Don’t Panic! (Donald Trump Edition)

Over the past few decades, how many times have you heard variants of this pearl of wisdom from political pundits?

The American public is sick and tired of politics as usual. They’re angry at Congress and angry at the president. You can almost feel it out on the campaign trail. That’s why _______ is getting so much support. He’s different. He doesn’t represent politics as usual. He taps into that anger.

We heard this about Herman Cain (and a cast of thousands of others) in 2012, Rudy Giuliani in 2008, Howard Dean in 2004, John McCain in 2000, Pat Buchanan in 1996, Ross Perot and Jerry Brown in 1992, Gary Hart in 1984, John Anderson in 1980, etc. etc.

Do you notice how many of these folks won their party’s nomination? Let’s see: carry the one, ten plus three equals….oh yeah. That would be zero.

Look: we’re in the silly season right now. It’s August. Congress is about to go into recess. We still have six months before anyone actually votes. Nobody’s paying much attention to the Republican race except political junkies. News is in short supply. And whatever else you can say about him, Donald Trump makes good copy. For now, everyone’s got the popcorn out and they’re enjoying the show, right along with Ant-Man and Mission Impossible.

So, sure, Trump is a political outsider channeling voter anger blah blah blah. That’s not exactly a daisy fresh strategy. Nor a winning one. But Trump is like a housing bubble: you know he’s going to burst, but he can last a lot longer than you think. That’s what’s happening now: it’s been seven whole weeks since Trump announced his candidacy and he’s still polling well. ZOMG! So a lot of pundits have decided he’s the real thing and are penning columns that apologize for writing him off earlier.

They will regret that. Seven weeks is nothing. Every candidate on the list above lasted longer than seven weeks. But they all flamed out eventually. So will Trump.

The only advice I have on presidential campaigns that’s genuinely useful is this: Don’t panic. In the end, the bubbles will all burst, fundamentals will take center stage, and the winner will be someone fairly ordinary. In this case, it will almost certainly be Jeb Bush or Scott Walker, though there are a few other possibilities too.

But Trump? Nope. So hold off on those apologetic columns for a little while longer. You won’t be sorry.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.