What If Trump Wins?
What If Trump Wins?
Sometimes voters do break the rules.
Every political analyst, every political observer, every politician is absolutely sure that Donald Trump is not going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016. And we’re all absolutely sure that Donald Trump is not going to be sworn in as president on January 20, 2017. Could we all be wrong?
So far, every poll seems to only be giving him more strength. Who would have thought even a month ago that as we enter the first GOP debate of the presidential election that Donald Trump, The Donald Trump, would be the leader in every single national poll and gaining strength in all the early primary and caucus states? Time and time again, in just a few weeks, his candidacy seems to have survived what we professional political observers all think are obviously fatal gaffes and flubs. Could this be the rare instance when politics is actually about to go haywire?
If you threw a ball up in the air and it didn’t come down, what would you think? Maybe it landed on the roof or got stuck in a tree. You would not think that the Law of Gravity had been repealed.
So if you’re trying to figure out why Donald Trump has so far left the political class in a state of stunned disbelief, it might be wise not to abandon every assumption about politics, but to ask a different question: When and why do voters behave in ways that seem to break the rules? When are bedrock assumptions about campaigns rendered at least temporarily inoperative? In this context, poll numbers taken months before an election don’t count; while they can measure a public mood, the choice of a candidate is something like a customer in a store trying on hats. The more telling question is: When do voters actually cast their ballots in ways that upend core premises?
One answer, based not on guesses about what might happen, but on what has happened in America’s political past is that when disaffected voters discover a power that they did not realize they had, highly unanticipated consequences may follow.
For instance, if you were choosing a state that would abandon the two major parties and elect a one-time professional wrestler governor, Minnesota might not be high on your list. It’s among our most literate states; its voter turnout is always at or near the top. But in fact, Minnesota has an historical appetite for alternatives. The Farmer-Labor Party elected governors, senators, and House members back in the ’20s and ’30s (it merged with the Democratic Party in 1944).
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