The human brain has a magnificent capacity to adapt to bizarre circumstances and rationalize them as normal. Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Republican nomination — which even his skeptics (like me) now regard as plausible, and many consider likely or even inevitable — has caused a reconsideration of his standing with the public. Yes, polling data would suggest Trump is wildly unpopular with a solid majority of the public and would probably lose soundly. But polling data does not account for other, uh, factors imagined by Trump’s supporters, who now present their case to the media. “How Donald Trump Defeats Hillary Clinton” is the headline of a Politico story, and possibly the least convincing electability argument ever published in a mainstream publication.
The author, Ben Schreckinger, cites numerous arguments for why Trump would fare better than you think. Here are the most entertaining ones:
1. Black people love him. “If he were the Republican nominee he would get the highest percentage of black votes since Ronald Reagan in 1980,” says Republican pollster Frank Luntz. “He behaves in a way that most minorities would not expect a billionaire to behave,” adds another pollster.
More likely, the Republican candidate to arrest the party’s deep decline among African-Americans is not going to be the candidate who spent his own money to whip up public demands for the execution of five African-Americans for a rape they did not commit, and who publicly questioned the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate. It is true that Trump does not behave the way minorities would expect a billionaire to behave, or, for that matter, the way white people would expect a billionaire to behave. You could expect a billionaire not to act like a racist buffoon. Trump’s non-stereotypical behavior does not necessarily give him special political appeal to the targets of his demagoguery.
2. He has a brilliant plan to make Latinos stop hating him. “Trump minimizes his losses with Hispanics by running Spanish-language ads highlighting his support for a strong military and take-charge entrepreneurial attitude, especially in the Miami and Orlando media markets,” the story explains.
That’s all it takes! Just some Spanish-language ads in Miami and Orlando talking about the military and having a take-charge entrepreneurial attitude! Why didn’t Mitt Romney think of this?
3. He’ll use Bill Clinton’s affairs against Hillary. Trump, continues Schreckinger, uses a weapon he has already begun to deploy: “He draws the starkest possible outsider-insider contrast with Hillary Clinton and successfully tars her with her husband’s sexual history.” Schreckinger allows that Trump running as a candidate of sexual propriety would be “audacious.” But there is also the problem of whether this tactic could succeed. Hillary Clinton’s popularity reached its highest level ever during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which suggests that voters are unlikely to punish her for being victimized by her husband’s infidelity.
5. Trump will draw “extraordinary levels of working-class white voter turnout.” Somehow, though, all of this excitement he creates among voters who love Trump will not also excite countermobilization among voters who hate and fear him.
6. If Republican pollsters can frame the election in a controlled setting, they can make voters agree. This part of the argument has to be read in its entirety to be believed.
[Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide] asked women in Connecticut who opposed marijuana legalization who they respected more: a politician who is also charitable and a world-renowned businessman, father and grandfather or an “Elderly woman who not only openly allows her husband to have affairs but tries to silence the women.” The figure with the favorable abstract framing of Trump beat the figure with the negative abstract framing of Clinton by more than 20 points, according to Nunberg.
Well, okay. Likewise, if you asked some voters if they prefer a small-business owner who rose from poverty in an immigrant community over a bearded trial lawyer who murdered hundreds of thousands of Americans, they would report that they indeed believe John Gotti would make for a better president than Abraham Lincoln.
7. Women can’t resist Trump. “He’s a masculine figure and that will attract women to him,” adds Nunberg. “It’s their dirty little secret. They like Donald Trump.”
Yes, Trump treats women with extreme levels of contempt, unashamedly valuing them entirely on the basis of their sex appeal, including his own daughter. But, hey, women obviously love him, as evidenced by the fact that they keep marrying him. The attraction will surely apply to voting as well. Women will feel drawn to him irresistibly. They may even want to vote against Trump, but they will find themselves physically unable to pull the lever for Clinton.
If you’re scared that Trump can win the election, you probably shouldn’t be.