The general consensus is that Donald Trump will not ultimately win the Republican nomination and that, even if he does, he won’t win the Presidency. I don’t exactly disagree but in a crowded and largely lackluster field, Trump’s continued ability to draw the spotlight to himself makes his nomination a distinct possibility.
Months remain between now and the first primaries. New Hampshire will hold its first while the Iowa caucuses are held a day or so later. Right now, polls are mixed but, on average, Trump is leading in both. Ben Carson has faded as predicted while Ted Cruz – Trump Light – is charging hard. Only Rubio and Bush appear to have still viable campaigns though others are hanging in. Most of the rest of the current candidates will drop from the ballot after the first votes are counted.
Can Trump win in New Hampshire and Iowa? Certainly, he will face a steady barrage of attacks – mostly from his fellow Republicans. The Democrats don’t mind a Trump Candidacy. He does worse against Clinton – the heir presumptive despite Bernie Sanders – than any of the other major alternatives. Still, the criticism will not strictly come from the right; Trumps blatantly racist, unconstitutional and inflammatory statements have drawn fire from a huge number of people, including, most recently, Muhammad Ali.
The problem for Trump – if you care about his problems – is that he has painted himself into a corner. His anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and posturing on a wide range of issues certainly fires up those who like him and/or agree with him. But for every supporter he whips into a frenzy, he permanently alienates several more. Hispanics certainly have no reason to support Trump – but can any other immigrant group think that they will be treated better? Asian communities have long memories of being rounded up and interned or having their rights otherwise denied. Does anyone think they will flock to Trump in large numbers – even though they may otherwise hold conservative values?
Jewish voters may like Trump’s unflinching support for Israel (though he apparently doesn’t have their unflinching admiration) but must feel a certain frisson at hearing him suggest that members of a religious group should be forced to wear publicly visible ID tags. Yellow stars, public beatings and Kristallnacht still exist in living memory.
And will Trump persist? He is rapidly being abandoned by former business partners and other allies – people who make Trump money. Will the Donald – whose wealth is his self-definition – continue to campaign if it will cost him a billion dollars? Two?
But even if Trump fails to win the nomination, he has already done something few candidates manage. He has changed the conversation – if you want to call inchoate screaming a conversation – in America. Racism and bigotry – fascism – is now part of the mainstream. The fringe has become the centre. America will be changed by this but made great again? Not for a minute.
But what if Trump wins the nomination? What if he wins the Presidency? Now that is another story.
And that’s ten minutes.