The twin arguments of why Donald Trump is the singularly worst thing that has happened to conservative/Republican thought in America are: 1) he is fatuous or blatantly wrong on every issue important to our future; and, 2) he will almost certainly lose to Hillary Clinton, who is more qualified to head a government, but in a terrifyingly bad direction.
Erick posed an honest question of why anyone would support Trump, and how can he possibly win the White House?
Having typed tens of thousands of words about Trump, and been proven right more than wrong about his tactics and motivations, I thought I’d attempt an answer. It’s probably a poor attempt, given that those who know him personally certainly have a better platform for devising strategy (or knowing if, in fact, one exists). Disclaimers aside, here it goes.
Trump can win by moving to the left of where Hillary was pre-Sanders. He can win by running as a pro-Second Amendment, pro-American jobs candidate. He can win by showing himself to be less scary than Clinton. In a nutshell, he can win by running as a Democrat.
The key statement Erick made is this:
Lastly, a chunk of evangelical, conservative, and even moderate Republicans will not vote for Trump. The Democrats are the larger of the two parties and more Democrats are backing Clinton than there are Republicans backing Trump.
There are more Democrats than Republicans. Trump is counting on this, because as Erick pointed out, even if Trump had 100 percent loyalty from Republicans, it wouldn’t be enough. But Trump isn’t running as a Republican. He’s just borrowing the party for ballot access. Trump is running as a white America Firster–a nativist, a Know-Nothing. It’s been his strategy all along, and he bought in to Ann Coulter’s claim that polls are skewed and whites alone can win the presidency.
So let me quickly cover my points.
The polls are wrong
Trump believes this, as I wrote above. He believes that white working people, educated or not, young or old, will poll one way for the sake of their own consciences, but vote completely another way. This isn’t a new concept. I had a conversation with a friend the other day about how local Southern voters will always poll against issues like Sunday alcohol sales, and if you are a candidate who advocates it, you’ll get pummeled. But when the issue comes up on a ballot, voters (the same ones who pillory candidates) approve it overwhelmingly.
The same with Trump. Many people secretly like him, which is why so many have publicly joined the Trump Train when they realized it was “safe.” What Trump did to Republicans, he aims to do for white Democrats, whose unions, companies, and political groups oppose him publicly.
Therefore, the polls are wrong, and subterranean support for Trump will eventually break forth, or simply erupt at the ballot box in November. Or so Trump thinks.
The paranoid frontier
Why would anyone believe that conspiracy theories only gain support among the alt-right and in Republican circles? There are just as many Democrat and leftist conspiracy theorists (maybe more?) than on the right.
Trump hasn’t even begun to exploit this. He will veer left straight into the paranoid.
In 2012, Trump tested his “them” strategy when he made the idiotic birther play against Obama. We all thought he was a nutcase, but he was testing a hypothesis. And now he’s using that exact strategy in 2016.
Erick noted that another leader built his support on that same kind of paranoid fantasy, in another country, about 81 years ago. The only difference is who “they” were. With Trump, it doesn’t matter who is “them.” George W. Bush is “them” to the 9/11 truthers. And Ted Cruz is “them” to the anti-Wall Street crowd due to his wife’s employment with Goldman Sachs (and due to his Canadian nativity). Rubio is “them” to the immigration blood-and-race nativists. If any of them were Masons or Mormons, we’d be seeing the secret temple rituals and holy underwear crowd out for Trump.
Just replace Cruz, Bush, and Rubio with Hillary, Hillary, and Hillary (or Warren if she is the VP nominee), and you’ll see the strategy. Trump can change into whatever he wants to be. That’s the freedom gained from having no core principles, right?
Confirmation bias and Crooked Hillary
Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans disagree with the FBI’s decision and say it worries them about what she would do if she became president.
Democrats see things very differently but with less unanimity. About two-thirds approve of the decision not to charge Clinton and think the issue is unrelated to what she would do as president. But 3 in 10 Democrats think she should have been charged.
Roughly 6 in 10 independents say the FBI was wrong and that the issue raises worries about Clinton as president.
Maybe the email scandal, Benghazi and other Clinton shenanigans are baked in, but there’s room for independents and the 3 in 10 Democrats who believe Clinton should have been charged to sway to Trump if he approaches it right. He’s counting on it.
The moniker “crooked Hillary” is nothing but a hook for confirmation bias. Everything Hillary does is crooked–see, she just did it again.
Second Amendment and radical Climate Change
Two issues that put Hillary squarely against public opinion are her disdain for the Second Amendment and her support for radical climate change economics. Trump’s energy speech was well received. Even the New York Times had to struggle to find some self-proclaimed “expert” to oppose Trump’s call for American energy independence.
Hillary’s following of President Obama on his gun control crusade is also unpopular with most Americans–at least the white, working-class Americans (Democrat or Republican) that Trump wants to woo. Trump can hammer and hammer on those issues, breaking off chunks of Hillary’s support as he goes.
I’m not crazy, or Hitler, or a racist
This is actually the hardest part for Trump. It will require him to “pivot to serious” or “become more presidential.” So far, Trump has been unable to make this turn. Persuasion blogger and Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams lays it out:
Now consider what Clinton and Trump each need to accomplish – and quickly – in order to win in November. Clinton needs to prove she is not crooked, which is now impossible because the head of the FBI has publicly certified her as crooked. At least that’s how it looks to the public. The public heard the FBI say Clinton broke the law, followed by a decision to not prosecute. That taint won’t wash off by November.
Trump, on the other hand, simply has to NOT do crazy-racist-sounding things for a few months. If he stays presidential (mostly) from here on out, people will believe he can moderate his scary persona at will. That’s all he needs to prove.
So all Trump has to do is keep his trap shut for a few weeks, let Hillary’s negatives fester, then stay on message. If he can do it, he might have some semblance of a chance. But can he do it?
The issue here is one of dominoes: A lot of things have to line up and be correct for Trump to win and the pollsters to be wrong. And all the things Trump has to do are known to Hillary and her campaign. So unless Trump is right on all counts, and can indeed pivot to beat the weakest Democrat to run for president since Mike Dukakis (or Walter Mondale), he is going to lose.
I am a firm believer in Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is normally the best. In Trump’s case, he’s losing in the polls, he’s out of cash, and he’s got no organization. In every political book ever written, that’s the recipe for a loss. However, if you want an honest answer of how it could be different, there it is.