Saturday, April 30, 2016

How Trump denialists are rationalizing Trump's impending victory

Most of the political commentariat is finally starting to accept that Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, short of some political meteor strike.  Some have a harder time with this than others.  Those who have the worst of it are devotees of a little book called The Party Decides.  The book argued that party elites control the nomination process by signaling the correct party choice to voters, who act as automatons and do whatever their fearless leaders tell them to do.  Thus, party establishment types get the nominee they want.



I've been pretty hard on the book since I started this little blog (see, for example, here).  Deservedly so.  The book had obvious problems before 2016, and just looks ridiculous now.

What should a Party Decides apparatchik do now that Trump has pretty much wrapped up the nomination, even though party elites detest him?  Well, they could do what Party Decides co-author Hans Noel has been doing.  Two months ago, he took to the pages of the New York Times to talk about the fact that the model just isn't working.  As though it matters, I gave Hans a lot of credit for that.  His book sales will do just fine without me anyway.

On the other hand, you could do what Jonathan Bernstein does.  Check out his latest here.  Bernstein is the high priest of The Party Decides.  If you look back through his writings, you'll see that he treats the book as divine wisdom, handed down from the mountain top, beyond question and beyond reproach.  Obviously, that means he needs some fast-footed rationalizations.  In yesterday's piece, he blamed... John Kasich.

Wait, what?

Yes, the high priest of The Party Decides is blaming... John Kasich for Trump's glide path to the nomination.  You see, if Kasich just got out of the race, the party would unify around Ted Cruz, and Trump would be toast.

Let's start with the basic reality check.  The standard line among Trump denialists has been that Trump had a ceiling of somewhere in the 30 to 40% range.  Thus, once enough others drop out, the last-standing non-Trump would crush The Donald.  News flash-- that ceiling never existed.  It was predicated on the notion that anyone who isn't currently a Trump supporter must be someone who hates Trump so much that they will vote for anyone other than The Donald.  Does it follow logically?  No.  Does it have empirical support?  No.  Check out the national polling averages at RealClearPolitics.  Trump's polling average is up to 44%, and the latest has him ahead of Cruz by 19%.  He would need just over 6 percentage points more to clear an absolute majority.  The latest poll had Trump at 48%, Cruz at 29% and Kasich at 16%.  If that's right, then even if every Kasich supporter switched to Cruz, Cruz would still be running three points behind Trump in that poll.

John Kasich is handing the nomination to Trump?  Umm, no.

And then there's the hypocrisy here.  Let's say The Party Decides were right.  If it came down to Trump, Cruz and Kasich, the Republican Party establishment would choose Kasich.  No question.  They would signal that choice to voters, voters would dutifully carry out the will of the party leaders, and neither Trump nor Cruz would have a chance.

But let's say they're constrained.  Kasich has no chance.  It's Trump or Cruz.  If The Party Decides were right, the elites would rush to endorse Cruz, voters would follow, and it wouldn't matter whether Kasich runs or not because the voters would just do as they're told.

Why is Bernstein twisting himself into knots trying to find a way to pin Trump's rise on some bug in the system?  Because to do otherwise is to admit that The Party Decides is just wrong.  In order to avoid admitting that, Bernstein is claiming that the party could successfully sway voters to Cruz, if only that pesky guy would just be a team player.  That pesky guy, though, is the only one among the three who would be a team player.

John Kasich isn't handing the nomination to Trump.  Trump is just winning.

Of course, I promised recently to keep giving some scenarios in which Trump loses.  After all, this year is weird, and anything can happen, right?  So, here's another one.  Edward Snowden releases Trump's real tax returns for the last few decades, and shows that Trump is broke because all of his money was embezzled by his accountant, revealed to be an illegal immigrant.

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