After Trump loses, why worry?

The polls, both in their top-line numbers and underlying data, look bleak for Donald Trump. The latest Fox News poll, for example, shows only 80 percent of Republicans support him — evidence of the remarkable success of the #NeverTrump movement. Moreover:

Overall, 61 percent of voters say Clinton has the temperament to serve effectively as president.  Sixty-one percent think Trump doesn’t.

By a 7-point margin, voters say Clinton has the judgment to serve (53-46 percent).  It’s the reverse for Trump, as by a 23-point margin they believe he lacks the judgment (37-60 percent).

That goes a long way toward explaining why Clinton is preferred over Trump by more voters when it comes to making decisions about using nuclear weapons (+25 points), handling an international crisis (+19), and handling foreign policy (+18).  . .

Trump’s personal ratings are worse than Clinton’s.  She has a net negative rating of 4 points (47 percent favorable vs. 51 percent unfavorable).  Trump is under water by 19 points (40 percent favorable vs. 59 percent unfavorable).  Again, the party faithful aren’t all with Trump:  22 percent of Republicans have a negative opinion of him.  That’s more than twice the number of Democrats who view Clinton unfavorably (9 percent).

While Trump dominates media coverage and has shaken the country and the GOP to their core, Trump actually is not politically persuasive. (In the most recent Fox News poll, for example, 74 percent of Americans favor a path to citizenship; only 18 percent want to deport as many as possible.) Trump’s unfavorable ratings remain sky-high. In all likelihood, he is going to lose decisively. So why should we be concerned if he doesn’t concede or continues to whip his followers into a fury?

It seems that the worry about the aftermath of the election reflects a flawed assessment of his importance once he suffers a humiliating loss. If Hillary Clinton gets 300-plus electoral votes she isn’t going to wait for Trump to telephone to declare victory — nor will the networks delay calling the race. (This election may stand out as one of the media’s earliest presidential-election calls.) Trump can go on ranting that the race was fixed or that the media did him in, but it’s not clear that anyone but his hard-core followers will care — and even some of those may wash their hands of him once he loses.

The election is likely to be bad news for the current GOP, but rather good news for the health of our democracy. Consider all the positives if Trump is beaten soundly:

  • The vast majority of Democrats and Republicans will have reaffirmed the security of our elections, debunking paranoia about widespread fraud.
  • Voters will have repudiated decisively a candidate revealed to be a racist, misogynist, narcissist and bully.
  • Voters will also have rejected a message claiming that the United States is a Third World hellhole that doesn’t “win” anymore. In other words, a large majority of the electorate will have signaled that they think the United States is great already.
  • The election will have reaffirmed that facts do matter and that presidents are expected to know things.
  • Millions of Republicans will have put country above party to vote for Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin.

Sure, Trump will likely still have millions of followers, but then so do the talk-radio cranks. He will still have his Twitter account and may even try to incite his followers. The amount of attention he receives, however, will be vastly reduced. He will have no more power than he does now to determine public policy or influence those outside his narrow stratum of Kool-Aid drinkers. Trump will be just another loud-mouthed hater on the right.

Could Trump take millions of voters “out” of the GOP? I suppose so, but it is not clear how invested in the GOP these voters were to begin with. In any case, if Trump’s shock troops leave the GOP, the Trumpkins would have to find others to vote for or would have to check out of politics entirely. In either case, center-right activists and candidates should be happy to reorient their appeal, making themselves accessible and their message attractive to the vast majority of Americans rather than tolerable only to a narrow fringe. The alt-right folks can go back to their cesspool.

In sum, this is not likely to be a heads-he-wins/tails-we-lose election. Unless an extraordinary series of events takes place, Trump will lose and the country will be better off. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s comment about the Cold War, we should be able to say in less than three weeks, “We (e.g. the United States, decency, tolerance, democracy) win, he loses.”

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