Donald Trump’s success has been largely credited to his outsider status. He frequently flaunts the fact that he is not a member of the GOP establishment, even though his inexperience is apparent through his words and actions. Republican primary voters are drawn to his simplistic understanding of the problems facing America and his political incorrectness. They want an outsider.
But on the Democratic side, the race has narrowed to two life-long politicians: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Though there is an argument to be made that Sanders is an outsider due to his years as an independent, that does not change the fact that Sanders has been in Congress for over 20 years. Anyone who spends that long in Congress cannot reasonably be described as an outsider in the vein of Trump, who has never held elected office. So why are Republican voters favoring candidates who are less experienced and less moderate?
Establishment Candidates Haven’t Been Successful in the Past
The last two Republican candidates who ran against President Obama (McCain and Romney) were true insiders with years of experience in elected office, close ties to the GOP, significant fundraising power, and a history of reaching across the aisle. And they both lost.
No Room for Moderates in New GOP
Especially since President Obama’s election, the Tea Party, Fox News, and talk radio pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have done their best to shift the Republican party further to the right and they have been successful. Moderate career politicians are seemingly out of place in the new Republican party as evidenced by the lack of success of those like Jeb Bush.
In the past years, many blue collar American jobs have been eliminated as American manufacturing fails to compete with other global competitors. Terrorism is a major concern for many people because of its randomness and potential for destruction, even though you are more likely to be killed by falling furniture than a terrorist. Social conservatives claim Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage are signs of an increasingly left-leaning government that is overstepping its authority. Many voters in the GOP perceive their conception of America to be under attack by religious extremists and the left.
Republican voters are driven to vote for party outsiders like Cruz and Trump due to frustration at the failures of establishment candidates, a Tea Party driven shift to the right, and fear over the economy, terrorism, and social issues. It does not matter whether these fears are warranted or not because GOP voters have already decided that they are. In this case, their perception Trumps reality.