No, not another post about what kind of shenanigans the Republican Party might employ at the convention, but rather whether Trump himself will stand.
Now, like all political prognostication, I must surround this with caveats. Things change, Clinton may become more embroiled in scandal, events may derail the campaigns, Trump may suddenly show a previous untapped popularity outside his core supporters. However, lets assume things are as they appear to be right now. Will Trump actually stand for President and if he doesn’t, then what?
- Was his candidacy ever serious to begin with? When he first put his name forward it was regarded as something as a joke. As we’ve all seen the joke turned into an electoral monster that consumed the Republican Party. However, Trump was presumably not delusional when he started and probably also believed that his chances were slim. He didn’t invest much in campaigning compared to other candidates and road a wave of disaffection. Assuming his commitment to becoming President has always been low then his capacity to just quit from the race is much higher than your typical candidate. This is a substantial reason why he would quit but it does mean it is easier for him to do so than it would be for another candidate.
- Currently it looks like he will lose badly. A humiliating defeat may be in the cards based on current polling and there is good reason to think that Trump would lose badly anyway. The counterargument amounts to the fact that standard political analysis has repeatedly failed to predict Trump’s success…but Trump doesn’t actually have magical powers and his rhetoric is frightening moderate voters and encourages major demographic chunks of the US population to actively turn out and vote against him. If Trump isn’t delusional then he is looking at the same numbers and must be wondering whether ending up looking like a loser is something he wants.
- Everybody is out to get him – not literally everybody but the man has made more enemies than usual and that includes many very wealthy Republican donors. This means more dirt, more investigations into his affairs and more scrutiny. If Trump feels he has a decent shot at winning the Presidency then he might think that extra scrutiny into his business affairs is worth it. However, he thinks he is going to lose then he isn’t going to want to not only have lost a Presidential election but also find himself with his business affairs publicly exposed – with possible legal ramifications around that.
- It costs money to run for President and Trump isn’t going to want to spend his own money. The GOP donor class apparently hates Trump, the quasi-libertarian Koch brothers hate Trump, the usual rich suspects aren’t going to be bank rolling his campaign. Maybe he’ll be able to fund a campaign from more grassroots donations and maybe he can even find a way of making an extra dollar or two for himself that way…maybe. However, again if we assume that Trump is to some extent not delusional and does actually think sometimes like a business owner, the downsides of this ‘deal’ look bigger than the up sides.
- The magic isn’t working. Trump had an amazing ride in the primaries. He was a deeply flawed candidate but by picking up some support early, his rivals treated him cautiously. Each one of the many other candidates assumed that Trump would flare out at some point and then his supporters would be up for grabs. Consequently the Republican candidates were cautious about saying anything that might alienate Trumps core supporters. None of that is true anymore. The Democrats aren’t interested in winning over Trump supporters, they are interested in grabbing the anti-Trump vote and more importantly getting that anti-Trump vote OUT on the day.
- Trump would probably prefer to leave the race on his own terms than to lose or be maneuvered out by shenanigans.
Having sunk very little into the campaign so far (comparatively), Trump has fewer reasons not to leave than most. He also owes the Republican Party establishment nothing. Normally a candidate just dropping out and leaving their party candidateless and in the lurch would be a reputational disaster but Trump notably does not give a shit. Trump could use maneuvers by the GOP establishment to side line him as a pretext for a giant F___-You! to the party hierarchy.
That would NOT be a good outcome. There is an obvious benefit that it would remove the possibility of Trump winning. However, it would be bad for US democracy for a Presidential race to be effectively uncontested. The Republicans might struggle to get a candidate on ballots. In addition it would leave Trumpism undefeated (another reason why he might quit). Trumpism being massively defeated in a Presidential race is the best outcome (but Trump winning is obviously the worst outcome).
And that’s all my pseudo-pundity for the day 🙂