DON’T KID YOURSELF: OF COURSE TRUMP CAN WIN
By Heather Wilhelm,
Last July, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison threw an entire ABC News roundtable for a loop with just one line: “People terrified of the possibility of President Trump better vote, better get active, better get involved,” he said. “Because this man has got some momentum, and we’d better be ready for the fact that he might be leading the Republican ticket.”
The laughter erupted before he could even finish his sentence. George Stephanopoulos, the show’s host and a former Clinton administration official, let out a snort, chortling like a bemused yet slightly exhausted preschool dad. Maggie Haberman, a reporter for the New York Times, could barely keep it together.
“I’m sorry for laughing,” Haberman declared, struggling to crawl out from her pile of giggles.
“We know you don’t really believe that,” Stephanopoulos added blithely, moving on.
Today, over in Trump Tower, someone else may be laughing, and it’s certainly not the raft of pundits and election “experts”—in other words, almost all of them, including yours truly—who underestimated the Trump campaign for months. (It might not be Trump laughing, however; neither he nor Melania appears to be a regular public chortler. Could it be their campaign staff, awash in justified merriment? Sadly, we may never know.)
What we do know, of course, is that at this point, Trump has defeated all comers and essentially clinched the Republican nomination. And this week, amid increasingly muted cries of “It’ll never happen” from a few well-oiled politicos, he’s surged in the polls. A Quinnipiac survey, released Tuesday, showed Trump neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in three key swing states; a Reuters poll, meanwhile, showed a remarkable surge in Trump support—13 points up since last week—leaving him and Clinton in a virtual tie.
It’s still early, and polls can be unreliable—the Reuters survey, in particular, has been critiqued for its methodology. But don’t kid yourself: Donald Trump could very well win the presidency of the United States. That’s because 2016 is special. Very special. It reminds me of the old “Seinfeld” episode in which a fire breaks out at a child’s idyllic birthday party and George Costanza runs for the exits in wild panic, shoving all the little kids and performing clowns and tiny, tottering old ladies out of the way.
Luckily for all of us, 2016 also comes with its very own set of goggles. Like beer goggles (you know, the alcohol-infused lenses that give users an uncanny ability to transform a dreadful roadside “Star Wars” bar filled with cobwebs and soggy paper cups into an evening at Cipriani with Chris Hemsworth, the hunky actor who starred in “Thor”) 2016 Goggles™ make the previously wacky and unthinkable slowly look sane, realistic, and actually kind of normal.
So it is that in 2016, in all likelihood, we will have Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump facing off for the presidency—and the former is the number one reason that the latter could win:
I’m sorry, Democrats, but Hillary Clinton is dreadful. I’d ask where you found her, but we all know, and no one wants to hear that story again. Hillary Clinton is a government-expanding nightmare with a humorless cackle. Her soul appears to be filled with leftover ice from a cooler containing lobsters. She is under federal investigation. She lies almost as much as Trump, but with less charm and aplomb. For some, with the help of 2016 Goggles™, she makes Donald Trump look like the political version of Chris Hemsworth.
Hillary Clinton also seems to quietly dislike (a) people, and (b) America, and you don’t need an advanced degree in election analytics to know this is not good. Sure, Donald Trump has talked about how stupid the people in Iowa are and how he wants to punch protesters in the face, and maybe sue a few journalists here and there, and how he won’t leave nuking Europe off the table, but overall—and again, here are those magic 2016 Goggles™ working—he manages, like Barack Obama, to serve as a blank screen upon which his followers can project their hopes.
No one cares about policy when it comes to Trump, apparently not even Trump himself. Just as Obama fans ignored his wacky pastor, his blatant insults to Christians, and his promise to control global sea levels, Trump fans ignore a multitude of sins. To his supporters, Trump projects “Team America,” even though we have no idea what Trump’s America might do. (Note: This should be mildly terrifying.)
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, bless her cynical heart, desperately tries to project a team of some sort, but fails miserably every time. This is because, as noted before, she doesn’t seem to like you all that much, and for many Americans, the feeling is mutual.
What a year. What a choice—and at this point, either one could win. Alas, I don’t think I can vote for either.
ORIGINAL OP-ED AS PUBLISHED ON “REALCLEAR POLITICS.COM”: