Monday, July 18, 2016

Why People Should Not Worry So Much about Donald Trump

Many Americans are experiencing panic attacks about the possibility that Donald Trump might become president. Some of them are literally spinning in place and spraying obscenities in all directions. Its embarrassing and I hope they will calm down. I think they have very little to worry about, at least, that is, about Donald Trump.

I think that when we look at what is required for a candidate to win the general election and then look at the specifics that we have in play in this election, that it will become clear that Trump has very little chance of winning. Yes, the Democrats could throw it away, but they would really have to work at it. I cant imagine that too many people would care what I think about this, but in the off chance that this might reassure some of my very worried friends, here is what I think is going on.

In the following I am necessarily going to paint a picture in broad strokes and of course I realize that people are not stereotypes. There is no single position for Hispanics in this country, for example, or women, or African-Americans, but even so there are some things that we know about how different interest groups in this country will see the upcoming general election.

In general, for the Republicans to win a national election, they have to do three things. They have to get a strong voter turnout from their core. They have to attract a certain number of those voters unaffiliated with any party, the so-called Independent voter. And the Democrats have to be ambivalent about their candidate or for one reason or another not be able to get a strong turnout on election day. The Democrats have what seems to be an easier task but in practice it has not always been so easy. They need a good turnout of those who say they are Democrats on election day and they also need a certain number of the unaffiliated voters to vote Democrat, or at least not vote Republican.

There is also a famous joke about who wins presidential elections that goes something like “the candidate that makes the fewest mistakes wins”. There are lots of ways to shoot yourself in the foot, or the head, on the way to the White House. One or two really stupid mistakes or unfortunate events can lose the election.

Now lets review some issues specific to this election.

1. Donald Trump has worked very hard to make the Hispanic Americans hate him. It is possible to win an election without the Hispanic American vote, or at least some of the Hispanic vote, but it makes things much harder.

2. The core African-American wing of the Democratic coalition has been remarkably loyal and supportive of the Clinton campaign. There is every reason to think they will continue to do so into the election.

3. Contrary to what you have read or may believe, not all women unreservedly support Hillary Clinton for president. But no doubt a great majority either do support Clinton or dislike Trump or both. We have every reason to think that many unaffiliated women voters will vote for Clinton.

4. Although many people who run businesses in this country have traditionally been Republicans that is not always true. In general, such people are interested in such things as stability and “free trade”. Hillary Clinton is the closest thing to a Rockefeller Republican we have seen in this country for a long time. On the other hand, no one knows what Trump might do if he became president. I think it is extremely likely that Clinton will therefore get a certain number of these "business" votes that would otherwise have gone to the Republican candidate in a more typical year.

5. Many Democrats are enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, but certainly not all are. But even those who are at best ambivalent about Clinton, such as Bernie supporters like myself, will freely acknowledge that Clinton is far superior to Trump. There is a pretty good chance that “fear of Trump” will result in a solid Democratic turnout.

6. Ask yourself the following question “Who is more likely to say something stupid in public, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?” I think it is pretty clear that it is the Donald who is likely to say something that will really piss off certain elements of the American voter. One of the criticisms I have about Clinton is that if anything she is too careful, too calculating, too concerned about not annoying someone. This is not a totally fair criticism, but it is certainly at least partially true.

I could go on, but I think this is enough to be convincing. Some pretty dramatic things would have to happen between now and November which elevates Donald Trump and gives him respectablity that he does not currently have, and Clinton would have to make a fair number of stupid mistakes for her to lose this election.

Famous last words, I know.

But really, as these things go, I think that there is very little to worry about.

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