Let’s start by clearing up the dumb misconceptions about the 2016 presidential election.
Republican voters aren’t significantly angrier than they normally are. Primary turnout is in no way clearly predictive of general election success. Donald Trump hasn’t brought hordes of new people to the Republican Party. He’s not any more unpopular with Republican voters than Mitt Romney was at this stage in the 2012 election. He’s more blatantly racist, xenophobic and misogynistic than his primary foes, but his core policy views are nearly identical to all the other Republican candidates. For instance, he wants to make the rich richer, denies climate science and is promising to appoint ultra-conservatives to the Supreme Court.
The real story of the 2016 election is actually quite extraordinary, but no one seems much interested in reality right now.
The candidate who has gotten the most votes, for the second straight contested Democratic presidential primary in a row, is a woman. And most of the people who are voting for her are very pleased with the current Democratic president, who is about as popular now as Ronald Reagan was at this point in his eighth year in office.
“Of course, angry voters make for sexier clickbait,” The New Republic‘s Eric Sasson wrote. “So it’s not too surprising that we’re not seeing front-page headlines that scream, ‘Satisfied Obama Supporters Show Up in Droves.'”
There are plenty of reasons to be frustrated and want more from a government that has been hijacked to serve corporate interests. But few Americans seem eager to shift back the Republican policies that escalated our structural deficiencies into a global financial crisis. And even fewer seem interested in handing over the most powerful military ever created to a paper-thin-skinned demagogue with a scary tolerance for violence, or a sick appetite for it.
He will be the most divisive major presidential candidate in at least a century — an unprincipled Barry Goldwater who could put even the most secure Republican House majority in play with his supreme ability to offend the anti-masochistic.
Here are five reasons why Donald Trump won’t be the next president of the United States. And, to combat complacence, an additional pitch on why you should still be working your ass off to defeat him.
- There aren’t enough angry white men in America to make Donald Trump president.
Math is not on Donald Trump’s side. Maybe that’s why doesn’t want to release his tax returns. “The math suggests Trump would need a whopping 70 percent of white male voters to cast their ballots for him,” David S. Bernstein wrote in Politico. “That’s a larger percentage than Republicans have ever won before — more than the GOP won in the landslide victories of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and far more than they won during the racially polarized elections of Barack Obama.” The argument is: Trump could motivate Americans who usually don’t show up at the polls; except that most of the people who don’t vote tend to be progressive-leaning non-white males. Trump likes to imagine he’s going to sweep the Rust Belt — even though he’s doing worse with white voters there than Mitt Romney did. It’s true, Politico‘s Timothy Noah points out, that Trump is “doing exceptionally well compared to the other Republican candidates with (overwhelmingly white) blue-collar voters in Republican primaries.” But these are men who’d likely vote for the GOP nominee no matter who he is.
- The economy indicates a Democratic victory.
If Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee, and is ultimately elected president, this week will be looked upon as a turning point for her campaign. She not only surprised with a string of victories in Midwest primaries and watched the GOP take another step towards nominating the most unpopular presidential candidate in modern history, but the Fed indicated that it’s slowing the rate increases it had planned just days before the stock market went positive for the year. Some political scientists suggest that how voters feel about the economy is the most predictive factor for whether they’ll seek a change in the White House. And the U.S. economy — especially its job market — remains the great hope of the world, despite stagnating income growth for all but the ultra-wealthy. “Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicts that the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, will win 50.9% of the popular vote in November, assuming the economy carries on as expected, with no big surprises,” Yahoo News’ Rick Newman reported.
- Trump’s brilliant primary plan is a brilliant plan to lose the general election.
Trump’s plan to win the Republican primary by insulting elites and appealing the basest instincts of Republican voters was designed to offend and fascinate the media, and it worked. But by endorsing mass deportations, banning Muslims from entrance into the U.S., and defunding Planned Parenthood, Trump has alienated the exact voters Republicans need the most. “Based on estimates of the composition of the 2016 electorate, if the next GOP nominee wins the same share of the white vote as Mitt Romney won in 2012 (59 percent), he or she would need to win 30 percent of the nonwhite vote. Set against recent history, that is a daunting obstacle,” the Washington Post‘s Dan Balz wrote. “Romney won only 17 percent of nonwhite voters in 2012. John McCain won 19 percent in 2008. George W. Bush won 26 percent in 2004.” The idea that Trump is about twice as appealing to minority voters as Romney was is hard to believe. And with Romney attacking Trump for associating himself with racism, bigotry and xenophobia, you can imagine that many of the voters who turned out for Romney in droves will vote Democratic or stay home, making Trump’s hurdles even higher.
- Trump puts new states in play — for Democrats.
Trump continually claims he can put states like New York and Michigan in play, despite polls showing him losing in both states by double digits. These “rust belt” fantasies mostly miss the fact that most of the Democrats willing to leave the party because of racial appeals already have. Meanwhile, Trump’s hostility towards non-white voters could make North Carolina a swing state again. And for the first time, in Arizona a recent poll shows both Clinton and Sanders leading Trump.
- Negative partisanship.
“The party system has split along racial, cultural, and religious lines, creating a kind of tribal system where each party’s supports regard the other side with incomprehension and loathing,” New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait explained after looking at the work of political scientists Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster. These researchers see in the data what George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s political teams both saw: the death of the swing voter. When women, young people, and people of color make up 81 percent of America’s total population, Democrats have a definite advantage, especially in years with high turnout. That’s why in 2010 we saw an historic effort to make access to the ballot more difficult. “In this trench-warfare atmosphere, the fact that the bloc of voters loyal to the Democrats is growing steadily would seem to loom large,” Chait writes, with the usual caveats about a recession, scandal, or terror attack being able to “disrupt” this pattern — even though voters seem to trust Clinton to deal with a terror attack over Trump.
Here’s how Trump wins: He keeps exceeding expectations.
Maybe we are in denial. That’s what Dilbert creator Scott Adams believes.
“Today I coined the phrase persuasion denier for people who think Clinton’s current poll numbers mean she will beat Trump in November,” he wrote on his purposely provocative blog. “If persuasion is real – and significant for elections – the past will not predict the future. The Master Persuader will warp reality until he gets what he wants. He’s halfway done.”
And Adams isn’t alone. Organized labor is sounding the alarm that Trump could be more popular with the working class than some expect.
Master analyst of political framing George Lakoff is also worried.
“The Democratic Party has not been taking seriously many of the reasons for Trump’s support and the range of that support. And the media has not been discussing many of the reasons for Trump’s support. That needs to change,” he warned in an excellent post explicating the GOP frontrunner’ appeal, “Why Trump?”
With $2 billion thus far in free media from America’s “news” networks, Trump cannot be underestimated. Democrats shouldn’t count on Republicans self-destructing, or on the media standing up to the increasingly absurd demands of this billion-dollar baby.
History tells us that Trump’s rise should not have happened; that “it” can’t happen here. But it could, if we let it.
Photo: Saif Alnuweiri
Copyright 2016 The National Memo