I think Donald Trump’s gonna be our next President . . . and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that.
I’ve had an epiphany of sorts. As much as the rational side of my brain likes to think that how we pick our leaders, particularly our President, is a logical process that adequately and equally weighs the pros and cons of the qualifications and character of each candidate, if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s not the way it works. In fact, I think the overwhelming majority make the decision of who to support for President in particular with emotion and not logic.
And I’ll give you some examples.
JFK over Nixon in ‘60
Reagan over Carter in ‘80
Clinton over Bush in ‘92
Obama over McCain in ’08
The winners of each of these contest won the battle for emotion. Nixon was clearly more qualified. But he had that disastrous TV debate appearance where those that heard the debate thought he won, but those that saw it thought he looked “old”. Reagan had “Morning in America” and “that shiny city on the hill”. Clinton played Fleetwood Mac tunes as his campaign theme song and looked young and energetic. He “felt your pain”. And no one in the history of our nation was less qualified to be President than Obama. No one. But nothing stuck to him. “He never had a real discernible job and had no record of success anywhere”. No problem. “He hung around with shady characters”. No big deal. He was hopey and changey and that was that. In fact, the guy who’s best on television wins. And Trump is an order of magnitude better than anyone on either side of the ledger in 2016 on TV. In fact, TV has essentially bankrolled his campaign. He has literally owned the airwaves with tens of millions of dollars in earned media. And though he is a bit gaffe-prone, those gaffes aren’t sticking for the most part and it’s compelling to watch.
Like Obama, Trump’s a bit of a political Rorschach test. Since he doesn’t have much of a political resume, people can see in him a lot of different things, which is helpful when you’re selling yourself to 300 million people. He exudes confidence and success and, on balance, folks like that. Sure, he comes off a little crazy and unscripted, but I think folks believe that he comes by it honestly. I know a lot of conservatives are pretty riled up about him. Honestly, I’m not as much. I’ll tell you why. First, the competency bar is incredibly low. Obama has proven that once and forever. Second, I think he has the emotion on his side and he is opening up a potential huge swath of the middle for Republicans. Third, if Republicans were to keep the Congress, I don’t think you’d see a President Trump buck the trend of that Congress significantly. In other words, I think a Republican Congress means more with a guy like Trump.
And just like Obama, nothing is sticking to him. 3 wives? No problem. 4 bankruptcies? Next. No political experience? That’s actually now a plus for most voters. We are not talking about any of those things that would be ordinarily be killers for any other candidate. He’s caught lightening in a bottle.
And he has enunciated a pretty clear message. Win.
He’s made it that simple. And anywhere he’s not the best, he says he’s committed to hiring the best. Now I’m not saying that I’m a 100% believer yet. He’s still got work to do with me personally, and a lot of that is predicated on who he surrounds himself with. But it’s resonating with a large portion of the country, and it’s hard to argue with his campaign results thus far.
If you start to dig down in some individual state numbers, you are starting to see that he has some interesting states in play. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Illinois and possibly even New York. If he can somehow pick off a legitimate blue state, it’s ball game, folks. As much as the fire-breathers would like you to believe, Republicans can’t “out-red” the rest of the country. There are certain states they have to win. But if Republicans can pick off a big blue state, the arithmetic completely flips. Trump, unlike anyone else in the race, has the potential to honestly flip a state. Cruz, Rubio and Kasich can only hope to cobble together the Bush43 coalition of states. It’s just hard to imagine scenario that they’ll be a threat anywhere but there.
And when Trump’s contrasted against Ted Cruz, who may be simultaneously the least likeable and potentially the most catastrophic presidential candidate ever, he actually looks OK. Cruz as the Republican nominee would doom the party to a generation of electoral darkness. His only job as a Senator has been to work with 99 other people, and not one of them has endorsed him. In fact, by all appearances all but about two of them can’t even stand to be in the same room with him. Looking at the leadership team he chose in Mississippi, it doesn’t look like that’s much of an aberration.
Let’s be honest. This country is super angry, on both sides of the political aisle. Speaking only for Republicans, we’ve done it to ourselves. And this isn’t some indictment of “the establishment”. The Cruz-wing, Tea Party bomb-throwers have equal amounts of culpability in not advancing the Republican brand or the ideals that make life better for everyone. Not big fat cats. Not fire-breathing flag wavers. Everyone.
The old adage is “we get the government we deserve”. It looks like we might in 2016. Again, I haven’t resolved myself to exactly how I feel about it, but I’m not scared of it. Mississippi in 2012 voted for Rick Santorum (God, help us), but I think Trump is on pace to do pretty well here on March 8. But one things for sure – it’s gonna be interesting.