(As told by a guy who knows of politics only what he learned a long, long time ago in a freshman government class far away)
I seem to be saying it a lot lately, but this is the part where I say that mine is not a political blog; it’s just that politics are, for better or worse, a part of life, and as such, well, they dwell in the mind from time to time. This little post snowballed on me.
TL;DR version: Trump might win the Republican primary — and that should be exactly what non-Republicans want.
We’re exhausted over here in America. In recent decades, our election cycle has bloated and fed upon itself to the point that it stretches out, without blinking an eye, well over a year. I remember seeing on the Daily Show or something similar several months ago that Canada had just gone through an election cycle. It had lasted about a month, and none of the Canadians could believe how long it had taken. Ha! If that’s democracy, you’re doing it wrong. Silly Canadians. No, our elections are interminable affairs; in fact, if you happen to be a fan of the losing party during an election year, have no fear, because the pundits in your corner will begin immediately discussing the ways they can turn the electorate in their favor four years off.
To that end, the current election cycle feels like it’s been about seven years long so far. Quite a lot of people have been really surprisingly upset about our president ever since his election and all through his re-election, and I can clearly remember interviews with high-ranking Republicans wherein running in 2016 was referenced even a full year or two ago. Now we’re within a year of the election, and people are really freaking the fargo out.
Let’s calm the hell down. The president has not nearly as much power as anti-Obama types would have you think; he’s hamstrung by the checks-and-balances system established by those founding forefathers that pundits so love to idolize.
Second, if you think this election cycle — featuring over 20 presidential hopefuls at one point (and maybe still? surely some other backwoods senator has wandered into the light and declared a presidential bid since lunchtime) — is anything other than idolatry and pandering at this point, you are deluding yourself.
Take Trump. (No, seriously. Take him. To Saturn, if you have the means.)
I’m going to go ahead and put my dollar down: he will not be the next PotUS.
Never gonna happen.
He’s gotten a lot of attention in the current cycle for saying some, uh, inflammatory things. People are freaking out because he’s leading in the polls. But there is no cause for concern. (Well, I guess that depends on where you stand politically.) Trump is not going to be president, and the reason for that is that most people don’t care who the president is.
Don’t believe me? Join me in a thought experiment.
You go to the polling place, sign in with the elderly, cheerful volunteer, and wait in line for your chance to do your civic duty. You approach the booth, and go to place your vote — but you find that the names have been blacked out, and all you can do is vote Republican, Democrat, or Other.
I submit that an overwhelming majority of people in this situation would go ahead and vote Republican, Democrat, or Other, without making too much of a stink about being unable to see the name of the person they’re voting for. Hell, I probably would. That’s because we don’t care who the president is, we just want to make sure it’s one of our guys in the White House.
But everybody needs to remember that Trump is not currently running for president. Sure, he says he is, and his campaign literature says he is, but what he’s really running for is to be the Republican Nominee for president. A subtle, but key, difference.
For those of you looking at the American election wind-up and scratching your heads or vomiting in the corner, we have these things called Primaries, wherein hopefuls from each political party battle to the death for the right to represent their party in the national election.
What, sorry? They don’t fight to the death? Oh.
No: in the primary, candidates do battle with members of their own party for the right to represent that party. In other words, the republican candidates must prove they are the most republican, the democratic candidates must prove they are the most democratic, the libertarians must prove they are the most libertarded.
Thing is, to prove that you’re the best something, you must epitomize every aspect of that something. This will prove to your “base” (the faithful voters who will always vote R or D without a second thought) that you are the right man for the job. So what you end up with is a gaggle of otherwise intelligent politicians scrambling like hell to get as far to the right as they can to appeal to the base: those voters who are really concerned about politics.
And here the Republicans have a problem: what has their party been about for the last seven years (and yes, I’m talking specifically about the Obama presidency) outside of being against everything the democrats, specifically Obama, do and say? Republicans have to contend with the fact that a big swathe of their voters are really pissed off that Obama is the president, and nobody — NOBODY — is more vocal about how pissed off over the Obama presidency he is than Trump.
I’m not going to postulate on why this is the case. I’ll leave that to people much smarter than me. But for every possible Republican stance — clamp down on immigration, free market, women’s (lack of) rights — Trump turns it to 11. No immigration, Mexican or Islamic especially. No regulation of the market. Women? More like crazy PMSing baby factories, amirite? (His words, not mine. Okay, maybe not exactly his words.)
This is why he’s leading in the polls. The Republican core is mad as hell and Trump is expressing thoughts that they agree with. And if you’re a functionally intelligent Republican, then, yeah, I might start getting nervous. Because the challenge that sane Republicans now face is, how are we going to get a majority of our non-zealot population to turn out and vote for just one of these unimpressive faces in the crowd? How can we mobilize people who don’t care all that much about all this against the horde of slavering, racist, sexist, Trump supporters?
It’s a problem the Republicans are going to have to solve very soon, or they’re going to reap exactly what they’ve sown over the last seven years.
But by the same token, I see a lot of Democrats and other non-Republicans getting nervous about the Trump bid. His racism scares them, his intolerance scares them, his flightiness and willingness to say or do anything scares them.
But the fact is, if you’re a non-Republican, a Trump ticket is exactly what you want to see.
Because even though most people don’t care who the president is, people will still turn out in droves for the general election. Something about deciding the fate of the most powerful man (or woman, Hillary’s running after all, and so is that woman who isn’t Donald Trump on the Republican side) in the world gets our American juices flowing. And on election day? The horde of Trump supporters will be as a speck in a fly’s eye compared to the rest of the electorate. Democrats will never vote for Trump. Most independents will never vote for Trump. Even a lot of Republicans will never vote for Trump; just look at their rhetoric: he doesn’t represent the party, he’s not a Republican, etc. Some will vote 3rd party, others will just stay home; either way benefits the Democrats.
If Trump wins the Republican primary, it’s the closest thing to a guaranteed victory for Democrats that you will ever see.
Insert your own conspiracy theories about how this is exactly what Trump wants below.