Donald Trump, like no other candidate can, embodies the right wing's rapid descent into mindlessness and their embrace of know-nothingism. With Trump, there is nothing there besides the huge eponymous banner announcing "Trump" that appears on all his possessions, a bluster, and a golden comb over seemingly forever frozen in place. However, he rests at 22% in the polls and nothing seems to shake his support, not even a run-in with popular conservative commentator Megyn Kelly. In fact, afterwards Roger Ailes of Fox News reached out to soothe his massive ego and promised him fair treatment. The greater the number of groups he insults the more his popularity grows like something out of the horror movie The Blob.
However, it is difficult to explain his support in Iowa where a candidate representing the evangelical wing of the party would seem to do well (and the secular Trump has notoriously described communion wafers as "the little cracker"), or a salt-of-the-earth (bland) type who doesn't offend anyone's sensibilities like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. After all, Chris Christie, who almost matches the bluster of Trump and the ferocity of his bullying tirades, was nearly last in the polls in Iowa.
Trump is the embodiment of Tea Party politics. He embraced birthism long after even Fox news abandoned this line of attack on Obama as futile. His policy ideas are scant, if non-existent, while his most attractive characteristic to his supporters seems to be his anti-government fervor and his appeal to make America great again. His supporters do not trust career politicians, which explains the rise of Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina after the first Republican debate. They grasp for simplistic solutions to complex problems like building a wall to keep out all illegal aliens and, as Trump somehow conjures, letting Mexico pay for it. They are the anti-intellectual crowd who ironically support a billionaire who went to the best schools and reminds people of it every chance he gets.
However, know-nothingism has a price. One can deny climate change or even ban the mere mention of it by government employees as the Republican governor of Florida did, but it doesn't mean Florida will not be eventually inundated by the rising sea levels which are expected by climate scientists, or that greater and greater weather extremes will not become the norm. After all, carbon molecules do what they do unconcerned with the rhetoric of right-wing politicians. Alas, how can a representative of a political party lead the largest economy on earth who swears the earth is 6,000 years old while working diligently to place creationism alongside evolution in school text books? How can one say that he "does not know" if one's sexuality is chosen or not? (Oh really, at what age and then can we switch back like exchanging a garment at J.C. Penny's?) How can we elect those who protect the right to bear arms as if Moses brought down this commandment from Mt. Sinai, while at the same time eliminating funding for the Center for Disease Control to research the effects of gun violence. As a wit once said: ""A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
Trump asks us to embrace our basest tendencies: our fear of illegal aliens and their supposed criminality when, in reality, undocumented immigrants commit violent crimes at a far lower rate than native-born Americans, The list of people to be afraid of continues to grow and now, of course, includes Muslims and just about anyone else that does not resemble a character in a 1950s-era sitcom.
So what is the appeal of Trump? His bombastic retorts, his way of personalizing every petty disagreement, as in a recent spat with Sen. Rand Paul when Trump settled the argument by boasting that he "once easily beat Paul in a round of golf," explains his appeal to the largely uneducated, angry white male that Republicans have been courting since Reagan's "war on crime" rhetoric. After all, we know that a low golf handicap makes for a good president! In reality, it is an appeal to those who believe reverse discrimination is a larger and more prevalent problem than real-world discrimination, to those who believe might makes right, to the increasingly paranoid who see the world in terms of us vs. them. They can not be discounted because they have seen their jobs evaporate and migrate overseas and have seen their economic situations grow more and more precarious. Thus, they believe in a man who explains he can do it better simply because he says he can.
When Trump finally announces that his education policy will consist of having every school child buy a copy of his bestseller The Art of the Deal perhaps then he will be laughed off the stage. Until then, the Republicans are stuck with him. He is a Frankenstein monster of their own creation. Get used to the combover!