Explaining the Mystique of Donald Trump

By Dr. Gary S. Smith

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
The Center For Vision & Values
The Center For Vision & Values

Grove City, PA -(Ammoland.com)- How can we explain the surprising electoral success of Donald Trump, especially in light of his lack of political experience, limited knowledge of and specificity about policy issues, and crude and insulting rhetoric?

Who supports him and why do they find the business tycoon to be so attractive?

Analysts have identified four major features of Trump supporters. First, few of them have graduated from college. This is an important statistic because it likely speaks to their economic frustrations. Consider that only 68 percent of men without a bachelor’s degree had a full-time job in 2013. Moreover, the wages of these men, adjusted for inflation, have declined significantly since 1990. The shift of many manufacturing jobs to other countries and the low salaries of service jobs in the United States have reduced the employment opportunities and income of men and women who have not completed a college degree.

Consequently, many of these people are disgruntled and ripe for change—and many are supporting Trump.

Second, Trump’s supporters are individuals who complain that they have little political voice. In polls, high percentages of those who agree with the statement “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does” prefer Trump. People’s conviction that they lack power and influence predicts Trump support much better than any other factor including amount of education, income, age, race, or attitudes toward Muslims or illegal immigrants.

Donald Trump Make America Great
Donald Trump Make America Great

Trump has promised to help these despondent, largely white Americans increase their political clout and financial prospects. He touts his business success and claims that when he becomes president America will regain its world influence and winning ways. Trump’s promises to “Make America Great Again” and to restore the power, prestige, and privileges of whites especially appeal to people who feel excluded from the political process.

Third, Trump’s backers are willing to trade greater security for less liberty. They want the government to protect them from threatening “outsiders” whether they are terrorists, refugees, or illegal immigrants.

They complain that many immigrants are not playing by the nation’s rules and are taking advantage of hard-working white Americans. Trump has sought to alleviate the fears of these individuals by pledging to construct a towering wall between the United States and Mexico, promising to keep Muslims refugees out of America, and calling for the deportation of most illegal immigrants.

Deeply alarmed by the proliferation of terrorist attacks around the world, Trump supporters protest that President Barack Obama’s policies are not keeping the nation safe. They applaud Trump’s plans to create a database of Muslim Americans, increase surveillance of mosques, and temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Fourth, Trump supporters disproportionately reside in sections of the United States where racial resentment is high. These white men and women, who often refer to themselves as the “silent majority,” fear that minorities and immigrants are advancing at their expense and want to turn the clock back to a time when America was not so culturally diverse and their lives were less complicated. They do not trust Obama, accuse him of intensifying racial tensions, and argue that they suffer from reverse discrimination.

Silent Majority Trump
These white men and women, who often refer to themselves as the “silent majority,” fear that minorities and immigrants are advancing at their expense.

Two books written to analyze Adolf Hitler’s rise to power—Erich Fromm’s “Escape from Freedom” (1941) and Eric Hoffer’s “True Believers” (1951)—help explain why many Americans find Trump appealing. Fromm, a German psychologist who moved to the United States in 1934, analyzed how Nazism became widely accepted in society where people enjoyed substantial freedom and high levels of education. Fromm contended that the psychological conditions in Germany caused by the nation’s unexpected defeat in World War I and the punitive Versailles Treaty led millions to want Germany to restore its power and regain the world’s respect.

This desire, coupled with the economic impact of the Great Depression, made many discontented, insecure, and despondent Germans receptive to the message of an authoritarian leader who vowed to make Germany great again.

The core of Fromm’s argument is that in times of rapid social change, economic stagnation, and rampant anxiety, people often find freedom to be frightening. Freedom causes people to feel adrift, unsettled, bewildered, isolated, and fearful. Terrorist threats, reduced purchasing power, bleak economic prospects, lack of respect, perceived unfairness, and declining moral standards lead many to struggle with freedom. They are unsure about how to best use their freedom; making decisions is daunting and anxiety-provoking. To relieve this anxiety, some seek to “escape from freedom” by identifying with and listening to strong leaders who explain how the world actually works, tell them what to do, and promise to improve their lives. This relieves them of personal responsibility and gives them the comfort and certainty they crave.

Hoffer, an American longshoreman and social philosopher, argued in “True Believers” that individuals who are experiencing these pressures and adopt this mindset are inclined to join mass movements that guarantee to change the world and improve their circumstances. Such individuals are attracted to movements and leaders that gives their lives purpose and direction, help them feel better about themselves and their prospects, and enable them to subsume their individual lives in a larger entity.

Hoffer also contended that “true believers” often shift from one social movement to another because they are more concerned with the psychological benefits their participation brings by identifying with a powerful, magnetic leader than with the movement’s actual ideology. He maintained that various nationalist and social movements, whether on the left or the right, typically attract the same kind of adherents and use the same rhetoric and tactics.

I am not arguing that Trump should be compared with Hitler, only that the some of the conditions that existed in the 1930s that led Germans to support Hitler exist in America today and prompt people to back Trump.

These prescient books help explain why Trump’s mystique seems to be tarnished so little by his vulgar and outlandish behavior and why his momentum seems so difficult to halt despite the concerted efforts of many Republican leaders.

Dr. Gary Scott Smith
Dr. Gary Scott Smith

About the Author:

Dr. Gary Scott Smith chairs the history department at Grove City College and is a fellow for faith and politics with The Center for Vision & Values. He is the author of “Religion in the Oval Office” (Oxford University Press, 2015), “Faith and the Presidency From George Washington to George W. Bush” (Oxford University Press, 2009), “Religion in the Oval Office” and “Heaven in the American Imagination” (Oxford University Press, 2011).

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Coward would be the description of someone like Rep. Brandon Phelps from Harrisburg, Illinois. Phelps is the NRA’s whore, he sponsored the “NRA backed” HB183 carry bill in 2013. Phelps put Duty to Inform in his “good” “NRA backed” carry bill because NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde cut a deal with the anti-gun police unions. The ONLY people who OPPOSED Duty to Inform were the “Chicago Democrat” Black Caucus Reps.! Now you know there is a rat in the (State) House, and it’s name is Todd Vandermyde. Vandermyde worked as lobbyist for William Dugan at the Intl. Union of Operating Engineers… Read more »


“…Trump’s backers are willing to trade greater security for less liberty.” The description of Trump supporters sounds like the inbred hicks from southern Illinois who sold out Otis McDonald in Illinois 2013 carry bill. First they use Otis for the Supreme Court case, because using a black man makes NRA look trendy. When the U.S. Federal Appeals Court in Chicago overturned Illinois concealed weapons law in 2012, NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde cut a deal with the anti-gun Chiefs of Police to put Duty to Inform in the “NRA backed” carry bill, so police criminals can set up and kill armed… Read more »


Chicagoguy,just a useless POS ! Total coward,total pissant !


The comments that everyone posted has shown me that there is still hope for this country. I am glad to hear that we still have passion. Thanks to everyone for your comments. Keep pushing forward and we can make a difference.


It’s ironic that the author cites Hoffer’s work (which by the way, is not “True Believers”, but “The True Believer, a Study of Mass Movements”), as the one statement that stood out in H the book was “All mass movements begin with the words ‘Hope and Change.'” Where have we heard that before?


I read the same article on the rise of Hitler, but it was applied to obama, now its being applied to Trump. Based on the actions of the former, it has a ring of truth.

Don Quizzote

Who is this jerk again, and why is Ammoland spewing his Liberal rhetoric? I’m college educated, work in a high tech field, hate that it’s a gun free zone. I make more than the national average and have a high IQ. I find this insulting and moronic. Donald Trump embodies a revolution all right, the desire for Americans to be Americans again. Let’s throw out the illegals and scrape off the crap dumped on the Constitution by the Euro-trash. If you want to come here you best act like us and think like us or leave. You’re welcome to stay… Read more »


Seems like Ammoland has an agenda or is just part of the Neocon/RINO koolaid drinking cult. Dr. Gary S. Smith aka A closet communist, paid opposition propaganda pusher and totalitarian scum bag. “Professor” in this day and age is a nice way of saying “an aspiring commissar, propaganda agent and authoritarian control freak” Why even go to college when most of the degrees are going to be worth a big steaming pile of dung and all you are getting is brainwashing about how cool globalism is, how socialism is the best thing since sliced bread and thousands of dollars of… Read more »


The moron that wrote this article is a complete and absolute idiot, moron and obvious left winger indoctrinator who should be banned from any contract with young minds. I AM A COOLEGE GRADUATW and favpor TRUMP as do many other well educated people and school teachers. We recognized that we HAVE BEEN SCREWED over and OVER by the GOP and the Dimocraps no matter who we voted for. TRUMP is with neither party and represents a BETTER protection of our rights and security than any of the establishment bunch. I bet “DR.” Scott is either a HIllary or Bernie supporter… Read more »


The other mystery needing to be explained is why the editors at Ammoland don’t read more than the headline before republishing drivel from socialist, un-American ass-wipes like this PhDud.

F Riehl, Editor in Chief

FYI; we read everything. While we support Trump, as illustrated by the dozens of articles and personal interviews with him posted on AmmoLand, we also have to do our due diligence and high-lite Trump’s short comings if any of us expect to win in the coming election. Just because you don’t like the article does not make it less valid.


It is amazing how the “old white guard” also known as the GOP has piled on Trump, why? What does the old white guard have to lose? I’ll tell you what I see them losing, money and power, they are not willing to give up. The media, the democratic party and the GOP are all attacking Trump and yet he stands firm to his beliefs, unwavering in his words from day one. He has been unapologetic for his positions, his stance, his beliefs. Only Trump as been attacked like this and yet Bernie Sanders and Hillery Clinton followers could be… Read more »


This quote is spot on and is what concerns me the most about Trump. “Trump’s backers are willing to trade greater security for less liberty.” Whay I’m seeing in the most rabid of the Trump supporters are people that are desperate for change, people that are willing to sacrifice their liberty and freedom to someone who will expand the NSA’s power under the Patriot Act. I’m seeing a lot of Trump supporters that are acting exactly like the Obamaphiles they despise and criticize, those that voted on Obama’s hollow words of “Hope & Change”. That’s just my opinion from my… Read more »


Your observations and wrong and you sound like someone who is just repeating a talking point you heard on Fox News or some other Neocon media outlet. Were you complaining when we had an establishment Republican President expanding the Federal Government’s power and actually PASSING THE PATRIOT ACT? Yeah that’s right, that happened under that scumbag Bush who is praised by neocons and his fellow RINOs. The same neocons that bash Trump every chance they get. So you think Cruz is any different? Follow the money behind the snake called Ted Cruz and you might be surprised what you will… Read more »


Teddy Roosevelt long ago offered an explanation for what we are seeing today. “The best politician is the one who says what the voters are thinking, and says it out loud.” As to the trading of liberty for security; “There is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.” John F. Kennedy Those who would trade liberty for… Read more »


Trump is not a Constitutionalist! He has come out against gun ownership in the past. He is a contractor–ever do business with them? The change the game, snivel whine and then threaten–he is arrogant and dangerous, wish Cruz had a chance because all we need to do is follow our Constitution as it was written and we would be just fine.. Let’s face it, as a republic, we are NOT a democracy and never have been–look up the definitions Washington Compost–we are pretty much toast. It has been a good run but it is soon to be over–so prepare…


Sadly, I agree with Jack… in all of human history, America is the only country that was deliberately founded on a good idea, but it will soon be over, and (regardless of the November election results) horrible civil rioting will engulf this entire nation. As detestable as the coming debacle is, we – regrettably – must be prepared…


Yes Jack, Trump is a multiple times bankrupt, born with a silver, no make that platinum spoon in his mouth, egomaniac.
Folks he does not give a crap about you, he does however love D. Trump.


Interesting….. change a couple of words in this article and it would describe Obama and his followers….. and the Democrat party….


You are right, so why support this one?

David D

That is exactly the point of the article. It is not a hit piece against Trump at all. The author merely describes the sentiments most common to Trump supporters, then discussed how these traits have been common, historically, in people when they feel helpless and victimized. I don’t think the author was trying to provoke an argument or criticize Trumps supporters. I think that he was simply trying to understand Trumps popularity, and did so in a constructive way.


I guess the lack of a college education, the poor economic status of most blacks, high racial resentment in places like Baltimore, MD and Ferguson, MO and Chicago, IL and being ignored by the politicians explains why blacks are flooding the voting booths and voting for Trump.


Well, well … This article indeed represents some fairly weak thinking on this matter.

Ann Coulter dealt with the same topic just last week:

Enough said.


This article & the person who wrote it is prime examples of WHY Trump will win the Presidency.

Mike from NC

Sadly, many of the comments posted here tend to prove the author’s point. Trump represents a concept that his followers want to be a reality. The fact that he has no actual plan or for that matter any actual desire to bring that about is irrelevant to them. Anger and frustration is not the same as a policy or a plan. And making decisions, especially important decisions, while angry and frustrated is usually a bad idea. The results are not usually what is expected or desired. It looks like Trump is on his way to the nomination. Only when its… Read more »


I agree with you Mike. The article accurately described what is happening and a warning to what could happen. Just because you do not like what has happened (I do not like our current administration either) is not a valid reason to bring in a worse situation. I do not want an egotistical, inexperienced, crude individual as President. Do you really want Trump throwing insults at other world leaders? If you truly answer that question with a yes, and you are OK with him leading us into a war that he provokes, then stay with it he is your man.… Read more »


Hey you two not so bright people;
We gave the GOP the House and they said they could do NOTHING without the Senate; So we gave them a majority in the Senate and THEN they turned around , kissed Obama’s bare butt and handed him EVERYTHING he wanted in the budget. They GOP has betrayed the voters in this country at every opportunity and would rather play patty-cake with all the liberal dims in congress. DO WAKE UP and vote for an outsider for a change.


Don’t worry mike or I mean john, what ever you call yourself. There are enough of us actual Americans left that will fight for this country, to help keep you bunch of libs free to keep spewing your tripe. Protect our borders all 4 of them. It is the only way to have a Country. Take your happy self anywhere else in the world get caught crossing their border illegally. You get arrested and held for a indefinite time, that is the least that might happen. Some countries will just kill you if caught. By all means take yourself to… Read more »


Gee…for a moment there I though he was talking about Barack Obama.


What a crock! Not being a college grad either means you are stupid or haven’t been indoctrinated with with liberal BS. HOw about being pissed because too many of the current crop of politicians are liars, cheats and thieves and live outside the rules of most “average” Americans. Health insurance for example, pay for example, other benefits they have voted for themselves while others can’t even find a job. How about the traitor muslim in the White House who regularly espouses BS and more BS without even blinking. How about the Constitution? Ever hear of it, read it or have… Read more »

Dr. Strangelove

Emperor Tromp will sue this site under his new libel laws.


The United States citizens are voting for Trump because of democrats like Jorge Norberto Pedace. The citizens are tired of democrats like Jorge coming to this country milking our system dry. Could you imagine how much better off our country would be if we kept democrats like Jorge out? No more anchor babies, crime cut substantially, more jobs for Americans, no more push one for English or two for Mexican, etc. Jorge I am sure Hillary or Bernie will appreciate your support. Hopefully after this election we will start deporting all of these democrats that are here illegally and build… Read more »


I know that most people don’t speak or read Spanish, but what Don Jorge is saying is that they have the same situation in Argentina and that he supports Trump. In fact Don Jorge is very complimentary of trump and laments the fact that his president in Argentina is a leftist douchbag. He goes on to explain that in Argentina has turned to the right because of failed leftist policies. Don Jorge sounds like the farthest thing from a Democrat and I don’t foresee him emigrating to the USA.


I think Trump expresses the fears of some Americans but not sure it’s the fears of the silent majority. I think the writer of this is pretty much on the mark. If Trump gets the nomination there is little to no chance of him winning the Election. He has disoriented too many large segments of the population. The one bright spot Trump has is he say’s what he thinks and we know that most politicians say only what they think folks want to hear.


And isn’t that enough to consider Him as electable… there is no career politician that can speak the truth without calculating how it will effect their job. Screw Washington insiders. They haven’t been in touch since their Daddys fought WW II. Peace out America.


Well, let me put another hole in the bullsh*t story. I served in the Marine Corps, went to college for a while, worked my way and eventually started my own business. I have been supporting myself and my family for over thirty years. While doing this the biggest problem I had is the government. Not to mention the IRS at the end of the road to extort their ‘fair share’. Regulations, agencies, foot-dragging, non-productive crap. And I could go on and on. Meanwhile, the illegals and professional moochers live off my taxes and I am livid. I have had enough.… Read more »


This elitist and condescending attitude is a prime example of what is wrong in our nation. Another “professor” who likely has little to no real life experience outside of academia and no wisdom to impart. He is obviously racked with the typical fabricated “white guilt” political correctness seeks to impart on the weak minded souls who buy into it. I say to anyone who thinks like this individual, go live in North Korea for six months to a year. You will either opt to stay because of its Utopian lifestyle, or return with a deeper appreciation of this nation and… Read more »

Jorge Norberto Pedace


Speak English

Xie xie ni,


“Analysts” — WHICH analysts? Source for these stereotypes? I look at Trump rallys and workers and I see a mix of races and backgrounds. And yes, there are Conservative professors out there…I’m one. 34th year. In the “Hard Sciences” where Math is not just Hard, but necessary. Heck, I’m more classic Libertarian than anything. But true, I am the exception, sadly, in an environment that is supposed to be about free inquiry and questioning. I’m more of the “GOPe has FAILED in keeping its promises to the voters that put them in office, becoming Obama lapdogs instead of standing strong… Read more »


DaProf; I guess you will have to start wearing Class III body armor before this election is over. I too am a Mark Twain fan and one of my favorites is ” It’s not that I believe that there are too many Idiots in the world, Just that lightening isn’t distributed right” I think missed in this whole scenario is the POWER and MONEY involved in the present arrangement and the installed Power brokers are scared to death of having their playhouse upset. Big Media has an agenda to generate hate and discontent because it drives up viewership. The written… Read more »


Yes, I’m one.
The idiot who wrote the article probably works for Hillary or Bloomberg.


Are there any conservative college professors in this country?

Curtis Cotton

That`s exactly the problem. American Universities are producing card carrying Communist who expect You and I to pay for them to get Educated so called “Free” Healthcare etc. old Hippie Professors Far left Know-it-All`s like the guy who wrote this Communist Propaganda are the root cause of what is wrong in America. “No free Lunch” means get off your ass & go to work, If you want to eat! No one owes you anything!

Tom C.

Sadly, I think nonexistant.


Conservative Professors? probably count on one hand, might be more but they have to work in the shadows because once you are Alinsky Indoctrinated it’s mandatory to attack the opposition.