- - Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Washington establishment, much of the consulting community, and the news media have been mesmerized by the rise of Donald Trump.

He is by a large, almost unimaginable margin, the front runner for the Republican nomination.

Take just three recent polls.

In New Hampshire, among registered Republicans, Mr. Trump leads with 35 percent to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 11 percent.

In South Carolina, among registered Republicans, Mr. Trump is at 30 percent with Dr. Ben Carson in second at 15 percent.

Finally, in the newest national survey by Quinnipiac, among Republican voters, Mr. Trump is at 28 percent with Dr. Carson, again in second place with 12 percent of the vote.

As Mr. Trump began to emerge over the last few months, the first establishment reaction was to shrug him off as a temporary summer phenomenon who would quickly self-destruct.

As it becomes clearer that, far from self-destructing, Mr. Trump seems to be gaining strength, the Republican elites and their commentator, blogger and TV analyst allies have become more strident. Some verge on hysteria in the harshness of their condemnation of Mr. Trump.

Meanwhile, the established, experienced “professional” candidates find themselves scrambling and at times fumbling trying to keep up with the new tone, energy, aggressiveness and bluntness of the Trump campaign.

Yet a “Trump-centric” analysis misses the really big political story of 2015.

The really big, historic phenomenon of this election cycle is the anger, distrust and lack of respect millions of Americans feel for those the establishment and the elites tell them they should be listening to.

The continuing decay of Hillary Rodham Clinton and the rise of Bernie Sanders as a socialist challenger is the Democratic parallel to the insurgency now under way in the Republican Party.

Look again at those numbers for South Carolina and nationally. Dr. Carson is second at 15 percent in the Palmetto State. He is second nationally with 12 percent of the vote.

How do voters become so alienated from their traditional leaders that a doctor with great professional background, a wonderful personal story and zero political experience is beating out governors and senators?

Another way to refocus the elite’s current hysteria into a learning opportunity is to pose this simple question: If Mr. Trump is so uncontrollable, so unpredictable, so prone to overstatements with no factual backup, why does nearly a third of the Republican Party nonetheless prefer him to the traditional leaders?

The real focus this summer and fall should be on what is truly troubling the American people and what we should be doing (not saying, doing) about it.

The next time someone starts to snipe at Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson or Ms. Fiorina (the three genuine outsiders who are doing so much better than expected — a combined 45 percent nationally, 51 percent in New Hampshire and 51 percent in South Carolina — ask them why all the more experienced, traditional candidates seem to be responding to the newcomers who are defining the race.

What matters is not the zigs and zags of The Donald.

What matters is the profound, deep dissatisfaction of the American people.

It is that phenomenon which deserves deep, serious study in an open-minded way.

The American people are about to teach us some historic lessons about how a free society governs itself even when its leaders fail.

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