I still don’t know what to make of the Trump candidacy — which puts me in the same position as anyone else observing the primary process, including the Republican party itself.
Like many a leftoid I see the fascistic attributes — the similarities to Mussolini and Berlusconi, his exploitation of white working class racism and nationalistic fear — that raise a lot of red flags. Should the GOP establishment fail to prevent his nomination, I will argue that the rest of the nation, regardless of ideology, should work together to deny him the presidency. If that means we all hold our nose and vote for Hillary Clinton, then yes, we should do that. As one who has voted Green in half of the elections since I became an eligible voter in 1988, that is usually an argument that I oppose. Not this time. I grew up in New York State; I know Trump. He has no shame.
Yet there is the question of whether he could win the general election at all. One scenario holds that the low turnout in Democratic primaries and huge turnout in Republican primaries foretells a huge enthusiasm gap that will carry Trump to the White House. Alternately, a Trump candidacy will motivate liberal, independent and POC voters to organize against him — along with moderate Republican voters (like, say, the Christie Todd Whitman sort) who would prefer a center-left Democrat to a far right demagogue. Granted, a scenario in which Republicans grin and bear a vote for Hillary is pretty far-fetched; yet Trump has managed to make the far-fetched seem plausible. (No pun with my comic strip title meant, btw.)
None of which takes into account his primary season competition. Amanda Marcotte suggests the Left should cheer on the nomination of Trump, because he is not only vulnerable in the general election (and a threat to the GOP), but because Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio hold positions at least as bad, if not worse, yet have a better chance of putting them into policy.
Look, someone has to win the Republican nomination. In this particular contest of villains, Trump is the least-bad option. Cruz seems like a sociopath who thinks he’s a prophet. Rubio just perpetuates that myth that the politics of nihilism are OK so long as the figurehead is handsome and genial enough. A Trump nomination, on the other hand, would puncture any remaining illusion that the Republican Party is a home for serious people, instead of a den of misanthropes and bullies that see politics solely as a way to preserve their own privilege while screwing over everyone else.
The sight of the GOP destroying itself this Summer would be welcome, the prospect is seductive; still, I don’t entirely buy this argument. Marcotte is right: Cruz and Rubio are equally if not more loathsome as Trump. Yet they have not energized voters in the same way. Rubio appeals to establishment types who think they’re cool with the Teabagger kids. Cruz appeals to no one outside evangelicals and reactionaries who don’t trust Trump — and he is utterly despised outside of the party. Nominating Cruz would be a shoo-in for any Democratic nominee. Rubio would be more competitive, but he is such an amateur, he would self-destruct. Trump has the skills and the organization to drive out the vote, at least enough to compete with an equally motivated Democratic and anti-Trump campaign.
The news media has given the Trump campaign millions of dollars worth of free exposure and time, prioritizing ratings over substantive or informative journalism. No doubt a few CNN, MSNBC and even FOXNews anchors want to take him down. These same organizations will subject Trump to more scrutiny as the Summer goes on and the conventions approach. They will do the same for Hillary Clinton, however; and they will have rafts of emails and speech transcripts to play with. Perhaps those will come to nothing; and perhaps that won’t stop them from becoming a problem, anyway, so long as there is enough innuendo or confusion to work with.
At this point in a post like this, you might expect the writer to make a case that Bernie Sanders is more electable in the general election. I won’t bother, because he won’t get the nomination. It’s a moot issue. And saying so will probably piss off the friends of mine who aren’t already annoyed with me for being less than enthusiastic for Clinton or, for that matter, Jill Stein (whom I voted for in 2012.) So it goes. I honestly don’t have much optimism for our political system; the best outcome I can imagine in the short term is that Clinton will win the presidency, and those prospects alone worry me. In the long run, the Sanders campaign has demonstrated a willingness by voters to consider democratic socialist policies. That gives me some hope. A very qualified, highly skeptical hope.