Let’s start out with the obvious: I, like many others, was woefully wrong regarding the Republican electorate and their love affair of Trump. In retrospect, I can see where I went wrong; I knew that the Tea Party crowd was going to hijack the process somewhere in the next few elections, because they’ve been pushing the party ever further right (aided by a gerrymandering process in 2010 that made it impossible to be moderate in the Republican Party without risking usurpation in the primary by someone louder and dumber) and sooner or later they were going to stage a revolution against the money people who kept insisting that they needed a moderate like McCain or Romney to win, but who lost anyway. 2016 seemed like their “If we’re going to go down, we’ll go down with a real Republican” moment.
But where I made my mistake was in thinking that a real Republican was someone like Ted Cruz, who was against taxes, against government regulation, pro-religion, pro-life, and generally embodied the talking points Republicans have been spouting since the 1990s. I didn’t think they would look at a New York businessman with ties to the Clintons and Hollywood and say, “Yeah, that’s one of us alright!” But that’s because I didn’t really understand what the true values of the Tea Party crowd were. It wasn’t about taxes. It wasn’t about small government. It wasn’t about religion. It was about bigotry. Everything that the Republicans have said since Nixon has been a long string of dog-whistles for their xenophobic base, and Trump outflanked people with far stronger political credentials by simply being nakedly, unashamedly racist. Ted Cruz might have years of experience in attempting to destroy the federal government out of thinly-veiled spite at the Democrats for electing a black man, but he wasn’t willing to get down to it and say that the federal government needed to deport all the brown people everywhere. Trump was. That’s why he’s the nominee.
(At least, theoretically the nominee. It is still June, and there’s a non-zero chance that someone could derail the Trump campaign with parliamentary maneuvering at the convention. It’s in the realms of “OMFGReally?”, because if they do it then that’ll pretty much be it for the Presidential election and it’ll also finally cause the slow-simmering feud between the four entirely incompatible factions of the Republican party to boil over, but I feel like it has to be mentioned because if I don’t say it, someone else will.)
(The four factions, by the way, are the ultra-religious theocrats, the libertarian “business is business” deregulators, the “subjugate the lesser countries” neocons, and Trump has revealed that the racists in the party are a faction all their own that can be courted.)
Anyhow, the point is, Trump appealed to the racist wing of the Republican party through a series of Nurembergian rallies, and is now…pending serious bizarreness…the nominee. And he’s down seven points to Clinton. Clinton has, if not actually seen off her one serious challenger in Bernie Sanders, at the very least reduced him to sulking somewhere in Vermont and muttering dire conspiracy theories about the Illuminati, and she has a huge war chest, a battle-tested and savvy group of campaigners on the ground and already moving in the hotly-contested swing states, and several much-loved Democrats up to and including President Obama ready to go out and stump for her. While Trump has…
Okay, look. The thing you need to understand about Trump, in order to make the last few weeks and the next several months make any sense at all, is that he has been surrounded for pretty much his entire adult life by people whose job it is to tell him everything he says, thinks and does is brilliant. If there was ever a point where he had any self-awareness, it withered and died decades ago. This is key, because everyone out there is constantly assuming that at some point, Trump is going to say, “Nah, nah, just kidding! Here’s my real plan,” and we’ll find out that this was all some sort of clever Xanatos gambit to position himself into some sort of superior position to win the election.
But the fact of the matter is, the Trump you see is the Trump you get. He really does believe that he doesn’t need to fundraise personally, because he’s rich. He really does believe that he’s going to be competitive in New York (where he’s currently twenty points down in the polls) because he’s a great guy and everybody in his home state loves him. He really thinks that he can just go around from state to state holding rallies, and appear on TV talk shows, and everyone will listen to his great ideas and vote for him. He really, honest to God, thinks that “the Mexicans” and “the gays” love him. (For that matter, he really thinks that they like being called “the Mexicans” and “the gays”.) Why not? he asks himself. People told him that wouldn’t work to get the Republican nomination, and they were wrong then. Why can’t he win the Presidency this way too?
To the rest of us, the reasons why are obvious. There are not enough bigots in this country (thank God!) to make up for the number of women and minorities who will turn out to vote against him. A Presidential candidate receives far more public scrutiny for their statements than a B-list celebrity and reality TV star, and he will have to spend the next several months defending his record of lies, inanity, unworkable plans, and general drunken uncle on Facebook-level blather. The Republicans are not going to throw good money at this moron, and while they may not actively turn on him, they certainly don’t want any part of the Trump brand. Spending time and effort campaigning in states you are going to lose no matter what, or states you are going to win no matter what, is essentially ceding ground to an opponent who targets swing states. You really should settle any pending fraud lawsuits against you before you decide to run for political office, so that you’re not desperately trying to seal evidence while the media is looking for a juicy scandal. Little things like that.
At this point, those little things are adding up to a major defeat. Nobody is willing to call it that, because we all have memories of Trump somehow rolling up victories in the primaries when it was obvious to the majority of Americans that his campaign was an unmitigated shitshow run by a bloviating fascist who raised epistemic closure to an artform, and none of us wants to be wrong again. But of course, Trump wasn’t trying to appeal to a majority of Americans in the Republican primaries, just the bigoted few who agreed with his ugly, racist screeds. The very fact that the majority of Americans have been waiting months to weigh in on the discussion should tell us something about how November will go.