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Five Reasons to Fear Him

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 30/03/2016 Thor Steinhovden

Polls show that Hillary Clinton would handedly beat Donald Trump in the general election. Moreover, as HuffPost's tracking polls show, the likely GOP candidate has stunningly high unfavorable ratings.
However, the GOP has paid dearly after underestimated Trump, and Democrats would be wise not to make the same mistake.
Here are five lessons from the rise of Trump worth remembering as the Dems prepare for this fall's campaign:1. Trump won't play by the rules, and it's working
Most of the seventeen GOP candidates who ran this cycle showed up to debate policy, and wanted to portray at least the appearance of civility in debates. Trump had no intention of doing either, and why would he start now?
After all, he's been enormously successful with this strategy. Last fall, Trump decimated the other candidates in media coverage without barely spending a penny, and this year he has received more media coverage than all the other remaining candidates combined (also counting the Dems).
And what about the other sixteen? One by one, they've had to endure slurs like "Little Marco", "Lying Ted" and "the loser Jeb", only to be vanquished in the primaries and caucuses. When Rubio finally dropped to Trump's level, it was both too late and clearly an approach the Floridian was not comfortable using.
From day one of this campaign, Trump has played offense, while his opponents have played defense. He controls the public debate through outlandish statements, which then other candidates are forced to respond to. Clinton, the defining example of "conventional", will have to find a better way to respond to the Trump-offense than his other rivals, or you're all in trouble come November.
2016-03-28-1459172023-1539156-20415757102_2a0ee770bf_b.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-28-1459172023-1539156-20415757102_2a0ee770bf_b.jpg Like many of his fellow Republicans, Gov. Jeb Bush refused to drop to Trump's levels in the debates. In the end, Bush had to suspend his campaign with zero victories (Photo: FlickrCC Michael Vadon)2. Voter anger doesn't have a party affiliation
Just like Hillary Clinton failed to predict how Obama's positive slogans would galvanize the left in 2007, the GOP hardly could have foreseen the wave of anger that Trump has channeled so well in this cycle. It shouldn't surprise us that the anger exists, though.
In a detailed review of the state of the U.S. economy and manufacturing sector, Thomas Edsall shows that this anger has been a long time coming. Since 1979, the U.S. has lost some seven million manufacturing jobs. During the same period, purchasing power has remained stagnant, the country was hit by the Great Recession, and some sectors of the economy, like the coal industry, are about to be completely decimated.
It would be a mistake to think that such discontent is reserved only for GOP voters. In fact, Bernie Sander's victory in the Michigan Democratic Primary must have particularly rattled Clinton's strategists ahead of the fall's campaign. Both Sanders and Trump have been effective in directing voter anger towards free trade deals, and both are doing very well among independents and non-registered voters. It's a formula Trump could employ very effectively this fall.
2016-03-28-1459170193-4163286-25324750153_1f521f1fd2_b.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-28-1459170193-4163286-25324750153_1f521f1fd2_b.jpg Thousands upon thousands of angry voters have come out to support Trump. But voter anger may not have a party affiliation (Photo: FlickrCC, Gage Skidmore)3. The perceived image of America in crisis motivates voters
When people are angry, they need someone to blame. Donald Trump is a master of finding scapegoats, both foreign and domestic. Whether it's the Chinese, Mexicans, the Japanese, the South Koreans, Muslims, the media, lobbyists, or any of his opponents on both sides of the isle, Trump has painted them as villains, exploiters or incapable patsies. Read some interviews of some of his supporters and you'll quickly learn that the images stick.
Trump has also exploited perceived threats not of his making. Ever since Obama took office, the Republican Party has conjured up an image of America in crisis. The party has talked about Obama's failed economy as job creation soared, about an immigration crisis as the number of undocumented immigrants are actually declining, of a failed health care reform that has insured over six million more of young Americans, and of a foreign policy without direction.
These perceptions are prevalent, and perhaps one of the few factors that still unite GOP voters. Come this fall, Trump will likely wield this threatening image effectively in his battle against Clinton.
2016-03-28-1459170815-5943945-14954710377_a57fedae1f_o.png © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-28-1459170815-5943945-14954710377_a57fedae1f_o.png Republicans have painted an image of an America in disarray for many years, without necessarily backing up the claims with facts. This image was published by the House GOP (Photo: FlickrCC, House GOP)4. Populists don't need policy plans, just strength
In the Republican debates, Rubio and Cruz tried, time and time again, to illustrate that Trump's solutions lack both details and viability. The thing is, a populist doesn't need to bother with details because fed-up voters don't care. To them, details only obscure the truth, they muddy the waters with politically correct rhetoric that, in their eyes, have led nowhere good.
Trump only needs to convince voters that he is the right guy for the job. Plans will follow. In this regard, he had a leg up on many of his GOP opponents, and the same factors would come into play against Clinton.
As he funds his own campaign and has never held elected office, Trump can somewhat legitimately claim that he hasn't been corrupted by Washington or Wall Street. He continuously seeks to promote the image of himself a job-creator and a successful businessman who has built a corporate empire. However untrue these claims are, such images resonate with many American voters. Not just voters on the right, mind you.
2016-03-28-1459171408-5006526-24614625614_62eaf3b77a_b.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-28-1459171408-5006526-24614625614_62eaf3b77a_b.jpg Trump doesn't need to convince people about a message, just that he is the right candidate for the job (Photo: FlickrCC, Gage Skidmore)5. Trumpism prevails when voters don't care about ideology
Donald Trump is neither a Democrat, nor a Republican. At least not a party member the traditional parts of the GOP recognize. Did parts of the conservative electorate leave the GOP, or did the party leave them? The answer is probably neither, and much simpler than that: voters aren't as ideological as the party purists who were swept into office by the Tea Party revolution and the polarizing nomination processes the last two cycles.
Seemingly, it doesn't matter to a lot of conservative voters that Trump has been pro-choice, that he has been married three times over, or that he has supported plenty of Democrats in the past. With the rise of Trumpism, party officials have begrudgingly witnessed their presumed candidate abandon GOP mantra like unconditional love for free trade or complete support of Israel. And guess what? Many of these voters don't care.
This fact should concern Democratic strategists as well: If the election becomes less about an ideological path forward, left or right, and more about the candidates, then whose to say that independents wouldn't be drawn to the same features that primary voters have been, thus far?
It's not over until it's over
Listen, I'm not saying that it doesn't look good for Democrats ahead of the November election.
I'm just asking that the left takes a break from all the celebratory talk about a chaotic GOP convention, prospects of flipping both chambers in Congress, and how amazingly polarizing Trump is to the electorate.
There are reasons behind the rise of Trump, and you would be wise to consider them carefully. If not, you may regret it come November.

TRUMP © Bloomberg via Getty Images TRUMP

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