Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Trump to Political Science: Drop Dead? Trust and Distrust

In the revamped "Trump to Political Science" series, I am continuing to tackle the many ways Trump might surprise us in the general election and do better than either scholars or pundits would predict.  Today's topic?  Trust.

So, I've got this bridge to sell you...

Wait, you think I'm conning you?  Maybe that's a good thing!

Right now, the Republican commentariat is tying itself in knots, trying alternately to find a way to stop Trump or to make peace with his probable nomination.  The bottom line, though, is that none of them trust him.  Not the Senators, not the Governors, not the Representatives, not the major interest group leaders, not the conservative press...  They don't trust him.  And with good reason!  Donald Trump is a pathological liar who has a history of taking policy stances to the left of Bernie Sanders whenever it suited his whims.  Any conservative who trusts Donald Trump, well...

So I've got this bridge...

Normally, a party with a divisive primary wrings its hands in terror of a failure to unify at the end.  In 2008, Democrats, ever afraid of their own shadows, agonized over whether the party could unify around Barack Obama after his bruising contest with Hillary.  Of course, they did.

This time, can the party unify around Trump?  Maybe not.  And that could help Trump!  The lack of trust from conservatives could depress their turnout somewhat, but play up an image as a moderate, which is electorally beneficial.  That could soften the general election penalties from some of the harsher statements Trump has made because, well, nobody believes him anyway!  Hey, Trump just conned the conservatives!  What rubes!

And what are the conservatives gonna do?  Vote for Hillary?  Write in "Paul Ryan," thereby accepting Hillary?  No.

The logic here is an "enemy of my enemy" mentality.  Politics are never really about dichotomies.  The world is complex.  But people can't wrap their brains around complexity, so they reduce conflict to dichotomies.  If Donald Trump is the enemy of a group I don't trust, that makes him my ally, right?

Can Trump turn the conflict with his own party into a general election boon?  I don't know.  That's the point.  Trump might be the weakest nominee in modern history.  He could also surprise us all.  We have no data because we haven't seen a nominee like Trump before.

And on the topic of bridges...

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