God Help Us All: I Think Donald Trump Is Going To Be President
When the race for the 2016 White House started, I was pretty damned confident that the GOP didn’t have a shot in hell of winning. I came to this conclusion primarily due the fact that those with the most support from “the base” were completely out-there extremists promising they could still make gay people go away and had no chance with moderates, and “the base” had no intention of rallying for a more moderate candidate. I believed they would be undone by their id.
Oh, how the tides have turned.
When Trump first announced his campaign, I laughed maniacally. I’m not laughing anymore. The other night, a cold feeling came over me as I realized that there is a very good possibility that he will be our next President. I’m not alone–even Nate Silver is starting to think he could have a chance.
You know what he said last week about how he could murder someone in the street and people would still vote for him? It’s unfortunately quite true. Just look at the litany of horrific things he’s said about women, Muslims, Mexicans, black people, prisoners of war. He’s run the gamut of offensive things one could say out loud and none of it’s stuck to him. Talk about a Teflon Don.
Much of his popularity is attributed to the fact that there are a lot of angry white dudes out there, who desperately want to see someone crack down on minorities and uppity women. There’s some truth to that, but I don’t think that’s all of it. It’s also that while he’s saying these horrendous things, he’s still repeating his “Make America Great Again” mantra. I’ve seen an awful lot of people out there saying that while they don’t agree with him on all his crazy bigot stuff, they simply like the fact that he wants to “Make America Great Again.”
My mother always used to say that people will love you for the way you make them feel about themselves. And that’s true. Pretty much every awful dictator in the history of the world has been elected primarily because they made certain people feel good about themselves. As repellant as he is, Trump is making these people feel good about themselves.
Even when we’re angry or upset, Americans tend to value positivity. Within the last few decades, Nixon and Bush I aside, charisma and positivity have played a huge part in winning Presidential elections. Reagan was a B-movie star who talked about a “shining city on a hill” so much that no one noticed that he was giving speeches about things that only happened in movies. Bill Clinton played the saxophone and was cool! People wanted to have a beer with Bush II despite the fact that as a recovering alcoholic, he could not actually do that. Obama talked about hope and change and also has the “cool” factor going on. It’s not so much that style is always chosen over substance, but that people want to think things are going to get better and–duh–gravitate towards people whom they find likable.
Donald Trump is a razzle-y dazzle-y reality television star, and although he’s appealing to people’s anger, he’s also offering incredibly simplistic ways of making them un-angry. He’s telling them the solution to their economic woes is as simple as building a giant wall to keep Mexican immigrants from coming in and “taking their jobs.” People want to hear that. They want to believe it’s that simple. In reality, deporting undocumented immigrants and building a giant wall to keep them out is highly unlikely to help anyone out economically in any significant way.
Bernie Sanders has a much better plan for improving our economy and our quality of living. One that would actually work and create a sustainable economy for years to come. Alas, as much as free college, single payer and a higher minimum wage would make things better for everyone in the long run, it’s not a fun plan that would make people feel like badasses and provide a sense of immediate satisfaction.
Unlike Trump, neither Sanders nor Clinton is especially good at blowing smoke up anyone’s ass or being all razzle-y dazzle-y. Clinton, along with being the “establishment candidate,” is pragmatic as hell and is unlikely to propose anything she doesn’t think she could actually do, while Sanders is criticized for being “grumpy” and for either being too radical or not radical enough. They’re both better at talking policy then they are at saying “I’m gonna make this all better and fix all the things! Including things that a President technically doesn’t have the authority to fix! Somehow! Yay America! Good times ahead!” which is what a lot of America wants to hear–including many progressives.
As much as people on the Right like to criticize the “participation trophy generation,” they tend to fiercely gravitate towards candidates who tell them they are special simply for being American, white, and Christian. They demand trophies for that. Given the choice between preserving that privilege and improving their economic situation, they will choose the former every time. They will gladly cut off their noses to spite their faces if it means that a certain policy hurts minorities more than it hurts them. When we ask “why do they vote against their own interests?” we fundamentally misunderstand what those interests are.
While there’s not a lot of historical precedent for a Presidential candidate like Trump, there is a lot of precedent for the things he “represents.” A large part of the resurgence of the KKK at the early part of the last century was due to the fact that poor whites saw African Americans making advances as a loss in status for themselves. The more feminism gains traction, the more reactionary misogynist groups tend to pop up. These people see Trump as someone who will preserve what little status they have as a result of their privilege–which they are absolutely terrified of losing. Quite simplistically, they’ve seen Obama as someone who tells them they’re “bad” and now see Trump as someone who tells them they’re “good.”
It’s not just them, either. There will be people who don’t fit into this target audience who vote for him because “He said he’s gonna make us great again!”
Right now, the Right has more collective enthusiasm for Trump than we have for our candidates. Even the “establishment” types are starting to give in and support him. There’s also the fact that he apparently appeals to people who don’t often vote in elections–whether or not they will actually get to the voting booth is anyone’s guess. But if they do, we’re in trouble.
However, Trump’s popularity among the GOP base isn’t the only reason why we are likely lose this election.
The Left is pretty divided on things right now, and we can often be as publicly critical of our own candidates as the Right is, if not moreseo. While the purpose of this is often not so much to tear them down as to push them to be better, swing voters who are not hep to that are unlikely to pick up on the nuance.
There are a whole lot of Sanders voters who say they wouldn’t vote for Clinton if their life depended on it, and vice versa. There are also a lot of people — millennial voters in particular —who feel that neither candidate is progressive enough. I’ve heard a lot of people saying they will sit out this election to make a point to the DNC that they should have put forth better candidates. They fear that if they keep going along and voting for whomever is running on the Democratic ticket that the DNC will take their votes for granted and keep putting more moderate candidates forward expecting everyone to go along.
That’s a feeling I completely understand, although I do have some problems with it. I don’t think there are a ton of viable candidates who are ideologically pure, entirely non-problematic and who also want to be President. I’m also not 100% certain that if such a candidate existed that we could actually get them elected. Not to mention the fact that four Supreme Court justices will be over 78-years-old next term–including two pro-choice judges and a swing vote–and a new President will be likely be able to replace at least one.
The country as a whole has become far more socially progressive than it was even ten years ago–and that should mean we have a much better chance at winning the general election. This should have been pretty easy, given that we have the numbers on our side and thus whoever the Democratic nominee is would have to get far fewer swing states than the Republican nominee would need. It’s actually quite incredible that someone who is running on a platform of straight bigotry and hate is a person we’re likely to lose to.
Although we have numbers on our side, we’re now finding ourselves exact same position I originally thought would lead to the Republicans losing.
While I would like to see Sanders win the nomination, you can bet your ass that if Clinton wins, I will be throwing the hell down for her. In the meantime, I’m not going to be trying to tear her down because I am petty as hell and don’t want to give the Right any ammunition. I am very much in the minority on this.
The way it’s looking now, in November, Trump is going to garner support both from regular Republican voters as well as a lot of non-regular voters. A large portion of progressives will stay home because whoever the candidate ends up being is not what they want and they’re hoping to make a point. Trump wins. With a majority Republican legislature, he’d then able to pretty much do whatever the hell he wants with regards to immigrants and Muslims, and he’s able to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe and otherwise screw us in a variety of other festive ways. He’ll probably also get us involved in some absurd war, just for funsies and to show the world how big his testicles are.
The absolute best case scenario for this is that the Democratic Party then sees the error of its ways and nominates a flawless candidate for 2020, who then, even if they win, can’t actually do anything to help the situation, because SCOTUS. And we literally can’t accomplish anything significant for the next 50 years or so, because SCOTUS.
If we were clever, we’d fight our asses off to keep Republicans the hell out of the White House. We’d then get those asses to the voting booths and keep in mind that we are voting mostly for the next Supreme Court justices, saving the push and the stronger criticism for when we’re not in danger of President Trump or President Cruz. Let’s be real here–campaign promises don’t mean shit to begin with anyway.
Then, we’d actually take a page from the Christian Right, and create a massive push for more progressive candidates in smaller elections, like school boards and other local elections. That’s the long game. That’s how we win for real. We actually have a much better chance of getting the kinds of things we want to see done that way than we would even if our President were absolutely perfect. This is actually a much more effective way of getting more progressive candidates to choose from in larger elections down the road than by trying to start with the Presidency.
I sincerely hope I’m wrong about all of this. I really do. I hope I’m just getting anxious. I hope that President Trump is not a thing that ever happens, but right now I don’t have a lot of confidence that it won’t.