The GOP has spent 2016 making dumpster fires look good. The presumptive nominee for President is the most unpopular candidate nominated by a major political party in modern history. A quick look (or a long look) at Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight 2016 Election Forecast makes it clear that Donald J. Trump is in serious trouble. Add that to his horrific fund-raising numbers and it’s obvious that it would take a minor miracle for Trump to be anywhere close to winning in November. The fact is that the only thing keeping this race even remotely competitive is that Hillary Clinton is the second most unpopular nominee ever. (If Joe Biden had entered the race then I suspect Trump would probably be polling below 35% and the Democrats would have a chance of getting 400+ electoral votes.)
The reasons for this mess are obvious. Donald Trump is manifestly unqualified to be President of the United States, and he’s a particularly bad choice for the Republican Party. His first and only priority is and always will be what will benefit Donald J. Trump. All his decisions are based on that one consideration; no conservative principles (or progressive principles for that matter) need apply. Any position he has taken will be abandoned the second it becomes personally inconvenient. As a result, he can’t consolidate his base. Nor can he appeal to voters who are turned off by Hillary Clinton’s corruption and dishonesty. Can anyone say with a straight face that Trump would be the picture of truth and transparency?
So what’s a political party to do? If they go forward with Trump, they lose. Badly. Fortunately Trump is still the presumptive nominee. He may have won a plurality of the primary vote, but this is the Republican party. (For those of you who don’t know the difference between a republic and a democracy, it’s the delegates’ votes that count here.) The party could live up to its name and decide to choose a different candidate a few weeks from now at the convention. But will that work? Only if they play it just right.
If the delegates simply revolt and refuse Trump the nomination, the result will be chaos. His supporters will revolt, Trump will tie up the party in lawsuits, and the media will gleefully give him all the airtime he needs to tear the party apart. There is no obvious nominee who could replace him and unify the party. The only bright side will be that the party will have kept some shred of its honor and dignity.
The only way out is for Trump to go willingly. Given that his motivations are primarily selfish, it could happen. First, the party would have to convince him that there’s a very good chance he’ll lose and damage his reputation permanently. (Easier said than done.) Then they’ll have to buy him out. There’s no way he’s going if he loses money on the deal. They’ll need to be able to spin all this in a way that makes Trump look like the hero, and they’ll probably have to let him feel like he’s still got power over what happens next. If he thinks he’s the king-maker, the one pulling the strings, he might go for it. Otherwise he’ll probably sabotage his replacement out of spite.
It’s a dangerous option, and the odds of convincing Trump to walk away are small. The odds of the GOP leadership having the intestinal fortitude to try it are even smaller. But at this point it’s the only reasonable chance left to avoid President Hillary Clinton.
Unless something changes between now and November, the winner in the 2016 US Presidential election will be Vladmir Putin. He must be absolutely thrilled with how the election here in America is going. Recently I saw someone on Twitter suggest that sometime in October he might help out his buddy Trump by sharing proof that Russia hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. In all likelihood, that kind of October Surprise would lead to a Trump victory. That got me thinking. Let’s assume that Russia really did get her email (and all the secrets therein). It’s certainly not an unreasonable assumption; many experts have said it’s not just possible but is highly likely. That gives Putin the power to influence the election, if he prefers to see Donald Trump in the White House. And there’s a lot of reasons he would like that. Trump has indicated on more than one ocassion that he admires Putin, and it’s clear they think alike in many ways. Add that to Trump’s willful ignorance on… everything, and Putin has an opponent that he can easily outmanuver on the global stage. A Donald Trump administration would lead to an increase in Russian power and a corresponding reduction in American power.
That’s a fairly unpleasant situation. But what if Putin doesn’t make that choice? This is actually worse. First, he gets the advantage of keeping us in the dark as to what secrets Russia was able to obtain from Clinton’s server, or if they even successfully hacked it. (Hopefully we’re already assuming they did.) It also could set up a scenario beyond his wildest dreams. Let’s say that, as seems likely, the Justice Department chooses to not prosecute Clinton over the results of the FBI investigation. It’s blatant political partisianship, but in the absence of any evidence that real damage was done to US interests the spin we’ll hear is ‘no harm, no foul’ and that we should move on. Half of the country will shrug and agree that the rules everyone else follows don’t apply to Clinton. She’ll go on to crush Donald Trump in the general election. In this scenario Putin has information that the new President will desperately want to keep under wraps. Having the smoking gun of a successful hack show up to corroborate the FBI report (which will surely be leaked by this point) would throw a Republican controlled Congress into a feeding frenzy. Hillary Clinton would be the second President Clinton to be impeached, and this time it would stick. All Putin has to do is quietly let her know he’s got the proof, and he’s got a gun he can hold to her head whenever he needs it. What would a President Clinton do to keep that knowledge secret? Can we trust that Hillary Clinton would put the interests of her country above her own? (Stop laughing.)
There’s no guarantee that this works as well for Putin as it might. Even if he releases the information in support of Trump, the Clintons are the undisputed champions of scandal survival. She could still win the election, and in doing so leave Putin without that lever to use against her. (He might have others.) Or if he waits on a Clinton win, she might trust a Democrat controlled Congress to not impeach and dare him to go ahead and reveal Russia’s successful hack. Regardless, even in the best case it would be a weakened Clinton administration with less ability to influence world affairs. Putin wouldn’t have his dream situation, but it would still be one he likes.
All in all, one more way that primary voters and our political parties have screwed over America this year.