I have just finished my first political piece for publication since — I believe — I covered the ASASU elections in college (that’s the Associated Students of Arizona State University). I am now, officially, a professional political pundit.
So you know what I’m about to say is true.
There’s a fear out there that Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination for president. That is indisputable. A fear exists. And, indisputably too, he could win it. Maybe even will win it.
It doesn’t seem — seem — that Trump stands a chance against Hillary Clinton in November’s general election. But what IF he does win the nomination, and what IF Clinton gets the nomination from Democrats and then, what IF some skeleton in her political closet comes out just before the election that rattles her already shaky reputation?
(The third IF, you have to admit, seems as likely as the second, and the second is damn likely. Clinton has a pretty big closet, you know. She has a lot of skeletons in there.)
Any level-headed voter would take an oily politician over an unstable one because, in truth, all politicians have an oily side and unstable is not good when you’re carrying around a nuclear football. Still, as we know, there are a lot of voters out there with their bubbles a little off-center.
So IF Clinton is embroiled in some scandal she has trouble wriggling out of, what then with our theoretical general election?
The other day, it occurred to me — a professional pundit — that if things fall just so, we could have a President Trump.
I’m going to guess it won’t happen. Trump, of course, has plenty of skeletons of his own, not the least of which are his tax returns, which he still refuses to release. Because of those skeletons — and because he’s Trump, and that infuriates many Republicans more than anything — Trump still will have a hard time getting out of the convention with the nomination. The Republican bigwigs, none too happy with Trump, could change the convention rules to make it much harder on him. It’s been done before. They’re already ganging up on him in advance of Cleveland.
From the New Yorker:
The sight of [Jeb] Bush and [Mitt] Romney and a growing roster of establishment Republicans who privately despise [Ted] Cruz now rallying to his candidacy is telling: after months of inaction, Republicans are finally waking up to the idea that unless they deny Trump the nomination, he will wreck the Republican Party. The only question is whether it is too late.
Even if he gets out of Cleveland as nominee, another reason I don’t think Trump can get elected president, even against a laid-bare Clinton (or even a longshot Bernie Sanders), is numbers. Trump’s people are a few people in a few states who identify themselves as Republicans and who vote in a primary or caucus.
From the Washington Post:
If Mr. Trump is attracting 40 percent of Republicans, who in turn represent about one-quarter of the country, that is a 10 percent slice of the population — hardly a mantle of legitimacy.
Remember, Republicans — or people who identify themselves as such — are a minority, as The Post points out. This from Gallup:
Only 26 percent of people polled by Gallup call themselves Republicans. Only 29 percent say they’re Democrats. And a whopping 42 percent call themselves independent.
When Gallup asked these independents to pick a side — like, you know, we often have to in a two-party election — not a whole lot changes, as far as the margin between the two parties:
That 3 percent between Democrats and Republicans may sound too close to call. And maybe it is.
But you can’t forget, anti-Trump lobby, that you’re being spooked by, essentially, a very vocal minority of a minority. The general election is as close as the above graphic only if everyone stays to form — if no one switches party allegiance (or the party that they lean toward, anyway).
Granted, if you want to get really spooked, maybe Trump convinces some independents to vote his way. And some Democrats. And gets all the Republicans. None of that is likely to happen, says my little black punditry book.
But … what IF? What then?
Newsweek ran a well-considered article on the prospect of a Trump presidency, and I think author Matthew Cooper, fellow pundit, got it largely right:
The unspectacular truth is that a Trump presidency would probably be marked by the quotidian work of so many other presidents—trying to sell Congress and the public on proposals while fighting off not only a culture of protest but also the usual swarm of lobbyists who kill any interesting idea with ads and donations. Trump has a rarefied confidence in his abilities and, as we recently learned, in his, um, manhood. But what he doesn’t have is a magic wand (insert wand-penis joke here). Remember Schoolhouse Rock ? Trump is no match for the American political system, with its three branches of government. The president, as famed political scientist Richard Neustadt once said, has to take an inherently weak position and use the powers of persuasion to get others to do what he wants.
A President Trump, for all his bluster, won’t make that much of a difference. Or maybe any difference at all, especially if the mere prospect of Trump as president scares voters enough that the Senate, as many predict could happen, reverts to Democratic control. Then you have a split Congress again.
So, welcome to Obama’s world, President Trump. Try working the Art of the Deal on Congress, with half hating your guts and much of the other half not happy that you’re their party’s representative.
More from Cooper:
[T]his gets to the heart of Trump’s problem not just with walls but with governance: He phrases solutions in terms of “I,” but this is a “we” country.
Read Cooper’s piece for his wrap-up, which I think perfectly states the case that, however distasteful a Trump presidency might be, it’s not something that will irreparably damage the U.S.
That’s not to say it wouldn’t be embarrassing. That’s not to say it wouldn’t hurt some.
But, hell, it wouldn’t be any reason to move to Canada.
[My piece on the ins and outs and the possibilities of a contested convention in Cleveland will appear on HowStuffWorks. When it’s up, I’ll link it here.]