Let me preface this piece by reiterating where I am with regard to presidential politics. I believe that the existing structural flaws of American constitutional government are irreparable, and that the very concept of the nation state is archaic and obsolete. I therefore see this election as a contest to determine who gets to be the guy who flips the lights off on their way out.
So with that in mind, my interest in this campaign is equivalent to my interest in, say, superhero movies. Deciding who is the best candidate is a bit like deciding which Avenger I like best. It makes for a colorful discussion, but it’s ultimately inconsequential, as far as I’m concerned. That helps me stomach the fact that everyone with a chance to win the White House is either an idiot, a criminal, or both.
Which, of course, brings us to Donald Trump.
If you want to understand the Trump campaign and you’re not reading Scott Adams’ blog, you are missing the one writer who has accurately predicted every single major development in Trump’s campaign. I read it regularly – he updates it almost every day – and I’ve been amazed at how insightfully he demonstrates Trump’s masterful ability to persuade with methods that have little or nothing to do with rational thought.
My position on Trump is that he’s a shoo-in for the GOP nomination, which means he will be crushed in the general election, simultaneously destroying both the Republican Party and the entire conservative movement in the process. This contradicts Scott Adams’ prediction, which is that Trump will win the White House in a landslide. Previously, I couldn’t imagine such a thing happening for a number of reasons – Trump’s xenophobia will alienate Hispanic voters; no Republican can win the Electoral College given current demographics, and Trump is such a personally repugnant fellow that no serious person could consider elevating him to the highest office in the land.
Now I’m seriously considering that maybe Scott Adams might be right.
Let’s break down each reason separately.
1.Trump’s xenophobia will alienate Hispanic voters.
Hispanics constitute 10% of the electorate and represent the largest non-white voting bloc in the country. As the country becomes increasingly diverse, it becomes next to impossible for any candidate to achieve victory without solid support from Latino voters. George W. Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004, while Mitt Romney only managed a paltry 27% eight years later. The Latino trend away from the Republican Party has only accelerated since then, and given Trump’s ludicrous proposal to wall off the Southern border and deport 11 million people in the largest forced relocation of human beings in recorded history, surely we can expect 110% of Hispanics to vote for Hillary this time around, right?
Don’t be so sure.
As Adams repeatedly points out on his blog, Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal” describes how The Donald conducts negotiations. He begins by asking for the moon – something far too outrageous for the other side to possibly accept. That anchors the discussion on Trump’s turf, so that when the final agreement is reached, it’s actually far closer to what Trump really expected to get all along. Surely, Adams posits, this is what Trump is doing on immigration. When he comes out of the primary, he is sure to abandon the more extreme elements of his unworkable and immoral proposal and champion something far more reasonable. The fact that it will flatly contradict his recent position won’t be a big deal at all. Massive ideological flip-flops haven’t proven to be a problem for Trump at any point in this campaign, and it won’t start here.
So Trump comes down from the Great Wall and tells Hispanic voters that he recognizes the insensitivity of his original stance, and he asks them to take a second look at the “new Trump.” By doing this, he doesn’t lose any Tea Partiers – where else are they going to go? Hillary? – but he has the potential to persuade Hispanic voters to take a second look.
But will they?
I’ll address that under point #2.
2. No Republican can win the Electoral College given current demographics
In 2012, Mitt Romney won a larger percentage of the white vote than Ronald Reagan did in 1980. It wasn’t nearly enough. Hispanic voters, as noted above, are increasingly Democratic, and black voters have been voting almost unanimously for Democrats for more than a generation. Diversity, therefore, strongly favors the Democrats, and as the country becomes less WASPish, the GOP, which is the party of old white guys, fades in influence. 240 out of 270 electoral votes are not even going to be contested this time around – those belong to Hillary right out of the gate.
At least, that’s how a conventional race looks. But Donald Trump’s presence makes this a decidedly unconventional race.
A recent poll showed Trump getting 40% of the black vote. That’s almost 4 times higher than the best showing by any Republican in the last thirty years. It also shows Trump with 45% of the Hispanic vote, even before he softens his ludicrous immigration positions. How is this possible?
Well, I think the reality is that no Republican could get these numbers, but Donald Trump is not viewed, by most voters, through any partisan lens. Their experience with Trump predates his political involvement, and their opinion of him is not necessarily tainted by his party affiliation. The Trump brand trumps the Republican brand.
In addition, it’s clear that black support for Democrats is more cultural than ideological. For instance, churchgoers overwhelmingly vote for Republicans, but black churchgoers still unanimously vote for Democrats, despite the fact that they more often line up with Republicans on social issues. But since Trump isn’t really perceived as a Republican, the GOP stigma that repels black voters won’t necessarily come into play.
If a Republican can erode the monolithic black support for Democrats, even a little bit, that’s a huge game changer. And if Trump really can get a whopping 40% of black voters, there is absolutely no way Hillary can win.
3. Trump is such a personally repugnant fellow that no serious person could consider elevating him to the highest office in the land.
To me, this is the most self-evident argument of the three, yet it’s also the weakest. Fact is, people love Donald Trump. They respond positively to him on a visceral level, which means that rational argument isn’t going to convince them to ignore their gut feeling.
I bump into this kind of thing all the time when I point out that Bill Clinton is a sexual predator – people ignore the facts because they just love Bubba. And people have consistently ignored every ridiculously asinine thing that has come out of Trump’s mouth. No, that’s not true – they don’t ignore his incendiary rhetoric. They embrace it. They love that he speaks his mind, even though what he says should be unspeakable.
The bond Donald Trump has established between himself and his supporters is deep and powerful, and it has little or nothing to do with ideology or policy. It’s going to be very difficult, therefore, to talk a Trump lover out of it, since their adoration isn’t even remotely rational to begin with.
All this said, I still can’t quite bring myself to believe that we’ll ever have to say the words “President Trump” and mean them. I keep thinking the country will eventually snap out of it. But keep in mind that when it comes to politics, I’ve been completely and utterly wrong most of the time. Just ask President Romney.
Gosh, doesn’t “President Romney” sound so much better than “President Trump?”