By Sam Hunter, For The Miami Student
Donald Trump’s run to the top of the polls has been a wild ride. I’ve gone from saying he would never file paperwork to realizing the slim potential for Trump to claim not only the Republican nomination but also perhaps the White House. I’ve denied his chances of becoming the nominee for so long; it is now incredibly scary to admit the possibility of a racist, sexist blowhard who has never held public office becoming Commander in Chief. “You’re fired,” takes on a whole new meaning considering President Trump would control the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal.
Conventional wisdom suggests Trump won’t come close to either of his goals. Jeb Bush has amassed a formidable amount of money in his Super PAC. Marco Rubio is much younger and infinitely more charismatic. Even Jim Gilmore has at least held public office, and no one even knows who he is. In the general election, the Democrats would be sure to throw all their resources behind their nominee. But in an election where conventional wisdom has failed at every turn, trusting it now would be incredibly dangerous for those who abhor the very thought of a Trump administration.
To a degree, Trump’s lead in the polls is exaggerated. His support is very narrow, even by the warped standards of the 2016 Republican primary. Twenty to 30 percent of potential voters is far from a commanding lead in a general election. But because no one else has presented himself or herself as the anyone-but-Trump frontrunner, he has been allowed to dominate the field. Despite the Republican Party’s “deep bench,” few of their 17 candidates can muster double-digit support among their own party. Conventionally viable candidates have paled in comparison to The Donald. Scott Walker collapsed to single-digit support and lost his lead in Iowa following a poor debate performance. Marco Rubio has failed to take off in the polls regardless of how far he shifts his policy to the right. Jeb Bush can’t present a coherent opposition to Trump as his recent disaster of an immigration speech revealed.
There is still a chance for another candidate to break through. Barack Obama was able to topple Hillary Clinton’s first frontrunner campaign in 2008. Currently less successful Republican candidates like John Kasich or Carly Fiorina could end Trump’s reign at the top. Trump is also performing miserably in the endorsement primary, failing to secure the backing of a single Republican governor, senator or representative — although he does sport an endorsement from David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Every pundit, columnist and registered Democrat in the country has declared the end of his polling streak with every new gaffe, but his expected poll plunge hasn’t happened. He has offended multiple voting clocks, from Latinos to veterans to anyone who menstruates without losing ground, so perhaps it will never happen. Maybe instead of inevitably failing, Trump’s support will grow, or at least carry him through to the nomination. Primary victories don’t require massive majorities. George McGovern secured the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination with only 25 percent of the primary vote.
Of course, McGovern went on to be crushed by Richard Nixon, who won 49 states and the largest popular vote margin of victory in history. But the Democratic Party of today is not as strong as Nixon was in 1972. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton is embroiled in continuing scandals that could damage her long-term electability, while Bernie Sanders remains utterly unelectable outside of liberal strongholds. The other declared Democratic candidates can’t even hit 5 percent, while Joe Biden is far from an ideal candidate with his past campaign failures and inclination toward Trump-style gaffes without the Trump bravado.
If conventional thinking is rejected, a disturbing possibility begins to emerge. If Donald Trump can win the Republican nomination, even with minimal support, he gains the immediate backing of most Republican voters. Current polling claims Democratic victories if Trump runs against Clinton, Sanders or Biden, but polling is sometimes terribly inaccurate, especially over a year from the election.
It could only take one significant scandal to irreparably damage the Democratic nominee, or one significant high profile left-wing third party challenger to split their vote. Donald Trump becoming president would be an incredible subversion of the entire convention of American electoral politics. But if Donald Trump becomes president, that would be the least of the world’s problems.