This is not how I thought this election season would go.
I don’t mean that I didn’t expect Donald Trump to be the Republican Presidential nominee. I was reasonably certain he would be the one back in November. But I didn’t think things would unfold quite this way.
I expected Ted Cruz to stick it out through the convention, to attempt a floor fight for the nomination as the alternative–the true conservative–candidate.
I didn’t think he would drop out immediately after losing in Indiana.
And then I figured Cruz’s exit would mean Kasich would persist, too. Without any competition, he could be the candidate everyone rallied around to beat Trump. But perhaps he saw the writing on the wall and knew that, numerically, there was no way for him to win without convention shenanigans. In any event, he unexpectedly called it quits not even a full day after Cruz.
This leaves Donald Trump as the inevitable nominee. For me, it’s been a gradual acceptance that this was the way things were going. Even if Cruz and Kasich tried to keep up the fight, I was pretty sure Trump would be the nominee, or have the nomination snatched from him at the convention–either of which promised to be a complete disaster for the GOP. Regardless, I didn’t see anyone crop up as a credible alternative to Trump. That was always the problem. Everyone the Republicans had was an empty suit (Rubio, Walker), a terrible campaigner (Jeb), or some kind of scumbag zealot (Cruz, Kasich, Carson, Huckabee). Rand Paul managed to look reasonable in a field this terrible, but even he couldn’t stop the Trump Express.
What I discovered last night and this morning is that, while I had been following these developments for several months, most of my friends had not, and were waking up to the reality of Trump’s nomination very abruptly. It seems the rest of the country woke up at about the same moment. It’s a shame people were apparently not paying attention for so long. That may have a lot to do with why Trump so easily trounced the competition–more casual Republican voters simply weren’t paying attention and assumed a decent candidate would be put forth.
Now, long-time Republicans are leaving the party. I’ve seen well-known Republicans publicly disavow the party. Some have even said they will vote for Hillary Clinton rather than risk a Trump Presidency. It is truly a sight to behold. We live in interesting times.
The good news is that, in a general election, Trump has virtually no chance of victory. Hillary Clinton–the likely Democratic nominee–may not set the world on fire, but she is more popular than Trump. Democrats outnumber Republicans to begin with, and those numbers are going to shift even further with Republicans abandoning their party.
In the coming days, I plan to put up a post exploring in more detail both Clinton and Trump’s possible paths to victory, but right now Clinton has many more options than Trump. There are still wild cards to consider, though. How much support will the party machinery give Trump? Clinton will have the full power of the Democratic Party behind her. Trump may not have an equivalent, and there is no indication he’s done the work of setting up a national organization to run his campaign from the ground level, relying almost totally on Twitter and rallies. These are good for generating media traffic and keeping in touch with supporters, but they are very different from get-out-the-vote efforts.
There’s also always the possibility of something happening that completely upends the status quo: a terrorist attack, a major scandal (for either candidate or party), another economic crisis, or some other massive disruption. An unexpected event could swing things dramatically in Clinton’s favor–or Trump’s. It depends on what happens. Right now, the polls say Clinton’s got it in the bag, and so I’d say there’s no cause for climbing onto ledges at this point. It’s time for cautious optimism backed by reasonable action. Wait and see, and act as events develop.
I certainly didn’t think the 2016 election would shape up this way. But then, nobody quite predicted all this.
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