Two years ago, as the Republican primary elections were just beginning to get underway, I spotted a problem. All the cultural trends were pointing toward a victory for a populist reaction to President Obama's administration (not the man himself, mind you, but his policies). Below is what I wrote on November 28th, 2015:
I've been getting this eerie feeling over the last few weeks that Donald Trump will win. Not just the primary. The general election also. What follows are my reasons for thinking so. Feel free to disagree with me. It might help me feel better.
1. The mainstream media has no way of convincing conservatives that Donald Trump is really a wacky Right-wing nut. By making the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul out to be “extremists” for so long, the accusation that Trump is an “extremist” or “fascist” is greeted with a yawn by conservatives. This Salon article illustrates this point, I think. It doesn’t really work to say “Trump is SOO radical that he makes other extremists look moderate! It also doesn’t work to call Trump a Nazi, as the Kasich campaign took to doing in a desperate attempt at headlines.
2. The Republican establishment is equally unable to bring down Trump. Even if all the big-money donors assemble to attack him, that will only further push primary voters into his hands. Trump can parry even the most devastating attack ad with a flip of the hand: “the reason the big-money Republicans are against me is because they know I can’t be bought!” Check mate.
3. Trump is populist; Clinton is not. In pretty much every election cycle since Ronald Reagan, the Democrat candidate has been more populist, while the Republican was more elitist. This is in no small part because the Republican establishment has been shifting focus since Reagan from social to fiscal issues - so much so that the most mainstream Republican-leaning media outfit (other than Fox News) is the Wall-Street journal. There is limited appeal among common people for this kind of strict economic ideology. The masses prefer their scapegoats - whether it’s the banks, the rich, the communists, or the government.
As the first truly populist candidate to run from the Right in a long time, Donald Trump is going to get votes from surprising quarters - including from Democrats (many of whom are not supporters of open borders - like Bernie Sanders).
4. Trump touches immigration with gusto. Part of recent Republican elitism has been the acceptance of lax immigration policy. Working-class people on both sides of the aisle surmise that this policy is driving down American wages. In a popular battle between open borders immigration and restrictive immigration (which is what a Clinton/Trump battle would be), restrictive will win every time.
5. Obama was elected last go-around. Barack Obama was the least experienced President America has elected in a long time. Plus, the attitude of the American people is no longer the hopeful optimism that once distinguished us from Europe. We are merely disgruntled, and are willing to try anything. This attitude manifested itself in a symbolic vote for blank-slate “change”, with Obama. It is equally likely, I think, to result in a vote for belligerent (and vague) “greatness”.
6. Several States still have open primaries (for some unknown stupid reason). Trump will appeal to the moderate Democrats, who will agree with him over pretty much anyone else in the Republican camp. He will also appeal to the hard-line Democrats, who will vote for him because they think he’s an unelectable clown. Granted, this is a small advantage. Hopefully the otherwise useless John Kasich can help steal some of these Democrat primary votes away.
At this point, I think the only person who can bring down Donald Trump is Donald Trump. Someone please prove me wrong!