Gravity exists and teflon wears off your old pans

For so long, so many people have been convinced that the standard rules of politics don’t apply to Trump at all.  Now, I’ll admit, he’s surprised me plenty and definitely shown all of us, not all of these rules are as fixed as we thought they were.  For example, we have learned that you can basically shamelessly lie day after day after day and get away with it (I think the key is the shamelessness of it).  We didn’t know that. We didn’t know you could be so overtly racist, sexist, and xenophobic and get a major party nomination.  Now we know.

But, there are limits.  You cannot pick a fight with literally every single person who says something negative about you.  You can (apparently), criticize the heroism of former prisoners of war, but you cannot get into a fight with parents of a fallen soldier.  You cannot say one unhinged thing about Russia day after day and be taken seriously.  You cannot expect to lie, slander, and generally make a fool of yourself in front of the American public every single day (both Drum and Fallows have fun cataloging the craziness in just a couple days worth of Trump), and not have any consequences in your electoral support.

Sure, we may be at a post-convention high-point for Hillary, but if I had to guess, my guess is that it only gets worse from Trump from here on out.  We have literally seen that he has virtually no self control (if he did, he would have used it to not get into a fight with the Khans).  We have seen that he has a child/bully-like need to answer every single jab with a strike of his own, now matter how politically counter-productive that may be.  This is who Trump is.  There is no “actually presidential” Trump hiding under there to take over and make a real campaign of this.

To this point, we have seen plenty of unelected Republicans abandon Trump.  I expect that drumbeat to continue.  If elected Republicans, especially prominent ones start abandoning him (and surely, McCain is hanging on by his fingertips), talk about game over.

Now, I’m not predicting with any confidence this will happen, but I think we are reaching a point where a very real possibility looms of Trump going down in epic flames.  There’s lots of Republicans who are currently supporting Trump while holding their nose with both hands.  If we get to September and he’s consistently down more than 5-6 points in the polls, it’s pretty clear he’s not going to win.  It’s one thing to support the Republican nominee in a close election, but I suspect there may well be a lot of Republicans out there who would feel much better about themselves not voting for Trump (whether that’s abstaining, voting for Gary Johnson, or even Clinton) and if he’s got no chance to win, why should they bother.  Now, I’m not saying this will happen, but I do think it is a very real possibility.

Is Hillary Clinton a sure thing to win this election?  No.  But given Trump’s truly amazing inability to control his worst political impulses (and the media’s increasing willingness to call him on his brazen mendacity and bullying), it gets harder to imagine the scenario where he comes back to overtake her in the polls and win the election.

And, in the end, yes, Trump clearly seems to have re-written some rules about how we understand American elections.  But on the bright side, I think we are learning that there really are some limits and it looks like Trump may well have gone past them.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Gravity exists and teflon wears off your old pans

  1. ohwilleke says:

    Sincerely hope you are correct. I’m not confident that you are, but it would be nice if you are right.

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