Donald Trump may well win in November 2016

In the politics of the 2016 presidential election, it’s a long ways to the general election. As I write this in the latter half of October, 2015, we have yet even to see the first delegates selected, let alone the nominations, let alone the general election campaign. So it’s awfully early to forecasting the outcome. So treat this more as a warning than as a forecast.

All that said, it’s really starting to look like Donald Trump will be the next U.S. president. We’ve now been through two Republican Party debates and one Democratic Party debate. In the latter, the one desperate hope I see in the Democratic contest, Bernie Sanders, failed to challenge Hillary Clinton.[1] The fallout from the Wall Street Journal article suggesting that Sanders’ proposals would cost $18 trillion,[2] let alone an echo in the Washington Post,[3] is just now beginning to reverberate.[4] In the first major poll I’ve seen since the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton is widening her lead and Joe Biden’s potential entrance into the race doesn’t, at this juncture, appear to have enough of an impact to change that.[5]

In the Republican contest, it increasingly looks like a race between Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Jeb Bush is stumbling badly as are Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul. Marco Rubio is the last establishment hope and has improved his position, but is a distant third choice among Republican voters,[6] and as this drags on, one has to suspect that the establishment lacks the will or the means to shut Trump or Carson down.[7] This is just one poll, but it now appears that Trump is widening his lead while Carson may be beginning to plateau (figure 1).[8] In a race between Trump and Carson, I think race matters, and that edge clearly goes to the white Trump over the black Carson.

Fig. 1. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Donald Trump with a larger gain between September and October than Ben Carson. Wall Street Journal, fair use.
Fig. 1. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Donald Trump with a larger gain between September and October than Ben Carson. Wall Street Journal, fair use.

In a race between Trump and Clinton, I think Trump wins.

[The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll] also pointed to some of [Clinton’s] weaknesses as a general-election candidate and to risks as she heads into a congressional hearing Thursday on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that occurred while she was secretary of state.

The poll found that only 27% of Americans overall are satisfied with her answers so far on the terror attacks on the U.S. consulate, while 44% aren’t satisfied.

Nearly half of those surveyed—47%—said that her use of a private email account at the State Department was an important factor in deciding how they would vote in 2016. Some 44% said it wasn’t an important factor.[9]

In evaluating what we see so far, I am looking not only at an apparent insurgency on both right and left against “establishment candidates,”[10] but Michael Lerner’s point that a worried electorate trends to the right.[11] While Democrats may be even angrier about the political system than Republicans,[12] I just don’t see Clinton being able to motivate that vote. Even now, she’s taking a lot of money from Wall Street[13] and in adopting stances in an apparent attempt to appeal to the Democratic Party “base,” her challenge to Wall Street is weak and she otherwise simply appears to be pandering—and pandering only because she absolutely has no choice but to do so if she is to have any hope of winning the nomination.[14] Trump’s appeal will also be limited,[15] but I’m probably on very solid ground in suggesting that the 2016 election will be won by a plurality rather than a majority. Clinton needs her base to turn out—and to some extent it will, because progressives will again fall for the rhetoric of the other guy being worse—while Trump will have his base sewn up and energized.

But even more fundamentally, if we take Lerner’s research suggesting that fearful voters tend toward conservatism seriously,[16] we have two very major points to consider. First, if you’re worried about national security, what will you think of Clinton’s email practices? Second, if you’re worried about the economy and widening social inequality, what will you think of Clinton’s support from Wall Street? Clinton doesn’t have good answers to either of these questions. And while I don’t like Trump’s answers on the economy or on so-called “national security,” I have to acknowledge that those answers appeal to significant segments of the population. Which is why, right now, I think Trump is the least unlikely contender to win the presidency.

  1. [1]Jack Mirkinson, “Bernie Sanders can’t win this way: Why his admirable debate performance still can’t unseat Hillary Clinton,” Salon, October 14, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/10/14/bernie_sanders_cant_win_this_way_why_his_admirable_debate_performance_still_cant_unseat_hillary_clinton/; Robert Scheer, “Bernie Blew It: He Sold Out Instead of Confronting Clinton,” Truthdig, October 16, 2015, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/bernie_blew_it_he_sold_out_instead_of_confronting_clinton_20151016
  2. [2]Laura Meckler, “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion,” Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/price-tag-of-bernie-sanders-proposals-18-trillion-1442271511
  3. [3]David A. Fahrenthold, “How Bernie Sanders would transform the nation,” Washington Post, September 30, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-bernie-sanders-would-transform-the-nation/2015/09/30/d3b57b8e-616a-11e5-9757-e49273f05f65_story.html
  4. [4]S. A. Miller, “Bernie Sanders’ socialist agenda carries price tag in the trillions,” Washington Times, October 19, 2015, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/oct/19/bernie-sanders-socialist-agenda-carries-price-tag-/
  5. [5]Janet Hook and Colleen McCain Nelson, “Hillary Clinton Widens Lead in Primary Race, WSJ Poll Shows,” Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-clinton-widens-lead-in-primary-race-wsj-poll-shows-1445335201
  6. [6]Janet Hook, “Donald Trump and Ben Carson Gain Strength in Poll of Republicans,” Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-and-ben-carson-gain-strength-in-poll-of-republicans-1445288400
  7. [7]Andrew Prokop, “Political scientists think ‘the party’ will stop Trump. They shouldn’t be so sure,” Vox, September 23, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/9/23/9352273/party-decides-trump-sanders
  8. [8]Janet Hook, “Donald Trump and Ben Carson Gain Strength in Poll of Republicans,” Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-and-ben-carson-gain-strength-in-poll-of-republicans-1445288400
  9. [9]Janet Hook and Colleen McCain Nelson, “Hillary Clinton Widens Lead in Primary Race, WSJ Poll Shows,” Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-clinton-widens-lead-in-primary-race-wsj-poll-shows-1445335201
  10. [10]Patrick Healy, “Democrats Find That Anti-Establishment Isn’t Just a G.O.P. Theme,” New York Times, October 3, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/us/insurgent-candidacies-shaking-up-the-gop-also-dog-democrats.html; Janet Hook, “Voters’ Mood: Surly Side Up, With a Side of Optimism, Poll Shows,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2015, http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/10/01/voters-mood-surly-side-up-with-a-side-of-optimism-poll-shows/; Eli Yokley, “Anti-Establishment Mood Doesn’t Stop ‘Invisible Primary’,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, October 8, 2015, http://atr.rollcall.com/anti-establishment-furor-doesnt-stop-endorsements/
  11. [11]Michael Lerner, “Why the Right Keeps Winning and the Left Keeps Losing,” Tikkun, November 10, 2014, http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/why-the-right-keeps-winning-and-the-left-keeps-losing
  12. [12]Chris Cillizza, “Democrats are WAY angrier than Republicans about the political system,” Washington Post, September 29, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/09/29/democrats-are-way-angrier-than-republicans-about-the-political-system/
  13. [13]Emily Flitter and Grant Smith, “Bush, Clinton are Wall Street’s favorites, donations show,” Reuters, October 16, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/17/us-usa-election-wallstreet-idUSKCN0SA0FU20151017
  14. [14]Jonathan Allen, “The selective liberalism of Hillary Clinton,” Vox, June 10, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/6/10/8760287/Hillary-Clinton-selective-liberal-trust; Alexander Bolton, “Centrist Dems wary of Hillary’s move to the left,” Hill, June 11, 2015, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/244631-centrist-dems-wary-of-hillarys-move-to-the-left; Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, “Wall Street Offers Clinton a Thorny Embrace,” New York Times, July 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/us/08wallst.html; Maureen Dowd, “Trade Winds Blow Ill for Hillary,” New York Times, June 20, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-trade-winds-blow-ill-for-hillary.html; Jesse Hamilton and Cheyenne Hopkins, “Hillary Clinton Lets Big Banks Off the Hook for Financial Crisis,” Bloomberg, October 2, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-10-02/hillary-clinton-lets-big-banks-off-the-hook-for-financial-crisis; Ezra Klein, “Why Clinton’s TPP opposition unnerves me,” Vox, October 8, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/10/8/9477965/hillary-clinton-tpp; Kelly Riddell, “Hillary Clinton flip-flops from 2008 positions in bid for liberal voters’ support,” Washington Times, October 13, 2015, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/oct/12/hillary-clinton-flip-flops-from-2008-positions-in-/; Robert Scheer, “Go Ahead, Back Hillary Clinton and Forget All About Her Record,” Truthdig, October 9, 2015, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/go_ahead_back_hillary_clinton_and_forget_all_about_her_record_20151009; Noam Scheiber, “Hillary Clinton’s Inequality Rhetoric Is Weak: No, we’re not ‘all in this mess together’,” New Republic, July 9, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118632/hillary-clintons-inequality-rhetoric-insulting; Andrew Ross Sorkin, “Hillary Clinton’s Comment on Jobs Raises Eyebrows on Wall St.,” New York Times, October 27, 2014, http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/hillary-clintons-comment-about-corporations-and-job-creation-raises-wall-st-s-eyebrows/; Stephen Stromberg, “How Hillary Clinton panders,” Washington Post, October 11, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2015/10/11/how-hillary-clinton-panders/; Josh Voorhees, “Why Hillary Clinton Has Moved So Far and So Fast to the Left,” Slate, June 8, 2015, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/08/hillary_clinton_runs_left_why_the_democratic_frontrunner_is_embracing_the.html
  15. [15]David Benfell, “Sanity about Donald Trump,” Not Housebroken, August 8, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=7915
  16. [16]Michael Lerner, “Why the Right Keeps Winning and the Left Keeps Losing,” Tikkun, November 10, 2014, http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/why-the-right-keeps-winning-and-the-left-keeps-losing

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