Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Trump's Misstep? [Updated]

I can't miss  an opportunity to comment on Trumps's latest shenanigans--not when he says something like this: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." (It was a press release; he hasn't--yet--started speaking in the third-person.)

I've been bullish on Trump's chances since the first debate, but I'm pretty sure this is the end of his bid for the nomination. For these reasons:
  1. He doesn't actually have enough support to win now; he needs to convince backers of other candidates as the primary goes on.
  2. While hardcore supporters won't abandon him, this is a disqualifying statement in the vein of Carson's pyramid granaries. Voters (and humans in general) constantly measure candidates not only against their own criteria, but against the perceived judgment of the population. It happens in social groups of all kinds. In politics, candidates sometimes get upgraded because of this psychological assessment (Obama in '08), but more often they get downgraded. Think Perry with his "oops" moment, Cain with the "Uzbeki-becki-stan-stan" comment, and Carson this year. I think it manifests as private embarrassment and a wish to dissociate yourself from someone who seems so absurd to the majority. When it happens, marking yourself as a backer threatens *your own* social standing, a risk non-hardcore voters will eschew. (In other words, think high school.)

  3. There is another candidate (or two) who basically believe the same things Trump does, but who will be disciplined enough not to issue a disqualifying/ embarrassing statement. I'm thinking Cruz mainly, but Rubio would do in a pinch. If there were only a Jeb as the alternative, it might be different.

Prediction: Trump will spend the next week trying to muscle through near-universal national and international condemnation, probably doubling down along the way. Critically, though, the GOP has finally found an attack point, and they will go after him mercilessly. In next week's debate (Dec 15), this issue will suffuse everything, and the other candidates will begin to emerge as plausible alternatives for Trump voters. His popularity, already stalled, will slowly erode on the way to Iowa--which was always going to be a tough win for a non-evangelical like Trump.
So like Carson, he'll just slowly fade away. Unlike Carson, he will not go quietly.

Update, Dec 9.
Hmmm, this would seem to undermine my thesis a mite:
Bloomberg Politics Poll: Nearly Two-thirds of  Likely GOP Primary Voters Support Trump's Muslim Ban

Almost two-thirds of likely 2016 Republican primary voters favor Donald Trump's call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S., while more than a third say it makes them more likely to vote for him.
Probably for reasons of pride, I'm not ready to completely back off my prediction of Trump's demise, but this is powerful evidence that his support is real, racist, and in all likelihood long-lasting.


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