Republican presidential candidate nominee Donald Trump has stayed the course well beyond the point that many media pundits expected after the start of his often controversial campaign, and in doing so has exposed the enormous and ever-increasing divide between the current leaders of the Republican Party and their voters.
The far right has often been blamed for Trump’s popularity in the polls but the reality is that the real estate billionaire is simply offering voters something that other Republican candidates have failed to provide – a knowledge and understanding of society’s elite that can only come from an insider, coupled with a gleeful desire to turn it on its head and a number of policy prescriptions – taking in Social Security and immigration ‒ that can only be described as unorthodox.
Republican strategist Steve Schmidt says that Trump’s credibility as the populist movement’s standard bearer is only enhanced by his own personal fortune. “Trump is essentially saying there’s one set of rules for people like you and another set for people like me – I’ve played the game, I’ve won at the game and now I’m going to be fighting on your side,” he says.
The gap between voters and the establishment has been particularly exposed by Trump when it comes to US immigration. Increasing legal immigration is favored by many Republican politicians, despite the polls showing that most Republican voters want the exact opposite. American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein says that Trump is tapping into the fears of working-class Americans who feel betrayed, seduced and abandoned by leaders more interested in providing big business with cheap labor.