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'Trump Effect' Will Outlast His Campaign, Conservative Blogger Says


Donald Trump said yesterday he is actually winning, despite polls suggesting otherwise. He called those polls phony. Still, with 14 days to Election Day and some voting already taking place, we decided to check in with a Trump supporter to talk about what the candidate has already accomplished, even if he doesn't become president.

Chris Buskirk is the publisher of the conservative blog American Greatness, and he's a talk show radio host in Phoenix, Ariz. He says Trump has raised important issues and also brought a new style to politics - things he believes will outlast the campaign. But Buskirk also says many in the Republican establishment are learning the wrong lesson from 2016.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: The wrong lesson is to say that Donald Trump is a demagogue, he is just pulling the wool over his supporters' eyes. That misses the point. The point of it is, why are people supporting him? Did he fool everybody? I don't think so. I think that the lesson that they should be learning isn't that the entirety of their electorate is foolish and easily misled. I think that they need to be looking at the issues that Donald Trump has raised that have resonated with voters.

GREENE: There was this autopsy - this now-famous autopsy - done on the Republican Party in 2012, suggesting that they needed to really widen their appeal beyond white voters. And it seems that the party is just getting whiter and older with this presidential election. So, I mean, how do you argue against that notion?

BUSKIRK: Well, first of all, I think that the premise underlying that autopsy after 2012, I think it was done in good faith. But I think that some of the premises were just wrong, in the sense that they tried to reduce politics to identity politics. And so, as a result, I think that they just wanted to copy what Democrats have done, which is to break the electorate down into identifiable demographic subgroups and then tell each one of those subgroups what they want to hear.

What Donald Trump has done is something totally different, which is run an issues-based campaign. It's been wrapped up in rhetoric - overblown rhetoric - that some people are very uncomfortable with. But when you boil down his three main issues, you're talking about border security and interspace foreign policy, that skeptical foreign military intervention and pro-worker trade policy. That is something that is anathema to Republican elites. And so when they go back and look at 2012, they say, well, let's just look at the demographics.

GREENE: You're suggesting that he's brought up issues that are very important to people and the Republican Party should take note of that. But I've also seen you quoted as suggesting that his style as a campaigner is something that other candidates might want to emulate going forward. What exactly do you mean by that?

BUSKIRK: Well, his style is his own. And I think anybody who tries to emulate his style on a one-for-one basis, I think, is headed for disaster. The part of his retail politics that I would suggest politicians emulate is speaking directly to the people, being authentic. Now, for Donald Trump, that means he is authentically a guy - a billionaire from Queens, real estate developer who's been in reality TV forever.

He is who he is. Like him, hate him, want to vote for him, don't want to vote for him, he just is what he is, and he talks like that. And that is off-putting to a lot of people. It's also very attractive to other people because they see it as breaking out of the mold of politics as usual. And that's the place where I think that politicians should emulate Trump's political persona, in the sense that they should just be who they are, rely less on talking points and just tell people what they think.

GREENE: Chris, what would you tell someone who hears what you're saying and - and gets it a little bit, but then says they just - they couldn't see emulating a person who has made comments that they find so completely offensive to women, for example, and they just can't get past that? They're never going to even contemplate the notion of saying, you know, I might emulate Donald Trump if I run for office in the future.

BUSKIRK: Yeah, I would say, don't - don't do it. I mean, it's pretty simple. I mean, Donald Trump has said things that I wouldn't say, that most politicians wouldn't say. I'm not saying to say what he says. I'm saying to say what you think. The interesting thing about his rhetoric is that - not that people approve of his rhetoric - and I'm talking about his supporters here - but they're refreshed that somebody maybe is just making a mistake in the rhetoric sometimes, rather than running it through six consultants and coming up with a statement that doesn't really mean anything.

GREENE: Let me just ask you about one issue, and that's immigration. I mean, you brought it up when you talked about the borders. Was there any way - any other way that Donald Trump could have talked about that issue and accomplished some of the things you're speaking about? I mean, he - he got a lot of support because there are a lot of voters in this country who care deeply about that issue.

You want him to be authentic, and so he spoke, you know, off the cuff. He made some comments, you know, using terms like rapists. And, you know, was - was there another way he could have done this better, or is that just how Donald Trump would talk about immigration - he's going to offend people?

BUSKIRK: Both, probably. Yeah, I mean, he could have talked about it in a different way. Whether he would have been more effective or not, who knows - because it's wrapped up with - with the candidate and with the man. Donald Trump, I think, if we've learned anything, is that he does have a very good sense for what a large portion of people are thinking, what their issues are.

You know, maybe this goes back to his days in television as a businessman that he can sense what the audience wants and what's important to them. But by the same token, he also operates in the no-filter zone. So if he's thinking it, it just comes out. He obviously didn't script a lot of these comments, and he kind of shoots from the hip. So could he have talked about it a different way and still resonated with the base? I think so.

I think other people can. I think when you talk about border security or immigration, if you talk about two important things - one is the economics and jobs issues that are related to it, but also about voter sovereignty. If you say, you know, the American people, the electorate, has a right to make a decision about who becomes a citizen and who doesn't, I think that's a commonsense position.

GREENE: People who don't like Donald Trump, do you think they have legitimate reason, or do you think many voters have judged him unfairly?

BUSKIRK: Well, I mean, who knows, right? I mean, when people say they don't like somebody, who am I to say you don't like him for the wrong reason? When I say I support Donald Trump for president, I can't even tell you it's because I like him personally. I don't know him, right? I look at the issues that he supports and try and think about what's going to be better for the country.

I think, when people hear him and react viscerally against what he's saying, that's legitimate. But I would - I guess I would argue that anybody who is trying to make a decision on who to vote for for president needs to make a decision not on whether somebody is likeable or not, but whether or not the policies they're going to implement are going to advance what they understand is the interest of this country and its citizens better or worse than the other candidates.

GREENE: Chris, real pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much.

BUSKIRK: Oh, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

GREENE: That was Chris Buskirk. He publishes the conservative blog American Greatness. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.