It’s starting to look like a lot of postings in the coming months are going to be about Trump and what happens next. This is shaping up to be a blowout win for the Democrats, although it is not a given (If ever there was a party prepared to compete in the “Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory” race, it is the Democratic Party). A lot of supposed conservatives (faux-servatives?) such as Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity have been Gunga Din-ing for Trump and predicting a landslide victory for Il Trumpo. The Trumpkins are basing this on their view that Trump will unify the nation, bringing Yuuugge numbers of Democrats and Independents to the Republican side ala Ronald Reagan. Of course this same group of people are screaming that the #NeverTrump crowd is going to be responsible for the Trump defeat in November. The fact #NeverTrump Republicans not voting for the man could cost Trump the election seems to undercut the claims regarding the groundswell of voter support does seem to factor into their arguments. But then again consistency has never been a Hallmark of the Trump Campaign.
In fact, it is the illogic that causes Scott Adams to think Trump will win. Adams, the writer and cartoonist of Dilbert, has long been arguing on his blog that Trump will win. A Washington Post article from Thursday goes into his argument. Now, it should be stressed Adams is not a Trumpkin and I have no idea what his political ideology is. Adams’s argument is strong and he makes some valid points.
But he is wrong.
(Oh you knew there was a “but” coming)
There are three ways Adams argument fails:
It is vital to remember that the United States is a Republic. The entire Constitutional framework was designed not only to serve as checks and balances against the various institutions enumerated within the Constitution, but also a check against the citizenry. That is one of the main functions of the Electoral College. The American people do not directly vote for President, but for Electors. And those electors are chosen not in a national election, but a state election. Or to put it another way: we don’t have national election on November 8, 2016, but 51 separate but simultaneous elections in the States and District of Columbia. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if Trump wins a majority of the popular vote (Just ask Al Gore), he needs to win 270 electoral votes to become President*. And most states are a winner take all in giving the electoral votes. So even if Trump gets more votes in New York than any other Republican in history, if Clinton gets one more vote than Trump, she wins all 31 electoral votes. Because of Yellow Dogs and other groups hostile to Trump and/or his message, Trump doesn’t have the necessary structural support.
(*We will forgo a discussion of the House of Representative method for now).
- Yellow Dogs-
There is an old Southernism- the Yellow Dog Democrat, based on the claim that there were a large number of people who would “vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for any Republican.” While the Southern version has died out (even the Blue Dog Democrats has faded away), variations exist in certain parts of the Country. And there are a number of states where these modern Yellow Dog Democrats form a majority of the population. California, New York State, and Massachusetts are three such states. In fact, given the current political make-up of the country, Democrats generally enters an election cycle with 217 votes and Republican start with 191 in the Electoral College.
In a normal election that means the Republican has to get 79 out of the 130 electoral votes up for grabs. The early indications are not good for Trump. Polling suggests he is trailing Clinton in Arizona, North Carolina, Utah and Missouri. Romney won those states in 2012. So, 52 electoral votes Romney had, Trump doesn’t. Based on that, it would appear Trump needs to get 79 out of 78 available electoral votes. Unless we’re using that Common Core New Math, it would seem unlikely there is a path. Even if we reset the map, given his unfavorabilities in general and with certain demographic groups in particular, you’d be hard pressed to show how Trump can assemble a coalition of voters to pull it off.
And politics is about coalition formation. As Sean Trende notes in his book, Lost Majority, a candidate wins either with a broad coalition of various interests whose combined membership is large enough to win or it is a small coalition but whose members are of a sufficient number and enthusiasm about the main driving issues of the candidate to cause them go out and vote. FDR in 1932 is an example of a broad coalition while Hoover in ‘28 is the narrow but deep coalition (His was comprised primarily of prohibitionists and anti-Catholics plus African Americans. Contrary to the myth it was not Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’ that caused African Americans to stop voting Republican. With the death of the ex-slave generation, attitudes towards the party of Lincoln were shifting. Hoover was the last GOP candidate to win a majority of the Black Vote. Nixon’s election was the end of the realignment).
Trump probably has the angry white male vote locked. But that is not a group deep enough to get to 270. What other groups will gravitate towards Trump? Maybe some of the Sander-nistas. I feel confident Hispanics aren’t going to form part of the Trump coalition. And no one else seems willing to step up.
- Past Performance ≠ Future Growth
You know those commercials you see and hear for stock traders telling you how great they are? What’s the caveat they always tell you? Past Performance Is Not an Indicator of Future Success. That’s where the “Trump Will Win” crowd goes wrong. Yes Donald Trump has made it this far and defied political gravity. In any other election cycle, his campaign would not have achieved the critical mass to get off the ground. Or if it did get off the ground, it would have crash and burned any number of times because of his various statements. Because it didn’t, people know think that he can keep doing the same shtick and achieve the same results.
Just because it worked in the past is no indication it will work in the future. Part of it is the same factors that caused Trump to rise will cause him to fall. Yes, people love his “straight talk” and “sticking it to the PC crowd.” But after a certain point, it becomes stale and folks lose interest. Did you ever notice that the Trump reality show, The Apprentice, went from being about giving some average joe a job and chance to succeed to being about Celebrities competing. Why? Because people got tired of the original show. Having celebrities appear livened things up. But even that faded. And quicker than the original version. Trump is all bombast, all the time. That’s what the Trumpkins love. But there’s not much more he can do to top it. He is running for a Constitutional Office. There are inherent constraints built in(See the structural section above). The conditions that got him here but the conditions for the general election are very different.
During the primary, Trump made good copy for the news. Liberal leaning outfits, such as MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, et. al. breathlessly reported every Trumpian Faux-Pas, but did so in a manner that suggested the media was in on the joke, sort of the way Graham Norton does when he says something “naughty.”
It was a form of virtue signaling. Look at this fool. Can you believe how gauche? And they did so because it was done in the spirit of their enemies (i.e. The Republicans) looking foolish. Every time Trump did or said something outrageous, if only reinforced the belief that Republicans are stupid and Democrats enlightened. In a general election, that changes. Instead of reporting Trump’s errors in a quasi-light hearted manner, the press will present every Trumpian statement as evidence of the dangerousness of Trump being anywhere near the button to launch nuclear weapons.
Remember Todd Akin? He was running for a Senate Seat and the press reported on him as if he was the Anti-Christ.
The press is inherently hostile to the GOP . Based on a graphic in a recent Politico story, not a single reporter covering the White House is a registered Republican.
The press will knowingly or unconsciously do all they can to cast Trump in the worst possible light. They will seek to destroy him. While this Red Wedding level of carnage probably won’t increase his unfavorable ratings beyond their record levels, it will preclude any chance of the voters changing their minds in a positive way. Put in a different way: Just because you have made a pile of cash by betting Red 7 thirteen times does not mean you should go all in on Red 7 the fourteenth time and expect to win because on the prior 13. You can do it, but if you lose, don’t stand there and ask, “Wha happened?”
Trump has been lucky. But for him to win the Presidency he needs to keep being lucky. If at any point his luck falters, the structural and coalition factors will reassert themselves and Trump will lose.