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Who’s Trumped?

June 8, 2016

There’s an old joke about a lawyer who, when the facts are against him pounds the law, when the law is against him pounds the facts, and when both are against him pounds the table. Thanks to the arrival of Donald Trump on the scene, we know of another option in such a scenario – hurl abuse at people on Twitter.

What can be said about the Trump phenomenon that hasn’t already been said? He’s brazened or bulldozed his way through scandals that would have felled most other politicians (remember when his remarks about John McCain’s capture were going to be the end of his quixotic short-lived campaign?) He shows absolutely no intellectual curiosity (a common Republican trait, to be fair), but takes it to the next level by buying into any conspiracy theory going, coming up with his own when Alex Jones doesn’t have anything suitable. He lies or, more accurately, bullshits his way through his campaign and instead of being exposed for it, there’s a collective shrug of shoulders: “well, it’s Trump, whaddaya going to do about it?” His latest spiffing wheeze is to claim that any federal judge from a community he’s disparaged is inherently unfit to judge him due to the resulting conflict of interest, a position which could rival the traditional definition of chutzpah.

The question is – will he win? I think he will not, for at least the following reasons…

1) The obvious racism and sexism

After Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, the Republican party did a bit of soul-searching (they found a soul to search, somehow) and concluded that maybe attacking Hispanics and Latinos was a mistake that could have cost them the election – and probably trying not to offend women would also be a step in the right direction. Thanks to Trump, that isn’t going so well for them.

2) Trump “University” (nb. not technically a university)

This stands a good chance of biting him pretty hard. None of the ginned-up scandals around Hillary are going to amount to anything (there was never anything in Benghazi despite the Republicans’ best attempts to find something, and the whole email thing has been vastly overblown). In contrast Trump “U” was quite clearly a scam, in which students were fleeced of money they could ill-afford, supplemented by claims of Trump’s involvement that simply were not true (there’s also the case of the $25,000 donation to Florida’s Attorney General a few days before she decided not to pursue a case against the “U”). His idea of a mature and considered response to the allegations is to go into full-on racist mode and claim that the “Mexican” judge (actually from Indiana) is biased because he’s going to build a wall. And then to claim that Muslim judges would also be biased because he wants to deport them. This is so out-of-order that even some Republicans are criticising him for it.

3) The wall will never happen

This was his big campaign pitch – his promise to build a “big beautiful wall” across the Mexican border and to make Mexico pay for it. It offends me when obviously absurd ideas like this have to be taken seriously, if only for the purposes of showing how obviously absurd they are, but it was never clear precisely how he expected to make Mexico pay for this. Given what we’ve had from him since this claim was made, I suppose we shouldn’t rule out the threat of a nuclear strike. But it’s obviously not going to work, and it’s hard to see how he could backtrack from what’s become his signature policy without severe repercussions.

4) He’s not a very good businessman

One of the mysteries of Trump “U” is why anyone should want Trump’s advice in the first place (whether or not it’s administered by someone with any kind of vague connection with Trump). His business record is not all that stellar – several bankruptcies (for which he was at least partly responsible) and numerous failures (Trump Steaks, Trump: The Game, the Trump Shuttle…). He tries to project an aura of success, but how long can the facade be maintained?

5) He’s not terribly smart

Leave aside his climate-change denialism which is rooted in ignorance, his inability (deliberate or not) to distinguish conspiracy theory from reality, his apparently limited vocabulary (he has “the best words“, apparently). This is a man who considered marble to be a sensible choice of material for interior fittings in a plane. That, to me, is pretty dumb.

6) His campaign will be rooted in complacency

Trump is distrustful of anything that smacks of science, and is both vain and a bit lazy. So whereas the Democrats have a pretty sophisticated voter-intelligence operation and Hillary has a proper well-organised campaign team, Trump currently has a minuscule team quite unequipped to deal with a modern political campaign, and a lot of “Make America Great Again” novelty hats. He had a good run in the primaries, largely because the other Republican goons were similarly intellectually challenged, and because they were unable to use his craziness against him as they were generally guilty of the same craziness themselves, just not to the same hyper-inflated degree. He presumably thinks that he can wing it just as effectively in the real thing. This may not work as well as he hopes.

7) He will (probably) bomb in the presidential debates

All serious presidential candidates put serious amounts of time into rehearsing for the debates – some going to the extent of having rooms built that are similar to the rooms in which the debate will be held. In all cases, they will have someone to play their adversary, who will give them a very hard time – better to deal with criticism in practice than in the real thing. I am reasonably confident that Trump will not do this; he does not respond well to criticism in any case and it seems doubtful that he would allow any situation in which he might be challenged. If he does, my suspicion is that the part of Hillary will be played as a straw woman, possibly instructed to break down in tears at Trump’s masterful jibes. Thus will his ego be massaged right up until he has to face the actual Hillary, who is extremely tough and whose team will have done extensive research and preparation. Although it’s possible that he may attempt to use evasive techniques such as the Gish Gallop (which would suit his aforementioned propensity for bullshit) my prediction is that he will be comprehensively outsmarted and react very badly.

8) He’s probably not worth as much money as he’d like us to think

For a while now, Trump has been refusing to release his tax returns. This has triggered two forms of speculation: firstly that they will reveal tax dodging or other such naughtiness (which would look bad) and secondly that they will reveal that he doesn’t have as much money as he feels he has (which would also look bad). Certainly the revelation that his campaign doesn’t have a lot of money will probably have come as something of a shock to the RNC.

9) Republicans won’t all get behind him

Trump offended a number of Republican big-hitters during the primaries – low-energy Jeb Bush, lyin’ Ted Cruz and so on. Some have swallowed their pride and endorsed him but not all, and some are adamantly opposed (Mitt Romney, for example). Those who have endorsed him are finding it a bumpy ride. The Christian right (who are, of course, neither) is divided between those who have cast what little moral scruples they have aside and embraced him, and those who look at his marital history and find it jars a bit with their family values talk. There are still attempts to find a unifying candidate to run instead, but attempts to impose such a thing over the democratic choice expressed by the primary voters would probably trigger something akin to civil war in the party. So we can probably look forward to increasingly anguished calls for party unity from one side, met with wailing about the long-term damage he’s causing to the Republican party from the other. Very hard to see how a compromise could be reached.

10) He just doesn’t look capable of being presidential

Imagine President Donald on a state visit to the UK meeting the Queen. Would he try and make her an offer for Buckingham Palace? Sell her a stake in a casino? Boast about having the best corgis?  It’s hard to think of any reasonably democratic country where he wouldn’t be viewed with derision by most of the population and many of the politicians. Obviously we’d be slightly terrified of having such an obviously thin-skinned individual’s finger on the nuclear button and in a position to wreck attempts to deal with climate change through his dismal combination of arrogance and ignorance, but we would also be laughing at him the whole time. Will Americans want to vote for someone who talks big but is likely to turn their country into a laughingstock?

So there we have 10 reasons why I don’t think Trump can win in 2016. I could be wrong. Maybe he is capable of discipline and remaining consistent from one day to the next. Perhaps he will be able to put together a campaign team that isn’t full of warring sycophants. Offer a fulsome and genuine apology for the torrent of veiled and not-so-veiled racism. Come clean about his finances. Own up to the Trump University scam. Show himself capable of taking scientific advice (in the interests of balance, I should share my long-shot hypothesis that you could get action on climate change from Trump if you could convince him that future generations would revere him as the man who saved planet Earth). But, on current appearances, I’d say he’s heading for a fall.

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