The 2016 Democratic primary is historic in a good way.
For the first time ever — especially if you don’t count Michigan’s votes in the 2008 Democratic primary, which you shouldn’t — a woman is leading both the delegate count and the popular vote in pursuit of her party’s presidential nomination. Meanwhile, we’ve also seen the most popular insurgent campaign on the left since 1972, led by a candidate who happens to be Jewish.
The 2016 Republican presidential primary is also historic, and not just because of the best performance ever by a Latino candidate. The GOP primary has been defined by the emergence of the most unpopular major party candidate in modern American history.
Donald Trump certainly has some devoted fans, those who flocked early on to his casual racism and to the 21st century prosperity gospel of crushing the “losers” many aging Americans fear they, and we, have become. But Trump’s popularity is almost entirely limited to people who always vote Republican anyway, and it seems to have magically turned off nearly everyone else.
As Trump barrels towards his party’s convention and possible nomination, he has vaguely promised to be more “presidential” — a pledge he’s always one tweet from a white nationalist past violating.
Now, his candidacy is testing new lows, eroding the few norms remaining that have made the longest election cycle in the world bearable.
Here are five reasons that Donald Trump is the worst candidate in recent memory; a candidate who will only get worse if he gets his party’s nomination — when the Republican machine is forced to call him the new Reagan.
- Extraordinarily unpopular with exactly the groups that the GOP must win over.
You don’t have to be a polling genius to figure out that the GOP’s easiest path to the White House is through improving its abysmal performance with minority voters. If you’ve been conscious at all for the last year, you know this birther’s talent for alienating minority groups is matched only by former KKK leader David Duke, who previously was the least popular presidential candidate in modern history. Greg Sargent explored the depth of the billion-dollar baby’s troubles: “Trump is viewed unfavorably by 67 percent of Americans overall; 75 percent of women; 74 percent of young voters; 91 percent of African Americans; 81 percent of Latinos…”
- Less popular with white voters than Mitt Romney.
Trump could make up for his dismal showing among minorities by improving on Romney’s record with white voters, which was one of the best performances by a Republican since 1988. But Sargent’s list continues: “…73 percent of college-educated whites; 66 percent of white women; and 72 percent of moderates.” Romney actually won college-educated whites and white women in 2012 even as he lost overall by 5 million voles.
- So divisive and reckless he forces policymakers to correct him.
Trump’s embrace of torture, war crimes, and revoking the free travel of Muslims has thrilled primary voters and forced people who actually protect America for a living to distance themselves from his loathsome posturing. Trump’s spew about destroying the NATO alliance, speeding up nuclear proliferation, and reversing any attempt to limit climate change goes beyond even the absurd jingoism of Ted Cruz — it’s a purposeful attempt to factionalize the Republican Party. No one has any idea how Trump would lead as president, because Trump has no idea how to lead. That’s why experts see him as a threat to global peace on par with jihadism.
- Casually threatening his own party with violence.
Even the violence at Trump’s rallies has purposeful menace. Again and again, he and his supporters have vaguely threatened violence if he isn’t awarded his party’s nomination, even if he hasn’t secured the 1,237 delegates necessary to do so. At worst, this is a hint of a pseudo-putsch to overthrow an established democratic process, and an ominous warning of how Trump would govern. At best, it’s his attempt to create an escape hatch from a general election that polls show him losing badly.
- So lacking in integrity that campaigning instantly devolves into name-calling and posturing.
Trump’s campaigning is filled with cartoonish promises and an absolute unwillingness to commit to any firm characterization of his beliefs. His entire campaign is based on him being the best at everything and capable of redeeming America simply based on his greatness. He’ll hire the best people and fix everything, though he’s getting worked over in the GOP delegate-selection process by Ted Cruz and he seems to pick surrogates who either intentionally or accidentally make a strong case against his candidacy. His lack of commitment to any coherent philosophy and his willingness to traffic in innuendo and outright slurs give the campaign the dignity and weight of a debate with your aunt’s second ex-husband on Facebook. This may be the level of discourse the GOP deserves for lacking the immune system to expel this harmful parasite from our democracy. But all of America is suffering for it.
Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore.