Why do Republican voters like Donald J. Trump? That is the question of the moment in the blogosphere. The polling data suggest that substantive policy is not the answer. With a phenomenon of this magnitude, there are clearly several correct answers. Let me call attention to one answer that has cropped up in the discussion of the Trump phenomenon. It is, I find, both plausible and especially disturbing.
Trump's rambling free-form public speeches give people permission to say openly things they have long wanted to say but feel they have been bullied into not saying -- things like "nigger" and "spic" and "anchor baby" and "illegal rapist drug-dealing Mexicans." Trump has liberated, in millions of Americans, ugly, hateful, despicable sentiments that have been bottled up and forcibly suppressed. It feels good to them to bring those sentiments into the sunlight, to hear a rich man say them unapologetically.
What would Jesus say, were he to return to earth and walk once more among us as a natural man? When I ask myself that question [as I often do], I am reminded once again of Matthew, Chapter 23, verse 27: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." That is a remarkably accurate description of many of the good White Christian folk who flock to Trump's gatherings and cheer him to the echo.
Will Trump win the Republican nomination? I suspect not. If he does, he will guarantee a Democratic victory. If he does not, he will so damage the successful nominee that the same result is all but certain. But that is not the end of it. Freud and the Sixties to the contrary notwithstanding, there is much to be said for repression. The sentiments whose expression Trump is legitimating deserve to be repressed, they ought to be repressed, and no good can come from exposing them to the light, for although real sunlight may indeed be an effective disinfectant, metaphorical sunlight does not have that cleansing property.
There are fifty-five million registered Republicans in the United States. Let us suppose roughly 30% of them support Trump, as recent polls suggest, which is to say more than sixteen million adult Americans. That is a whole lot of whited sepulchres out there filled with uncleanness and dead men's bones!