22 January 2016

Should we root for Trump?

Contrary to what most observers (including me) were expecting a few months ago, it now looks very likely that Trump is going to win the Republican nomination.  He remains the prohibitive front-runner among Republicans nationally.  In Iowa, the one early state where he's been lagging, his main rival Cruz is under attack, loathed by the party establishment, dogged by questions about unreported campaign loans, his Canadian birth, and his opposition to federal support for ethanol in a corn-growing state.  The latest poll gives Trump a startling 11-point lead in the state.  In the next two, New Hampshire and South Carolina, he has long led by huge margins.  If he comes out of Iowa with an unexpected win, he'll crush his rivals in those states and become unstoppable.

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.


Blogger Ahab said...

For everyone's sake, I hope you're right, Infidel. I do NOT want to see Trump in the White House.

22 January, 2016 06:11  
Anonymous NickM said...

I think Trump who is so bizarre is proof all bets are off.

So, I don't think he is guaranteed the nomination. Cruz might pull it back. As you said many Republicans hate Trump. I mean if some are going to stand with Hilary then...

I think a lot matters on who, if selected, Trump has as running mate. I have heard talk of Trump/Cruz with Fiorina as presumptive Sec State. Now, if we assume, we assume a lot of Republicans think Cruz could rein in Trump's insane egomania then the Republicans might win and I shall have to fashion a tin-foil hat. But what if Trump can't get anyone even vaguely rational as running mate (I see a vision from Alaska) then it's scare the pigeons time and I think Hillary will crush him. Sorry Infidel. I do like you so I apologise for the Trump/Palin vision ;-). I think the grandees of the Republicans will baulk at the idea Trump + nutter on the ticket.

So my bet would be Cruz/Clinton at the Final Countdown and Hillary as next Prez. Nobody in the Republicans with a grain of sense will wannabe Trump's running mate. That his is Achilles er... Hair. And that is "Hair" that deserves a capital if not the Capitol. I iz on fire. I mean it is a something in it's own right is it not. In Quiff We Trust! Or rather not.

As to your fears... Well, up to a point but Congress exists and I don't think gay rights and stuff can be rolled back. As to Obamacare (I thought Hillarycare was better thought out) is anyone in the USA gonna want another shake-up of healthcare in a decade? Seriously. Things like (and I am speaking from a UK perspective) some things stick. Gay marriage sticks. And is anyone nuts enough to attempt an FDMA redux? Trump is but is he ever likely to get the chance?

22 January, 2016 06:23  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

If your gut instinct were correct and right-wing dominance were removed from the National Government, there would still be a shit-ton of work to do because the Republicans have effected a Coup de Etat using the House and SCOTUS as the levers to undermine the democratic Majority consensus of Americans.

The lesson then of Obama would be don't just elect a superhero to clean up the Republican messes but, elect progressives and then work your ass off to aid them in repairing the damage done by conservative lurch over the past 35 years.

22 January, 2016 08:01  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Great analysis. I'm linking to it at my blog.

According to polls I've seen, Trump has the highest negatives of any of the candidates in the presidential nomination race -- including the Democrats. National polling shows he's not that big of a threat; but as you wisely point out, events could change that.

I believe Trump would go rogue if he's denied the nomination, and then run as an independent.

If he does get the nomination, I don't see how, in the electoral college, he can win.

We do live in interesting times.

22 January, 2016 08:18  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

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?

I've been a Democrat for a long time, and I've become accustomed to expecting to losing races. Northern NY is unusually Republican compared to the rest of the state. That said, my home county of Essex, and its neighbor Clinton, did both go for the Democrat Aaron Woolf in the last Congressional election. It's a huge district though and did elect Elise Stefanik, a veteran of the Bush White House.

Back on point, I enjoyed your post and think you are correct in your thoughts that Trump, or possibly Cruz, as the nominee are going to be easier to beat than maybe Kasich or some ostensibly saner candidate.

22 January, 2016 10:31  
Blogger Paul W said...

Great article, and covers a lot of the hope/dread that relates to this election cycle.

One thing I do worry about, though, that is hard to predict but is a possibility. If the Republicans do shatter with a failed November election with Trump nuking the GOP landscape, there's a likelihood of a secession effort - say, Gov. Abbott in Texas - as a reaction to a reality they no longer accept.

We've got a lot of players in the Far Right wingnut faction that wouldn't accept it (they had a hard enough time accepting Obama won fair in 2012). With a lot of the haters putting in with Trump, if he loses they'll likely blame everything and everyone except themselves for that loss, and the violent rhetoric can turn right awful quick into violent reality. :(

22 January, 2016 11:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the smell of right-wing fratricide in the morning.

National Review has published a special edition of their print magazine dedicated to opposing Trump; in retaliation, the GOP has rescinded their status as debate sponsor.

Meanwhile, a Photoshop cartoon is making the rounds on the internets that depicts Trump in a Nazi uniform putting Bernie Sanders into a gas chamber. The cartoon is not by a Trump opponent; it's by one of Trump's fervent "alt-right" supporters, and the reason it's getting attention is that Trump has just retweeted a different Photoshop cartoon, one mocking Jeb Bush, by the same "artist".

22 January, 2016 11:58  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ahab: It will be a nail-biter, but I feel pretty confident that he'll be defeated.

Nick: If Cruz wins Iowa, he's got maybe a 10% chance -- his brand of candidate doesn't play well in a lot of Republican constituencies, and the party leadership hates him more than it hates Trump. If he doesn't win Iowa, he's got no chance. As for Trump's VP choice, the Devil only knows. I seriously think he might choose Palin. Most "normal" Republicans would refuse the offer. Anyway, the VP really has very little influence over the President, and someone as strong-willed as Trump won't be "reined in" by anyone.

A lot of the progress on gay rights and minority rights and reproductive freedom has depended on the Supreme Court. If a Republican wins and packs the Supreme Court with wingnuts, all bets are off. And they will. They know it's their last shot at turning back the clock. If that means making the US practically a pariah state with values at odds with the rest of the Western world, as South Africa was under apartheid, they can live with that. I'm certainly not willing to risk it.

Grung: I don't dispute that there's a lot to do. We still don't have true universal health coverage, which some countries have had for a century -- and that's just one example. And yes, people need to stay engaged. But the more divided the enemy is, the more we can get done.

Shaw: Thanks for the link! I have heard that Trump's unfavorables are at least ten points higher than Romney's with every ethnic group in the country -- that they're even higher than Nixon's unfavorables in the midst of the Watergate scandal. Yes, he plays hardball when campaigning -- but so do the Clintons.

I hope he's robbed of the nomination and runs as an independent. That's the best scenario for fatally splitting the right wing.

Our two-party system does tend to freeze out extremists and people who won't compromise. It's a safeguard which the countries that went fascist in the twenties and thirties didn't have.

22 January, 2016 16:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Kevin: If the Republicans were still the kind of party that would nominate Kasich, I'd be less worried about them. As it is, it must be dispiriting to live in an area where they dominate.

Paul: I suspect the economic consequences of secession would squelch the idea pretty quickly if it were seriously considered, and it would be an occasion of further division on the right -- some of them really are patriots and would regard that kind of talk as treasonous. If a state government actually tried it, I believe the federal government would suppress it using however much military force turned out to be necessary, just like last time. American citizens in places like Texas deserve to have their rights as citizens protected, and those rights, in the case of (for example) blacks or gays, would be endangered under some wingnut secessionist regime.

Anybody who doesn't want to stay in the US is free to emigrate.

Anon: I'd appreciate a link to that cartoon.

The NR special issue is a worthy effort, but far too late. They should have started doing that four months ago -- but the "respectable" right wing just wouldn't take Trump seriously.

22 January, 2016 16:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The newest Trump-retweets-a-neo-Nazi story is all over the mainstream media now. If you Google "trump sanders gas chamber" you can easily find the cartoon in question.

(It's worth remembering that this isn't even the first time Trump has gotten in hot water for retweeting a neo-Nazi; there was that highly inaccurate "black crime statistics" infographic Trump retweeted a few months back that likewise turned out to come from an overt Hitler admirer)

I think you may have to change your favorite catchphrase about extreme wingnuts to "These people exist--and Donald Trump retweets them."

The neo-Nazi whom Trump retweeted, 'WhiteGenocideTM', has now radically made-over his Twitter profile to look like a left-wing Bernie Sanders supporter (though the white supremacist and Trump-supporting tweets are still there if you just scroll down enough). This is a common tactic among these types; during the Missouri Black Lives Matter protests, a bunch of neo-Nazis changed their Twitter profiles to appear to be African-American BLM supporters and tweeted disinformation in an attempt to cause discord among their enemies.

22 January, 2016 17:29  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

On a serious note politically speaking, despite how dumb this may sound, I thought it may be a blessing to Democrats if Cruz gained lead and won the nomination, reason being I figured is ... how many voters nationwide would turn out in droves to vote AGAINST another Texas Republican becoming President? (after Bush/ Cheney)... I figure it a sure win for Democrats if Cruz got the nomination. One of the things I figured that we need desperately since these 2 parties run Washington, is a need for alot more Democrats in the House and Senate, it's totally out of balance up there and basically a right wing stronghold despite a fairly bipartisan President Obama, they are cutting him NO SLACK. I havent kept up with much of the Republican thing or debates as much as I should, because you know what they are going to push for, I'm just happy Paul Ryan aint running!

I heard the President (Obama) say he was disappointed that he wasnt more bipartisan, that surprised me! I think he has been VERY FAIR to both sides and about as bipartisan as you can have for an American President ... he gave in a tad too much to them on some things in my view, they have had no respect or consideration whatsoever for his proposals, with the exception of TPP, they loved him on that. As far as the Democrat debates, that I have watched, I was a little interested in hearing more out of O'Malley actually, most of the focus has been on Bernie and Hillary, and he just caught my interest, although I dont know enough about him or his past.

23 January, 2016 03:27  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: Thanks, I think I found it -- all the more tasteless since Bernie is actually of Jewish ancestry.

The search also brought this up, which I find to be somewhat fitting.

I hear Trump is actually pro-Israel, but the neo-Nazi types seem to like him nevertheless -- he's saying a lot of what they want to hear.

Ranch: Cruz is pretty much guaranteed to be a big loser in the general too -- not because he's Texan, but because he's a religious nutball in the mold of Huckabee or Santorum. The party establishment knows that kind of candidate is a hard sell to the general public.

Obama tried very hard to be bipartisan. It was his misfortune to be elected at a time when the Republicans were committed to be just the opposite.

23 January, 2016 07:20  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

"dragging the country back to the nineteenth century in socio-economic relations"

You are far underestimating the results on this issue. Thomas Piketty has already calculated that, at the present rate of progress, the economic inequality between rich and poor in the United States is set, by the year 2030, to be the greatest in the recorded history of the world. Help this along with Republican one party control, and within fifteen years, we will be living in a slave state controlled by less than 100 people. That will make the nineteenth century look like a worker's paradise.

23 January, 2016 12:10  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Green: No argument from me on that -- and that's another reason why a Trump nomination and landslide Republican defeat are actually to be hoped for. I'm frankly not counting even on President Hillary to do a lot about redistribution of wealth -- but the more power the Republicans have, the worse the situation will become, and the more power they lose, the better the odds of doing something about it. If Trump flames out so badly that the Democrats get a commanding Senate majority and a lot of Governorships, that will at least open the possibility of moving the national conversation on inequality to the left, which is the only realistic hope I see of eventually addressing this particular problem (unless things get so bad that it provokes an actual revolution).

Even a lot of Trump's supporters are working-class people who know they're being screwed over but have been hopelessly misled about who the enemy is. With the Republican party temporarily sidelined, they might be reachable.

23 January, 2016 15:05  

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