s in American politics.

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Kurt Zimmermann shows his support for Trump on Father’s Day.

“So clearly the masses are concerned and they like what he’s saying.” Zimmermann continued. “The establishment fears him because their party’s over. The game is over.”

The general election is many months away. Hilary Rodham Clinton will be a formidable adversary for Trump. The pollster, pundits, and professionals all predict Trump has a slim chance. However, if any lesson can be learned from the Knox County primary election, it is that Trump remarkably, repeatedly defies norms, expectations, and conventions. November is anybody’s ballgame.

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