Humpty Trumpty sat on his wall.
Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.
All of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men
Couldn’t put the GOP back together again.
We are living in very interesting times indeed. The question we need to wrestle with is whether this is really a curse as the traditional Chinese saying would have it or whether we are in fact in the perfect political lesson for our age.
The harsh facts are that Donald Trump has driven out all of his competitors and is now the last man standing in the Republican primary race of 2016. He will be the GOP nominee.
I don’t know of anyone who predicted that Trump would actually win the nomination. Both the scientific evidence based prognosticators like Nate Silver and more intuitive types like myself got it wrong. Moreover, we got it wrong more than once.
Trump was able to win the nomination by getting the support of just 40% of the Republican electorate. With sixteen other candidates competing for the nomination, the vote got split in all of the contests and the Trump faction emerged with a winning plurality.
The GOP establishment is partly to blame for how this election cycle unfolded. They changed the format of the primary elections for 2016 to give a front runner a better chance of winning the nomination quickly so they could pivot to the general election and not get bogged down in endless debates and contested primaries.
They saw in 2012 how candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum hung in the process much longer than they would have otherwise because they had the support of some rich patrons who could fund a super PAC for them.
With Trump now the standard bearer of the GOP, the ideological unity of the Republican Party has been shattered to pieces. Many prominent Republicans are now not only not endorsing Trump but actually disavowing him and saying they will not vote for him.
A new standard of political double speak is coming to prominence as Republican Senate candidates want to continue to be identified with the party but not the nominee. So Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire says she supports the nominee of the party but will not endorse him.
Various disaffected Republicans are trying to organize a third party candidate with the fantasy goal of forcing the election into the House of Representatives. But it’s going to be too little too late for a third party.
Moreover, no one really wants to take on the role of being a spoiler candidate just to spite someone else. There is no political integrity in that.
I imagine they are trying to create some incentive for unhappy Republicans to go to the polls in November in order to save the Senate from flipping to the Democrats. A write-in campaign will be their last resort.
According to the Pew Research Center, the Republican share of the electorate is 25%. 44% are independents and 31% Democrats. The best case scenario for the Republicans electorate is 41% counting all the Republicans plus those leading Republican. The leaning Democratic share is 49%.
Without a unified party, the Republicans don’t have much of a chance in the general election. They traditionally count on a unified Republican electorate plus appeal to independents and some Democrats.
The big lesson of the 2012 election for president for the Republicans was the need to expand their demographic appeal. With Trump as candidate, though, it goes in the other direction in a dramatic way.
With Clinton as the Democratic nominee, we could count on Trump doing his usual thing of denigration of the opposition through personal attacks. This is going to have a misogynistic slant to it. Already Trump has said that Clinton is playing the woman card and that’s all she has going for her.
The nonwhite vote in 2016 will make up about 31% of the electorate and Trump isn’t going to win a lot of these voters. Women make up 52% of the voters and, if he alienates them, he’s got absolutely no chance to win.
In the Republican primary contest, Trump excelled at demagoguery and reality TV type theatrics while avoiding talking about policy for the most part. That won’t fly in the general election. Here truly it will become clear to all that the emperor has no clothes. Trump has no coherent policies.
When Trump does put forward some policy, banning all Muslims from entering the country, for example, there are those who believe that this is all for show and that it’s just something he’s saying to get attention and keep himself in the media spotlight.
The reality, however, is that Trump lives from a world view dominated by conspiracy theories. The conspiracy media figure, Alex Jones, is his hero.
For example, this is his view of climate change: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
With such unprecedented liabilities, we need some explanation for how Trump got to be the representative of one of the two major political parties in our country with at least some possibility of being elected president.
Because of the rapid pace of change in many aspects of our lives, our country and the entire world is going through an existential crisis. It’s a crisis of identity, meaning and values.
The best response to existential crisis is to embrace change and transformation. The least function responses are to act out against others, against ourselves, and to go for restoration of some fantasized past. Trumpism embodies all three of these dysfunctional reactions to change.
The slogan “Make America Great Again” needs no explanation as a move towards restoration. The xenophobic and nativist strains of Trump’s politics focuses attention on who is perceived to be different and other and helps distract from having to take responsibility for adapting to change. We can then blame our problems on immigrants or the Chinese.
What we are seeing in the current version of the Republican Party is also an example of acting out against oneself. The corrupt and traditional ways of the Republican Party are then the problem. So the perception is that we need some anti-politician who can burn it down and build it back again in a better form.
The presidential election cycle of 2016 is a great opportunity to make a stand for a new way of being in our country and in the world. Trump’s candidacy serves us by bringing to full awareness the road we don’t want to walk down. He is the ultimate negative role model. It’s really a clash between two paradigms.
It’s a choice between a paradigm of tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and justice and a paradigm of white identity resentment politics of diversity insensitivity and intolerance.