Reading political news at this point in the election cycle is kind of like watching a maniac argue with his own shadow about which ice cream flavor is the sexiest. POLITICO is especially guilty of this. It seems like, depending on which day of the week it is, the majority of their homepage is lit up by either think pieces about how Trump’s campaign is doomed, how Trump will surge to the nomination, how Bernie Sanders has no path to the nomination or how Hillary Clinton’s campaign is falling apart.
You’d get a more satisfying answer asking Kanye West which Kanye West is the best Kanye West in all of Kanye West.
The thing is, it’s all kind of true: Trump, even with a loss to Kasich in Ohio, is likely going to surge to the nomination, despite what will surely be a gloriously bats**t contested convention. His campaign is indeed a complete mess, headed up by psychopaths and bullies, bolstered this far by disaffected white people who have officially switched their party registration to the Out of F***s to Give Party. Bernie Sanders, even with one or two more surprise victories, has almost no path to the nomination, and the Democrats are not going to contest. Hillary Clinton, though she’ll certainly regroup and recover when it comes time for the general election, is starting to slip into the same panicked automaton version of herself that cost her against Obama in 2008.
So there’s a lot of factors at play, a lot of unknowns and the media — reporters, talking heads, pollsters, organizers, bloggers, people who do whatever the hell it is I’m doing right now — are grasping at straws trying to deal with it. And it’s exactly this kind of anarchic rewriting of our rules and assumptions that allowed Donald Trump to get as far as he has. Liberals who assume the worst are wringing their hands dry over a possible Trump nomination because of the way he’s almost completely run the field during the primaries.
But guys… calm down. Here’s why:
- Trump’s Dominance in the Field Doesn’t Translate to General Election Dominance
Look at who Trump has been up against: a series of establishment Republicans that represent everything the GOP constituency has become disaffected with; a soft-spoken, possibly insane brain surgeon; a Tea Party darling and something of an establishment outsider that no one can bring themselves to trust because he looks like a rat made out of boogers stuffed into a human suit. THIS IS NOT A MURDERERS’ ROW.
No one was prepared for Trump’s tactics, either. The old rules of engagement were thrown out once he started calling for fascist tactics like rounding up Muslims, bullying reporters and inciting violence at his rallies. The GOP establishment underestimated the number of voters who had been waiting for a candidate like this, someone who encouraged their baser instincts and assured them that it was correct. It is, bizarrely yet understandably, cathartic.
Still, every poll taken since the beginning of the cycle has shown Trump losing by comfortable margins to Clinton or Sanders, and those margins haven’t moved much in either direction. And his tactics are not going to have the same effect in the general. They don’t appeal to swing or moderate voters, and in fact horrify most people. On top of that, Clinton and Sanders have had months to watch, study and prepare. Whatever else you may think of either of them, they are no fools.
- Clinton and Sanders Are Perfect Rhetorical Targets, and That Is Bad… for Trump
I don’t need to rehash most of this, but it’s common knowledge at this point that Trump has built a large part of his campaign on bullying, misogyny, racism and fascism. He has made sexually inappropriate comments towards Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly; his supporters have initiated violence against peaceful protesters, which he has encouraged; his rallies marginalize and corral reporters, often keeping them from seeing such incidents play out; in one recent scandal, Trump’s campaign manager actually manhandled a female reporter who was trying to ask him a question.
This ain’t gonna fly in the general. Hillary, a woman, and Bernie, a socialist Jew, are just begging to be denigrated by Trump, his campaign, his constituents or all three. There will be ugly, ugly rhetoric directed at them for this reason and for reasons outlined above, it will doom him in the polls.
- The Republican Party is Split, Possibly for Good
Establishment GOP figures have already gone on record as saying that, in the event of a Trump nomination, it’s very likely that an entirely new party will take shape, one that distances itself from the sort of socially regressive platforms and xenophobic rhetoric that the party has come to court in recent years. That means people like Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, McCain, Romney and others are going to have a very difficult decision to make come 2017.
What’s funny is that many real conservatives are handling the possibility of a Trump nomination with more logic and grace than most liberals. While already the Whole Foods Brigade is looking into moving to Canada — a la George W in 2000 and 2004 — many conservatives are openly stating that they just won’t vote for Trump, some even saying that they’ll vote for the Democratic nominee, because I think we can all agree that that we don’t want a racist Oompa Loompa with any kind of political power.