Should we root for Trump?
How should we react to this? Some liberals are rooting for Trump on the grounds that he would be the easiest candidate for our own nominee to defeat. It's the Akin scenario on a national scale -- we should want the Republican to be outrageously offensive because it guarantees that the Democrat will win.
The counter-argument is that no such guarantee is absolute. Either major-party nominee always has some chance of winning. Our candidate could suffer a sudden health crisis at the last minute (Hillary is now 68, Bernie 74). A third candidate on the left could bleed off enough votes to flip a few close states to Trump. A last-minute scandal, terrorist attack, or unexpected Trump line of attack could shift a close election. None of these things is likely, but they are possible. Nominee Trump does pose a risk of President Trump. Moreover, the stakes are a lot higher. If Akin had won, the damage done by one more wingnut Senator would have been limited. But a man like Trump in the most powerful office on Earth?
Against this, one must consider the alternatives. The Republicans have to nominate somebody. Yes, Trump as President is a nightmare scenario, but would any of the other Republicans be less so?
Probably they would be -- but not enough to matter in practical terms. Any Republican President would almost certainly mean the destruction of Obamacare, an attack on Iran, the end of church-state separation, the end of any hope of defeating global warming, dragging the country back to the nineteenth century in socio-economic relations, gay rights, racial division, and women's self-determination -- and Supreme Court picks who would set all this in stone for decades. (There would be no more Souters -- they'd never risk that. We'd get wall-to-wall Scalias.) OK, Kasich and Paul are more moderate in certain areas, but those guys have as much real chance of winning the nomination as I do. Yes, Trump would be worse than the others, but any Republican as President would be an intolerable disaster. We must stay focused on preventing it. Ebola is worse than smallpox, but the point is, you don't want to get either one.
For us, Trump presents the ultimate "high risk / high reward" scenario. Yes, there is some risk of total disaster, but the possible rewards also extend beyond the near-guarantee of a Democratic President. Some Republican pundits think candidate Trump could turn the expected Democratic recovery of the Senate into a landslide, giving Hillary's Supreme Court picks plain sailing and neutralizing the filibuster problem, and perhaps even endanger their House majority. In the best-case scenario, Trump could fatally split the right wing.
I know people have been predicting the collapse of the Republican party for a long time and been wrong, but the divisions are real, and in all the time I've been following politics I've never seen them as deep and bitter as they are now. Remember, Trump has never had majority poll support among Republicans as Hillary has with Democrats -- it's the absurd number of candidates dividing the non-Trump vote that keeps him ahead. Many Republicans loathe him. I'm even seeing some promising to actively work for Hillary's campaign if he's their nominee. If the party bosses pull some maneuver to rob him of the nomination, the split would be even worse, with enraged Trump supporters bolting (already, much of their motivation is hatred of the "establishment"), whether or not Trump himself runs as a third candidate.
In the best-case scenario, the Republican coalition finally splinters and the various wingnut factions become so consumed with backstabbing and excommunicating each other that the US is without an effective right-wing presence in national politics for a decade or so. Think how far we could move the country forward if that happened. My gut feeling, looking at the acrimonious infighting engulfing the right-wing internet, is that it could happen. Trump is dragging all their internal contradictions out into the open and making them unsustainable.
And the risk of Trump winning the Presidency really is low. I'm not buying the polls showing a close race in November (and some of them don't show it that close). There's been no head-to-head campaigning yet. Republican OCD about Benghazi, e-mails, etc., etc., etc. has been so relentless that it's hard to imagine anything new being dredged up against Hillary -- any rock you might look under has already been looked under a hundred times. Trump has never run for office and never been vetted that way -- and with his character and known record, there are probably a lot of rocks out there with a lot of very nasty stuff under them. Just his rhetoric in the campaign so far could be turned into a hundred ads that would devastate him with the general electorate, however much his troglodyte fans lap it up in the Republican contest.
This is going to be the most bizarre and tense US election in living memory -- but the results just might be worth it.