Let’s face it, by any scientific measure or logical reasoning, Clinton should easily thrash Trump in the general election; and she probably will. The evidence presented by current polls, political pundits, television talking-heads and those experienced in national elections, persuasively make the case that Trump is on track to suffer the worse electoral drubbing of a Republican nominee, since Barry Goldwater did at the hands of Lyndon Johnson in 1964. (Johnson won 61% of the popular vote and 486 electoral votes to Goldwater’s 52.) The only demographic poll that Trump seems to be leading in is among poorly educated, ignorant, red-neck white men. And even if you add in those who supported Ted Cruz, who has been described as a talking snake masquerading as a human being, it would not be enough to push Trump over the top.
For the experts, the first indication of an impending catastrophic political earthquake that will destroy the Trump Train (and the Republican Party along with it) is that all the animals (aka – the political elite of the Republican Party) are running for the hills. Right before our eyes, the Republican Party is coming apart at the seams. The entire Bush family, House Speaker Paul Ryan, a number of sitting governors, numerous senators and members of Congress have announced their ominous opposition to the nominee that millions of Republican voters have selected. Not to mention the coup de grace of disapproval showered on Trump by none other than the esteemed, effete Mitt Romney.
The theory put forth by the political experts is that by the end of the campaign, the voters will come to see that Trump is one of the least qualified – by experience, temperament and talent – to ever run for president and “come to their senses” by rejecting Trump.
(In the past couple of days this organized Republican establishment resistance to Trump seems to be collapsing; not because they want Trump, but because they fear he might actually win.)
Theories Can be Flawed
There is only one problem with this theory. When Trump exhibited the audacity to announce his candidacy for president last June, the political pundits giggled, scoffed and suggested that his effort was no more than an ego trip, intended only as a commercial for the Trump brand. (And initially it probably was.) Trump was the 17th Republican candidate to enter the fray and his poll ranking was at barely one percent. Neither the media nor the gaggle of other candidates took Trump seriously. And why should they? There was nothing in Trump’s background to indicate that he was the least bit qualified to be taken seriously as a candidate for president.
We all know the rest of the story. Totally contrary to the conventional wisdom of the experts, Trump bulldozed his way through the primaries, knocking off other candidates (who were really too timid to attack him) one by one until he was the last man standing. Along the way Trump garnered more votes than any Republican candidate in history and ignited revitalized interest in the Republican Party by attracting disaffected Democrats and independent voters.
The media and his opponents focused on the worst of Trump; his crude, boorish, bombastic attacks on fellow candidates and even members of the media. The media gave Trump millions of dollars in free air time that allowed him to put forth what the establishment experts all derided as naive childishly simplistic solutions to highly complex problems. The free media coverage provided Trump was driven by exactly the same motivation that causes news networks to break away from regular programming to dramatically follow a police chase from a helicopter. The media knows that more people will watch coverage of a potential car crash or police shootout than will stay glued to a discussion of educational policies. For the media, Trump seemed like an accident waiting to happen and they wanted to be there to cover it when he crashed and burned. What the media and other candidates did not understand was that Trump was taking them for a ride. Regardless of whether it was a masterfully planned strategy on his part or (more likely) that he had stumbled on an exposed nerve of sentiment that resonated with voters, Trump continued to rise in the polls.
The Republicans recognized, and the media harped on the “conservative base” of the Party being frustrated and angry with the “establishment,” but they all missed the fact that this anger and frustration was felt all across the voter spectrum. As evidenced by the Sanders surge against Clinton in the Democratic primaries, it was not just the core Republican conservatives who were frustrated by failed political leadership and dysfunctional government; liberals, moderates, young, old, black, white and Latino were all exasperated with politicians and government in one way or another. This is the real “base” that Trump tapped into and this drove him to the nomination that everyone said would never happen.
Trump’s Path to Victory
Trump, unlike any other politician – Republican or Democratic – is willing to turn things upside down and search for a new and different approach to old problems. He has gone where others fear to tread. Trump may not be able to find the right answers, but his approach can be beguiling to millions of voters – in both parties – who are fed-up and frustrated with traditional politicians who keep chasing their tails with the same old arguments and tired solutions that do nothing but put the problem off to the next election. Trump’s strength is that he is not identified as “one of them.”
There is another phenomena that may be at work here. People who do not drive a pick-up truck with a gun rack in the back or don’t have a shotgun under their bed, may not want to admit publicly that they are secret Trump supporters. In most circles it is still not proper etiquette to acknowledge support for Trump. It is estimated by some that there are millions of frustrated voters who will only support Trump in the place that matters most, in the secrecy of the voting booth.
Trump’s Secret Weapon
In truth – and what the experts discount – is that the best thing Trump has going for him in the election is Hillary Clinton. In reality, Hillary Clinton is probably the only Democratic candidate that Trump could beat. As strange as it may seem, the election may be more for Trump to lose, than it is for Clinton to win. Clinton is the epitome of the establishment. She represents all that is frustrating for voters. Unlike Trump, people know what they will get with Hillary, but what they will get from her may not be what they want. Just consider how well a 74 year old Socialist has done against Clinton in her own Party. This election may boil down to the frustration vote going for Trump and the fatigue vote going against Clinton.
Still, the odds are strong that Trump will lose the election, and he probably should, but if he wins, the blame will not fall on those who vote for him, but on the establishment politicians of both the Republican and Democratic Parties who have failed and frustrated voters to the point that voting for Trump is seen as the best option.