One problem we have as long-time Republicans and pundits is that we see the race through party-polarized glasses. The logic is: More Republicans can’t stand Trump than any other GOP candidate in the last half century, therefore it’s impossible for Trump to win.
It’s sound logic, except that it’s got some assumptions baked in, like Trump is a Republican for one.
Trump is running as a Republican, but he isn’t one. And the polls are bouncing around like Pachinko balls. The latest Quinnipiac polling on key “swing states” shows Trump and Clinton within the margin of error in Florida and Pennsylvania, and Trump ahead of Clinton by 4 points in Ohio.
FLORIDA: Clinton 43 – Trump 42; Sanders 44 – Trump 42
OHIO: Clinton 39 – Trump 43; Sanders 43 – Trump 41
PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton 43 – Trump 42; Sanders 47 – Trump 41
My normal reaction to this would begin with “what the…?” but in this race, assumptions don’t matter because Trump is not a Republican. What we Republicans consider swing states operate in a completely different universe for the “presumptive nominee.” I’m not even sure the stat boys at FiveThirtyEight have come up with the right witch’s brew of correlations to predict Trumpism.
But I can see one is based on how many older, white, patriotic Americans live in a state. Another is how many unemployed and disaffected people who don’t trust government live in a state. But there’s no real single demographic or driver that can predict whether someone succumbs to the Cult of Trump.
Well, none other than white supremacists. I think he’s cornered the market there.
But the news is that Trump has flipped the race on Hillary. We no longer can predict what a “swing” state is, except to say that it’s not what we predicted before.
I wrote in February that Trump will veer left, straight into the paranoid frontier, and that’s exactly what he’s done.
He’ll play to the conspiracy lovers, the paranoid left and the paranoid right. Issues won’t be important to them, only taking power back from “them.”
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.
It doesn’t matter who is “them” as long as Trump can make it work for him, either in the GOP or as a third party candidate.
We already know who “them” is for nearly 40 percent of the GOP. Trump is now plying his siren song with Democrats, drawing by self-selection to himself those he can bewitch. And once bewitched, we know that Trumpists stay inside the cult, disregarding their own sacred beliefs as the price of membership.
Jim Geraghty wrote this morning:
But if any subsequent surveys show numbers in this ballpark, this becomes a five-alarm fire for Hillary Clinton. Trump is phenomenally unpopular, yes, but Hillary has been, so far, almost as disliked and distrusted.
Hillary’s approach to Trump so far has been to dismiss him as unthinkable and laughable, that his rhetoric is way out of bounds, that he’s a “loose cannon,” and so on. It’s not that different from Jeb Bush’s approach, not wanting to dignify the absurd with a response.
For Hillary to make the same mistake as Jeb and the rest of the GOP field could be her undoing. Trump is unlike anyone else that’s sought the presidency, possibly since Teddy Roosevelt–certainly in anyone alive’s memory.
Trump has, and it looks like he’ll continue to, flip American politics on its head. Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist may very well have nailed it.
Finally, while it’s absolutely true that candidates with as many negatives as Trump have not had success in presidential campaigns, it’s also true that Trump is unlike any political candidate around. He has figured out how to avoid scrutiny for his ever-changing policy positions. His manner of speech is interesting but also vague, making it difficult to pin him down on anything he says. And the over-reaction by many in the media and punditry class have inoculated him from criticism.
The sad part is that if Trump wins, we should prepare ourselves not for a president, but a Caesar. Get ready for Pax Trumpanius.