Last week, 30,000 people gathered in Mobile, Ala. to hear Donald Trump share his views on immigration ("We're the only place just about that's stupid enough to do [birthright citizenship]"); women's rights (“I will protect women; it’s so important to me”); his competition in the GOP primary ("Jeb Bush, ugh”); and bicycles ("I swear to you I will never ever ride a bicycle").
Despite having no experience in politics, running on a set of policy proposals that are not based in reality, and making a regular habit of saying dehumanizing things about immigrants and women, Trump has maintained a considerable lead in the polls. Recent numbers from Reuters show that, with 32 percent of Republicans surveyed backing him, his closest competition—Jeb Bush—is still nearly 16 points behind.
After a few weeks of reading dispatches from Trump's rallies, and having daily conversations with friends and acquaintances about the mesmerizing horror show that is Trump's ascendency, I pulled together a collection of responses from his supporters to try to figure out what, exactly, is going on here.
Do people seriously want Donald Trump to be president?
It's hard to say. Like the New York Times noted over the weekend, most of Trump's supporters claim they like him for the reasons that have nothing to do with policy or actual governance. Instead, they're hooked on a feeling about the guy: they say that Trump just seems likes someone who should run the country.
Supporters also agree that it's good that he isn't a politician because they don't much like politicians. Trump's incendiary comments are also an appeal: supporters say they like that he isn't "politically correct."
The reasons people gave fell into a few categories, though there was considerable overlap. Here's a sampling of the weird, fascinating, and often incredibly depressing reasons why people say Trump is their guy.
He isn't a politician.
“I love Donald Trump and I don’t care what they say about him,” a woman who attended Trump's rally in Mobile, Alabama, told ABC News. “He’s honest and we need a businessman to finally run the United States instead of a politician.”
“Even if he doesn’t win, he’s teaching other politicians to stop being politicians,” another woman in attendance told the New York Times. “He comes on strong. He could say it gently. But I think no one would listen.”
He's a rich businessman.
“We don’t need a politician for president; we need a businessman,” a hairstylist from Michigan who supports Trump told the Times. “That’s what we need to get us out of the mess we’re in.”
"The county is so far in debt, we’re losing so many jobs to foreign countries. I just think we need a business man to run the country like a business,” Jim Nelle, a small business owner from Iowa, told ThinkProgress. “I’m a Christian and I’ve always voted those issues in the past, like abortion was always big, but this election it’s going to be different because if we don’t have a country, what difference does it make if you’re pro-abortion or anti-abortion? I just think we have to get the fiscal situation fixed first.”
"I'm totally behind Donald Trump because he's not a politician," Franklyn Patrick Farnham, a 72-year-old from nearby Massachusetts, told NPR. "He's not a Washington bureaucrat; he doesn't come out of Obama's sneaky White House. He's clean, and he's free. He doesn't need this; he's one of the wealthiest men in the country, but he sees what's going on in the country and he wants to save it."
“When he gets in there, he’ll figure it out,” Amanda Mancini, who traveled from California for the Alabama rally, told the Times. “So we do have to trust him, but he has something that we can trust in. We can look at the Trump brand, we can look at what he’s done, and we can say that’s how he’s done everything.”
He isn't "politically correct."
“People are starting to see, I believe, that all this political correctness is garbage,” Carl Tomanelli, a retired New York City police officer in New Hampshire, told the Times. “I think he’s echoing what a lot of people feel and say.”
"He's not afraid to say what everybody's feeling and afraid to say," Abbene said, told NPR. "He doesn't have a filter."
“He tells it like it is,” Bob House, a 57-year-old at Trump's Alabama rally told Politico. “None of this political correct stuff.”
He has incredibly extreme views on immigration.
“Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill,’” 53-year-old Jim Sherota, who attended the Mobile rally, told the Times. “That’d be one nice thing.”
"[H]e’s going to send [immigrants] packing,” a 65-year-old who drove from Mississippi to Alabama to hear Trump speak, told Politico.
He is the embodiment of some voters' dread and nihilism about the current state of American politics.
"This isn't about Republicans, it isn't about Democrats, this is a movement of citizens across America tired of the BS," Keith Quackenbush, a retired marine at the Alabama rally, told CNN.
"I'm seriously thinking about voting for trump, and here is why. I firmly believe that our system of government is deeply flawed, if not completely broken," wrote Reddit user beebish. "Yet we still keep voting for the same type of people. If trump wins, there's a good chance the whole thing will collapse from his absurdity. Then maybe we could start over and build something better that works. A vote for trump is a vote for full system breakdown, which I believe is exactly what we need."