Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Trump and the future

This is a prediction posting: what will happen to Donald Trump's bid for the American presidency? I'm doing it partly because it may provide some comfort if you've been entertaining alarmist scenarios but the major reason is to entertain myself -- I intend in about 9 months to do a follow-up post in which I discuss what I got right and what I got wrong.

As I write this, Trump appears to be on the crest of a wave. He is winning most of the Republican primaries, his rivals are dropping out of the race in droves, those that remain are divided, and the Republican establishment are panicking that there is nothing to do to stop him winning the GOP nomination in July. At the same time, if he does become the Republican candidate, he may not be a push-over opponent for Hillary Clinton if she is the democratic candidate. Clinton is very much an establishment candidate in a year when the electorate is very disillusioned with the candidate. In other words (say some) Trump may well become the next President of the United States.

I make two main predictions: Trump will be the Republican presidential candidate but he will easily be defeated in the general election.

Taking the first of these predictions: If Trump wins at least 1237 delegates before the convention then (normally) the nomination would not be contested. Pollsters are divided about whether he can achieve that. But if he wins fewer than 1237 delegates there will be ballots to choose the candidate. Nevertheless we will have a very large lead over his rivals (very likely a total more than the combined totals of his rivals). In that case we don't quite know how the bosses of the Republican party will play things but they would surely enrage the primary voters if they tried to set aside Trump in favour of another candidate (Cruz or Kasich or some Johnny-come-lately candidate). I think they would be more likely to bite the bullet and endorse Trump.

As for the general election: while it is true that Trump's campaign has had success until now - far beyond what pundits a few months ago were predicting - I think that the paucity of his policies, his outrageous lies, and the unsuitability of his temperament will tell very badly against him in the greater scrutiny that is bound to occur.

It is easy from over 10,000 miles away to think that the USA is populated by ignoramuses who have been swayed by Trump's rhetoric and that therefore a majority of the electorate will support him. But he has already seized the low-hanging electoral fruit - Republicans so disenchanted even with the wacky policies that their main stream often espouses. Less extreme Republicans and Democrats may not be so easy to beguile. Between now and November Trump's opponents are going to have so much ammunition that they will never run out of ways in which they can attack him. All that Clinton needs to do is make no major missteps and she will win by a landslide.

When, in 8 months time, I revisit my predictions the outcome could be rather boring if I was essentially right. Much more interesting would be any way in which I was wrong. More interesting because we could be living in a more dangerous world but (for me at least) it will give me something to think about: why was I so wrong in my current beliefs. That would be humbling and might help me to understand politics and my own biases better.