A wrecking ball. A bull in a China shop. A “chaos candidate.” During Donald Trump’s whirlwind rise to the presidency, his opponents and critics frequently noted his penchant for havoc. Surely, they believed, voters would not want to steer the country toward disorder and mayhem.
The problem? In 2016, being a chaos candidate turned out to be a feature, not a bug, of American politics: Enough voters were tired of bland, establishment candidates and a system that didn’t improve their lives, and they put Mr. Trump over the top. The Trump team was so confident that these voters and the president were in sync that by the summer of 2020, one of his re-election campaign’s most oft-aired ads used those exact “bull in a china shop” words again.
But if Mr. Trump ran before as the disrupter, don’t count on him doing so a third time in 2024. Voters don’t want chaos anymore. In my assessment of the dynamics of this election, what I see and hear is an electorate that seems to be craving stability in the economy, in their finances, at the border, in their schools and in the world. They want order, and they are open to people on the left and the right who are more likely to provide that, as we saw with the rejection of several chaos candidates in 2022, even as steady-as-she-goes incumbents sailed to re-election.
And though Mr. Trump may seem a poor fit for such a moment, with his endless drama and ugly rhetoric, much of his candidacy and message so far is aimed at arguing that he can restore a prepandemic order and a sense of security in an unstable world. And unlike 2020, there’s no guarantee most voters will see President Biden as the safer bet between the two men to bring order back to America — in no small part because Mr. Biden was elected to do so and hasn’t delivered.
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