Donald Trump might very well be the presidential candidate most detached from reality ever. He went from a lead in some of the polls at the time of the conventions to trailing to the degree that Republicans are now thinking of giving up on the White House and concentrating on preserving their majorities in Congress. (History does show that a candidate distrusted as much as Clinton could lead to many voting for the opposing party to keep her in check). At a time when Trump needed to expand his base of support, he has instead acted to limit it by turning to the far right:
The appointment of Breitbart news chief Stephen Bannon to head Donald Trump’s presidential campaign this week marks the official entree of the so-called “alt-right” into the Republicans’ top campaign…
…critics say that Bannon’s hiring resonates far beyond the Trump campaign in troubling ways. It marks a worrisome marriage of the Republican Party with an Internet culture that, they say, peddles in white identity, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and Clinton conspiracies.
In short, it doubles down on a largely white voting bloc that, in the words of Brendan O’Neill, a commentator for the conservative Spectator magazine in Britain, is “convinced the world is one big lefty, feminist plot to ruin your average white dude’s life.”
“The [Mexican] rapist comments, the banning Muslims comments – the crowd roars for that,” says Marc Hetherington, who has studied voter polarization at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “Republican voters have said this is what we want, and it’s now the national party. And it’s a problem for [the party establishment] to manage.”
From a purely electoral perspective, the move risks keeping the Trump campaign’s center of gravity too far right for a general election. On Friday, Trump strategist Paul Manafort, installed to help the candidate reach out to a wider audience, resigned from the campaign. While Trump will be even more adored by those who adore him, he could become even more objectionable to all others – and there are not enough of Trump’s core voters to tilt a presidential election, argue many political scientists and pollsters.
“If you trust the polls, this seems like a fundamental strategic error. Trump is running worse than Mitt Romney among almost all demographic groups; white men without a college degree are the most prominent exception,” writes Nate Silver on the FiveThirtyEight data journalism website. “But there aren’t enough of those men to form a majority or really even to come all that close.”
Trump shows no sign of understanding the problem his campaign faces. He polls as low as zero to one percent of the black vote in some polls, but says with a straight face that he can not only win the election, but win 95 percent of the African-American vote when he runs for reelection. His actions lend credibility to those such as Michael Moore who have suggested that Trump never really entered the race with the intent of becoming president.
Clinton is fortunate in her opponent as she probably could not have beaten any other Republican. Even Donald Trump might have been able to win if he ran a sane campaign, running against a candidate as weak as Hillary Clinton. Imagine if he ran as a reformer from outside, against the political system and against the dishonesty and corruption of the Clintons, but kept to the facts rather than getting distracted by right wing nonsense. He could have avoided the far right, differing from the conventional Republican line in having backed universal health care and preserving Social Security in the past. A more consistent opposition to Clinton’s neocon interventionism could have been a welcome alternative if he could have remained coherent on foreign policy. He certainly does have a point about maintaining peace with Russia as opposed to rushing us into a new cold war with Russia as Clinton would, but cannot be taken seriously when he looks like Putin’s patsy. He could have even out-flanked Clinton on the left on issues including his opposition to trade deals such as the TPP and his (inconsistent) opposition to the drug war.
By failing to broaden his base and instead turning to the lunatic fringe of the far right, Trump is rapidly losing any chance he had at winning. There is certainly a lot of time between now and November, and possibly outside forces such as new leaks about Clinton might change things, but so far Trump appears to be doing everything wrong if he has any desire to win.