Martin Gurri on Donald Trump

He writes,

The right level of analysis on Trump isn’t Trump, but the public that endows him with a radical direction and temper, and the decadent institutions that have been too weak to stand in his way.

The American public, like the public everywhere, is engaged in a long migration away from the structures of representative democracy to more sectarian arrangements. In Henri Rosanvallon’s term, the democratic nation has devolved into a “society of distrust.” The reasons, Rosanvallon argues, are deep and structural, but we also have available a simple functional explanation: the perception, not always unjustified, that democratic government has failed to deliver on its promises.

Recall that Gurri wrote The Revolt of the Public, which predicted the revolt against the establishment that Trump represents.

Read the whole post, which includes this:

The charts show Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Trump’s chief opponents, drowning deep below the awareness threshold. They and their messages were largely nonexistent to the public.

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42 Responses to Martin Gurri on Donald Trump

  1. Floccina says:

    I would like to hear for another Martin on Trump, Martin Gilens. Gilens has written about the upper class’s out sized influence on USA government like it was a bad thing. I would like for him to write about Trump as the fulfillment of his wishes. Be careful what you wish for.

  2. Floccina says:

    When I try to think back about conversations with blue collar friends, if they talked about political things at all, it was Trumpish stuff. Trump is what they always wanted but were never offered by a candidate with enough name recognition to get enough votes.

  3. collin says:

    I know there is a lot of cheering of what Trump is doing but isn’t Trump COMPLETELY against libertarian values? Like yourself, lower working class wages doesn’t bother most libertarians, and even some (Caplan) are dancing on their graves.

    It appears the people storming the castle for Trump are storming libertarian economics.

    • asdf says:

      Libertarian economics are pretty dumb. The most obvious example is open borders, which is one of the areas where libertarians hold themselves out as being particularly ideologically pure compared to the mainstream. If they got their wish they would flood their country with low IQ net tax liabilities that share few libertarian views either politically or culturally. The likely outcome matches politics in their home countries, which are not libertarian.

      One could go on with libertarianism’s shortcomings, but there is a reason libertarianism never broke out of something less then 5% of people really bought into (and popular “folk” libertarianism is pretty far away from the extreme stuff libertarian think tanks are putting out).

      • Slocum says:

        ” If they got their wish they would flood their country with low IQ net tax liabilities ”

        You greatly overestimate the attractiveness of living in the US to Latin Americans. Yes, the pay here is higher, but so is the cost of living. And it’s colder. And their friends and families are far away. The unambitious are simply not going to come — too much effort is required. After the 2008 financial crisis (and especially the housing construction bust), the number of illegal immigrants has been declining (most likely to do reduced work opportunities):

        Except for those who move up the income ladder, the most obvious thing to do for Latin American immigrants is to come, earn some money, save it by living frugally, and then go back home where those dollars will go a whole lot farther. I’ve met a number of people who’ve done exactly that in South America (the English skills they picked up while living in the US are handy in the tourist business back home).

        • asdf says:

          Any look at the demographic projections of the US population by race would show that the problem is neither small nor temporary. We are on track to be a majority NAM country within my own lifetime.

          My children’s generation are already going to be majority non-white. That means the country they grow up in will be a dysfunctional shithole like Mexico or Brazil. What parent can wish that on their own children? That’s monstrous, of course I’m going to try and do better for those I love. This is literally how you want our children to live:

          To the extent there are already enough physically here that the demographics are baked in deportations will be necessary. I consider every single amnesty since Reagan to be an illegitimate imposition by elites, and all descendants from such law breakers to be non-citizens even if they were born here.

          In an ideal world all such people would be removed from the country, but force if necessary, and we would renew the immigration regime of 1924-1964 with strict enforcement. Such actions would mean a future of hope for our posterity.

          • collin says:

            I consider every single amnesty since Reagan to be an illegitimate imposition by elites

            Why not blame Reagan for the 1986? That was the big one of illegal alien Amnesty and all other are very mild in comparison.

          • asdf says:

            I do blame Reagen too. I meant to include his amnesty in the “every single amnesty since”.

          • Slocum says:

            “In an ideal world all such people would be removed from the country, but force if necessary…”

            Restore racial purity by forcible deportation of undesirable citizens!? Ho-lee crap. You do realize that was Hitler’s original plan, too, right?

          • asdf says:

            Had they not been allowed here in the first place, they would not have to be deported. They broke the law, there were bound to be consequences.

            Hitler has been dead for over 70 years. Is destroying our country going to result in a redo of 1933?

            The Japanese did as bad as the Nazis. Yet remarkably in Japan today everyone is racist and they are firmly against immigration. Nobody seems to have this massive racial guilt that advocates national suicide to try and make amends for the imperial era.

            What I’m proposing is the most likely option to precent violence and anarchy. Force is going to get used eventually, by us or them. I’d prefer it not come at a time of chaos and anarchy, which is surely will if we go down this path.

          • Andrew' says:

            Japan is terrible. I think the same thing about them what I always say about Germany to the Eurification liberals. They never get the joke, but we kick Germany’s as and they are full of Germans.

            The more people who live under the US system the better. That is a fact. Aside from racism, the rest is speculation.

          • Andrew' says:

            We can’t talk to you guys. You make some outlandish claim assuming your own conclusions. We “say wait a second there.” Then you guys always say “see! libertarians oppose making America great again!”

            You really don’t know anything about libertarians but one aspect of one subset of what you assume Bryan Caplan thinks.

          • Fielding says:

            1) Open borders
            2) Extensive Welfare
            3) Broad Democracy

            Pick two.

            We’re past the point of easy answers.

          • Andrew' says:

            I’ll pick just one. That Democrats and Republicans won’t give us any causing the worst of all world’s (porous borders allow low human capital to sneak in while high human capital is bullied) has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me. Nothing.

          • Andrew' says:

            Anyone. Have you ever heard a liberal say “well, libertarians want open borders?”

            I’ll wait.

          • Fielding says:

            Not sure I’m following your point, but if (in your words) low human capital individuals can sneak in and (my words) vote themselves more welfare then it impacts everyone that’s a net positive tax payer.

            (Plus there’s the indirect effect of pricing marginal value US citizens out of the labor market, with knock-on effects on welfare, housing prices, social coherence, etc. Which amplifies the net impact.)

      • Andrew' says:

        ” If they got their wish they would flood their country”

        You hold some weird ideas. On the one hand, we already have open borders. On the other hand, thank goodness we don’t have open borders. Which is it?

  4. Jeff R. says:

    Put differently, the Trump candidacy is a test of democracy in America in 2016. The public is agitated and willing to vote for this strange and formless man. It is not directly engaged. The structures of democracy, on the flip side, appear to be near collapse.

    Not sure I agree with this. Is the “structure” of democracy, however you define that, really collapsing, or is it just shifting? I lean towards the latter: a move towards an insider vs. outsider contest and away from the old red state/blue state conflict of the last twenty odd years. I suppose I could easily see a Trump presidency (or just a candidacy) effectively crippling or destroying the Republican party, thus making the US a one party state, but would that be likely to last, though? I doubt it, if for no other reason than people would eventually get sick of the Democrats, either because of corruption, overreach, incompetence, etc. In short, something is going on, but “collapse” and “revolution” overstate things quite a bit. As Gurri even says, there’s no Tahrir Square for Trumpists. Just a few arena rallies. This is not the Weimar Republic. Congress isn’t going to relocate to Richmond any time soon.

    Also, isn’t it a bit odd to say that Trump is a media creation, and yet a few paragraphs later say that the news business is dying and desperate and has latched on to Trump for a cynical ratings boost? To me, this seems a little contradictory. He has a chart showing the amount of airtime different candidates receive on the nightly news on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Who, in 2016, still watches network news? Anybody under the age of 60? And how much of that coverage of Trump was anything besides reproachful and condescending? Not much, I bet (can’t say for sure since, ya know…I don’t watch the news). In short, I think media influence on the public mind is waning along with their economic prospects, and the Trump phenomena has a lot more to do with “the political war-bands that populate Tumblr, Gawker, reddit, and so many other online platforms” he mentions than whatever Wolf Blitzer is yammering about on CNN.

    And yet, those criticisms aside, still a good essay.

    • JK Brown says:

      No, Congress isn’t moving to Richmond, but this does give me the idea to move Congress to Kansas. Just to drive the media, pundits, and political operatives insane. Think about it, what if we moved the focus of their jobs to Kansas?

  5. jonathan says:

    I think this is actually a very important question: to what extent should we analyze Trump as an exceptional person, or as the consequence of exceptional circumstances? (It’s really just the old debate about whether individuals matter in history.)

    One line of thought is that Trump is a really really skilled salesman, and has managed a very impressive feat of persuasion and salesmanship. In this view, Trump is exceptional, and the times are exceptional only insofar as they provide him with an opportunity to exploit.

    The other view is that Trump is pretty much the same as past outsider / populist candidates, but that this is an unusual juncture in our nation’s political history where such a candidate can succeed.

    Obviously it is likely that this is a combination of unusual man and unusual times, but I personally lean towards the first hypothesis as the primary cause, particularly relative to the standard analysis, which seems to focus exclusively on the unusual times.

    One piece of evidence is that we haven’t seen much success by Trumpian candidates until now. The Trump coalition seems very much to have been created by Trump, even if its potential existed before. And it’s not clear to me that it would remain coherent in the absence of Trump.

    • Andrew' says:

      Trump is well trained in his schtick. He is also primed by having a je ne sais quoi established through his appearances and feuds.

      But one key thing is I think the people criticizing Trump underestimated how much people despise them and how the more they dump on Trump and the more they act befuddled and condescending and upset the more it backfires against them.

      • Andrew' says:

        Even Gurri does it.
        When he says,
        “First, the public’s temper has moved much closer to nihilism than anyone not wholly deranged by conspiracy theories could have imagined”

        Gurri is underestimating how nihilistic the establishment seems to be from the vantage point of anyone not within its warm insulation. Try to name any area that isn’t between an embarrassment (tax policy) and a disaster (foreign policy) with a lot of divisive distractions in between.

        • Jeff R. says:

          “Gurri is underestimating how nihilistic the establishment seems to be from the vantage point of anyone not within its warm insulation.”


          • Andrew' says:

            Hilary architects us into a war with Russia on the other side. Yes, it is inconceivable that something so insignificant to us could have disastrous consequences, but 1. Why is it so inconceivable and 2. Why would we be involved with something with so little upside and any remote possibility of risk?

    • asdf says:

      It’s both. Given that Trump type parties are rising in Europe as well you can’t say its only Trump.

    • Jonathan Bechtel says:

      I think Trump is the beneficiary of being an outsider with the clout, chutzpah, and capital necessary to inject himself into the establishment at a time when it was particularly ripe for disruption.

      At the end of the day his success is due to his role as an avatar and not his own character per se.

      Personally, I hope he doesn’t win the election, but am glad he’s run because I think it’s been the biggest shock to the political system in the last 50 years.

  6. Andrew_FL says:

    Analyses like this read like people trying to make sense of an unexpected majority of the American electorate, rather than a minority sect of voters in the primary for America’s second largest political party.

    • asdf says:

      Trump would win 1 on 1 matches against the other Republican candidates. Trump is the second choice for some of those people.

      • Andrew_FL says:

        Show me the poll he wins head to head against Cruz or Kasich. You’re dead wrong.

        • asdf says:

          In a head-to-head matchup between Trump and Cruz — with Kasich voters re-allocated to their second choices — the Manhattan real-estate mogul earned 46 percent support, compared with 37 percent for Cruz and 12 percent undecided. While the Texas senator drew slim advantages among tea party supporters, white, born-again evangelicals and those describing themselves as very conservative, Trump drew far greater support from voters who described themselves as somewhat conservative, moderate or liberal, as well as among men, women and those 45 years and older.

          With Cruz supporters shifting to their second choices, Trump would have a large lead. Fifty-six percent said they would vote for Trump, with just 25 percent opting for Kasich and 13 percent undecided. More than seven-in-10 (71 percent) of tea party supporters said they would vote for Trump over the Ohio governor, along with strong majorities in every demographic and ideological group, including those describing themselves as moderate or liberal.

          • Andrew_FL says:

            Asked for a poll, not swill from PPP, outlet that engages in fishing expeditions for birthers. At odds with most polls on this question.

        • Anonymous Coward says:


          See below link for a listing of various polls. I am unsure how comprehensive this listing is, but it seems to generally support asdf’s assertion. If you would suggest another outlets for more reliable polling data I’d be very appreciative, as I am pretty much dependent on RCP for this kind of poll data.

          • Andrew_FL says:

            Zero of those are head to head polls. None are relevant, except that *all* show with a *minority* of Republicans as their current first choice. This supports neither of us, but is closer to supporting me than asdf.

          • Anonymous Coward says:


            Apologies for my poor reading comprehension. I agree with you that none of those polls are relevant to the head-to-head question.

            I did find the following story from ABC News (Mar 8, 2016) which reports on results from an ABC/WaPo poll “produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates”:

            Trump 41% v. Cruz 54%
            Trump 45% v. Rubio 51%.


  7. JK Brown says:

    Well, the parties of special interest have really gone sectarian in the last 70 years. What they didn’t anticipate as they pandered to various minority interest groups that those with middle class values, if perhaps no longer middle class incomes, would come together to look after their own interests, or that a boorish political outsider would see the future and stand for election on their issues.

    Oh, and the middle class don’t protest, they are doers and in the last 300 years when animated, as the middle class go, so goes the nation.

  8. Lord says:

    La meme chose. This isn’t so different from times in the past. Eventually it blows over and little changes. After Trump we may see more freedom among future candidates to blaze their own path and less repetition of canned policies and positions and we will be better for it.

  9. Daublin says:

    I agree about the perspective on politics. It’s not like Trump, Obama, Clinton, or either of the Bushes were leaders, per se. They are all just the pretty faces in front of large, complicated, *political* power bases. If you want to understand politics, you will go crazy trying to analyze the direct meaning of the speeches these guys give.

    I am not sure this is any more true today than in the past. Think about hippies versus establishment, back in the 60s and 70s. Think about the Tea Totallers versus the Bootleggers, in the 1910s and 1920s.

  10. Jeff says:

    I’m not so sure that there’s such a big sea change (moving to a society of distrust) going on. The voters tend to be discontented when the economy is not doing well. The Communist Party did pretty well in elections during the Great Depression in Europe, and the Socialists were doing pretty well here.

    I wonder. Suppose employment levels had recovered to their 2007 levels within a couple of years, like in most previous recesssions, and further supposed that we hadn’t been subjected to the spectacle of the Congress, the President and the Fed all falling all over themselves in their eagerness to make sure that no Wall Streeters missed any bonuses. Would we still see the same distrust by the voters? Maybe it has less to do with the Internet and more to do with really bad policies.

  11. Massimo says:

    Kling has said, “I want my fellow citizens to be disenchanted with democracy.” He wants “exit” over “voice” to use Hirschman’s language. I’d like to read Kling explore this more. Specifically, how could this be done practically. Does Kling support private cities? Is Google campus a mini-private city? Could these experiments be expanded?

    BTW, I think many normal citizens complain about democracy, it’s just that there’s no known better alternative.

    • Andrew' says:

      What am I missing if I think the alternative is democratic capitalism? We vote on public space concerns, but my property is my purview right up to the boundaries where externalities enter the public space or someone else’s property? Sure, where the lines are drawn will be endlessly debated and democracy can be relied upon to always get that part wrong. But that just means we need better voters.

  12. Tom G says:

    There is a lot of good in Gurri on Trump, but not quite enough about how Trump supporters are, like most protesters, mostly AGAINST the junk that Trump is often against. Open Borders and too many illegals; too many Muslim immigrants / not enough screening.
    And where is the discussion of Poli Corr – the increasing insanity and intolerance and injustices happening because of stupid application of PC by the gov’t is increasing the anger. Especially anger against elites — especially those PC supporting elites who don’t like Trump, ’cause Trump is disrespecting the elite PC assumptions. Lots of Trump supporters have long been waiting for an anti-PC champion, and Trump is doing far far more anti-PC words than (my supported) Cruz or anybody else.

    Plus, the times really ARE changing — since WW II baby boomers were born and in ascendance. Now they are fading, slowly, into retirement and less life- certainty than they expected; with kids & grandkids often having bigger problems than expected.

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