Could Donald Trump win the nomination? Yes. You have to say that. To say no is to ignore what is happening, and what can happen in a process that is largely not controlled by the Republican establishment. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is no fool. He could be vice president. So what if neither of them has any foreign policy experience?
President Donald Trump. Try saying it three times. Doesn’t sound right.
Is there anyone Trump could beat? Yes. As unlikely as it is that America would elect a reality show billionaire to lead us in these treacherous times, it seems even more unlikely that they would elect a 74-year-old socialist from New York.
I’m really sorry. I like Bernie Sanders, too. I feel badly putting him in the same paragraph with Donald Trump. But in a way, they are in the same boat. And it is not the small boat that Lee Atwater, the George H.W. Bush’s legendary campaign manager, used to talk about, with the very few folks that most Americans could imagine as president. Clinton is the only one in that boat at the moment. If a long slog is what it takes to win the election, no one in politics knows how to slog it like the Clinton family.
Practically before I was born, George McGovern accepted the Democratic nomination long after America’s bedtime, in front of a convention devoid of almost everyone who had any kind of official (or even unofficial) tie to the Democratic Party. The convention was totally out of control, I’ve been told gleefully by people older than me (whew) who were there. That crowd must have included the guy running Texas for McGovern: Bill Clinton. It was a political disaster. It was what led, eventually, to the “superdelegates.” I once complained so vigorously about superdelegates, because I knew they would undermine the “equal division” of the convention. But they also bring stability to the process. I never thought I’d live to say it, but thank goodness for all those superdelegates. That’s why every delegate comparison shows Hillary ahead. She is. She will be.
Bernie is doing well in these Democratic contests for the same reason — sorry again, Bernie — that Ted Cruz is. But their appeal, in both cases, is to the ideological activists in their respective parties, who are most likely to go to the caucuses.
Democrats, however, are so much more conditioned by losing than Republicans are that their instinct for suicide has been dulled since the McGovern campaign in 1972. If voting for Bernie were still a freebie, if the stakes were still low — if the Republicans did not appear to be on the brink of nominating the single most unsuitable candidate of modern times — I could see him forcing Hillary into a long, if not losing, campaign.
But the stakes aren’t low anymore. Trump strikes fear into the heart of any American who believes our leader should not be the one to say out loud what we would rightly scold our children for saying (e.g., “I don’t want any Muslims in my class” or “Mexicans are rapists”). Donald Trump is nothing so unusual: he is a demagogue, in the oldest tradition of divisive politics. He is preying on a system of minority rules that won’t change until the general.
If one party is going to commit suicide, it is best that the other not follow suit. That is how you fall under the tyranny of an ideological minority.