Friday, November 4, 2016

Why Trump Can Still Win This Thing

With four days to go before the election, Donald Trump has pulled into a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton in the national polls and has made serious inroads in the all-important battleground states.  Yes, the RCP "No Toss Up States" poll shows her with 297 electoral votes, but look a little closer and you'll notice that some of these states - including Florida - are within the margin of error. Take away the Sunshine State and she's down to a paltry 268 electoral votes, two shy of winning the presidency.

In other words, we're in for one helluva ride next Tuesday night. She could win big, win narrowly, or not win at all, and as of right now, nobody knows which scenario will play out. Nate Silver puts her chances of winning at 68 percent. Two weeks ago, it was 86 percent. That is hardly reassuring news if you're a Democrat or even someone who isn't a supporter of a sociopath.

So how did we get here? How is this man still alive in this race, let alone within striking distance of becoming the leader of the free world? I believe it comes down to four factors.

First, the racist factor. It was clear from the beginning of his campaign, Trump was looking to court the racist vote, and he got it in droves. Without it, he would never have won the GOP nomination. The alt-right elements that have permeated every fiber of his candidacy have stoked the fears of a frustrated white population that sees a multicultural, racially diverse population as a threat to its hegemony.

While they by no means represent the majority of white people in the country, they are hardly insignificant. I have said this before and it bears repeating: while not all Republicans are racists, the vast majority of racists have found a home in the GOP and Donald Trump is their savior and deliverer. The endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan is not an accident. It is the natural culmination of policy stances that just happen to coincide with those of this and other racist organizations.

Second, the conservative evangelical factor. I say conservative because not all evangelicals endorse Trump and his hateful rhetoric. In fact, quite a few find him repulsive. But conservative evangelicals have taken to him, not because they think he's one of them - far from it - but because they have convinced themselves that he will appoint conservative justices to both the Circuit and Supreme Courts in order to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges and Roe v. Wade; the latter being a life's long mission for them ever since it was handed down in 1973.

But what these people don't seem to understand is that they're placing their trust in man who, for all intents and purposes, has no moral compass. There's nothing in Trump's resume that would lead one to believe that if given the chance he would be sympathetic to conservative evangelicals. Quite the contrary. For most of his adult life, Trump has sided with progressives on the issue of abortion, declaring himself pro-choice on several occasions. That he has suddenly found religion, to coin a phrase, is highly improbable. What is more likely is that Trump is playing these people the way he plays most of his partners.

Third, the anti-establishment factor. Face it: whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, it's pretty damn hard to defend what's going on in Washington these days; indeed for more than a decade. There's a reason why Congress's approval rating is just north of a serial killer and the electorate has just about had it with the bullshit that goes on day in and day out.

The crony capitalism, the career politicians whose only concern is getting reelected. Sooner or later this pimple was going to come to a head. And who knew that it would be Trump who would burst it. Bernie tried but didn't have the gravitas, or a big enough mouth. What these people want most of all is for someone to come in and blow the joint up and Trump is the guy they believe will do just that. His hatred of even his own party is proof of his so-called sincerity.

And lastly, the anti-trade factor. There's no getting around a painful fact. While most of the country is in better shape now than it was eight years ago, a certain percentage isn't. In fact, this percentage of the population has seen its standard of living steadily decline for almost twenty years and they're pissed as hell. They feel screwed by a system that stopped caring about them years ago.

Broken promises don't put food on the table or keep you from losing your home. Whether it's fair or not, or even whether it's true or not, these people feel that the pro-free trade policies of the Clinton Administration, which were continued under both the Bush and Obama Administrations, are responsible for the devastation that has been visited upon their communities. The reason Ohio is likely to go Red this election is because of that pent-up rage that Trump has tapped brilliantly. And like the great con artist he is, he has convinced them that he, and he alone, can bring back all those jobs that were lost to China and Mexico. Perhaps he can start by making the caps he distributes to his supporters that say "Make America Great" here in America.

I think the last two factors are now taking center stage in a, you'll pardon the pun, bigly way. While the racist factor is still huge, by itself it isn't enough to tip the scales in Trump's favor. Even if you agree with Clinton's earlier, and much maligned comment, that half of his supporters were deplorable, half of roughly 35 percent of the electorate - e.g., his base - would never win a presidential election. And as for conservative evangelicals, while they were instrumental in helping Ronald Reagan win and keep the White House, as a movement they haven't been nearly as influential in presidential politics over the last decade. And they are hardly unified this year. Some of them have openly called out the hypocrisy of their fellow Christians.

If Clinton loses, it won't just be her failure, it will be an epic failure of the system as a whole. Put succinctly, the institutions that have been tasked with the job of running the Republic since its inception have been all but discredited. The Congress is hopelessly gridlocked; the Supreme Court a hostage to ideological divisions between both major parties, the FBI now apparently in cahoots with the Trump campaign. The antipathy and contempt many have towards the government is not limited to just one party or one voter demographic. Bernie Sanders ran on a platform that railed against a rigged system and some of his supporters, despite all the evidence to the contrary, still insist the nomination was stolen from him.

What is abundantly clear is that a lot of people are pissed. And people who are pissed are often unpredictable and far more prone to act impulsively. There's no doubt that between the two candidates, Trump's supporters are far more enthusiastic about him than Clinton's supporters are about her. And that enthusiasm gap could prove costly next Tuesday.

The rise of anti-intellectualism poses a grave threat to the nation and regardless of what happens next week it is not likely to cease. The normal checks and balances of democracy are under assault and an alarming percentage of the population is poised to hand over the keys of the kingdom to a man who praises a despot and has the temperament of a four year old.

Not only isn't this election in the bag, I fear that Tuesday night could be the beginning of the saddest chapter in American history.

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