Most people have probably imagined being the POTUS at some point. Fewer people have imagined their best friend as president, fewer still their business associate, and most have probably not considered actually running for the office themselves. Consider it from this perspective, though: if you could be reasonably assured that either yourself or your business partner could ascend to the highest office in the land, wouldn’t you put some effort into making that happen? I probably would. More than that, I’d try pretty damn hard to make sure it did. That is, I think, more or less what is happening right now in the presidential race, and I have some compelling reasons to believe it.
First, consider that the last two cases where a party won three terms were the Reagan Revolution and the FDR Administration. Neither were your run-of-the-mill elections, I’d say. To win three terms, it seems like you need a pretty big crisis (WWII) or a pretty big loser (Mondale) to keep your party in; otherwise, people just get tired after eight years. Look at Hillary. She’s possibly more qualified today than she was in 2008, when she was an inch from the White House, yet all the negative press she’s getting due to her actions during Obama’s terms has made her likability and chances drop considerably from eight years ago. In fact, against compelling Republican candidates such as Rubio, Jeb and Kasich, she was polling quite a bit worse. Now those guys are out of the picture, though. Guess who made that happen?
Trump did. Trump, the same guy who went to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2005 and has professed to what amounts to a business relationship between him and the Clintons. He was very vocal about supporting Hillary in 2008; yet, in 2009, he became a Republican. It wasn’t far enough into Obama’s term for him to have done any real damage; yet over the next few years Trump managed to put himself at the forefront of American politics. He advanced the Obama birther controversy. He flirted with a presidential bid in 2012 to set the stage for the main event four years later. He spoke louder than anyone else for four years, and hasn’t showed any signs of stopping yet either.
Trump’s outrageous quotes and remarkable put-downs have made his climb to the top of the party seem effortless. However, he has almost certainly ruined his chances with the crucial Independent bloc for the general election. He must have known, going in, that he had a high chance of causing disunity in the party and even winning the primary, but that he would significantly harm his general election chances. Look at this from his perspective, though: either he gets to be president, or his partner Clinton does. No loss to him! He wasn’t going to win the primary by being soft. He just didn’t have the tools for it. Now, he gets some real benefits no matter which way the election goes. It’s Hillary’s to lose, provided she reconciles with Sanders; plus, Trump’s gone far enough as it is.
This explains Trump’s losing strategy. It explains why he hasn’t worried about crucial voting blocs. It explains why he’s been punching the Republicans harder than he’s been killing the Democrats, and it explains why he refused to debate Bernie and Hillary. You think it’s a question of being appropriate? It’s not. He just doesn’t want to damage Hillary too much before the election.
Trump’s been very effective in this regard. His blatant indifference towards any standards has moved Republicans so far to the right that Hillary Clinton is considered an acceptable alternative, despite being arguably farther right on some issues (particularly foreign policy) than the likes of Jeb Bush. Certain issues that are patently ridiculous (such as the transgender bathroom controversy — as if anyone would stop a man going into the ladies’ room anyway) are being given credibility due to the Republicans’ extreme swerve rightward. Trump’s deconstruction of the political landscape has made unattractive options and views viable.
A commitment to change by any means necessary is what it takes to change the world. Right now, it looks like Hillary will get what she wants. There’s no really effective 3rd party option (Johnson is clearly not going to win), and Trump has alienated enough people that he looks sure to lose the general election. Of course, Trump was never meant to win. Trump’s candidacy is not about being president; rather, it’s about making Hillary electable, and he’s done that unbelievably well. One year ago I might have considered voting for Jeb over Hillary. I no longer have that choice. Trump has done what he does best; he’s made a monopoly by building an impenetrable wall.
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