Monday, August 1, 2016

Zero-sum politics Part VI: The Republican establishment and Trump's inability to lose gracefully

In the zero-sum politics series, I have been addressing Trump's view of everything as a zero-sum game, and his consequent inability to accept losing an election.  If he loses in November, he is likely to accuse HRC of rigging the vote, as he already accused her of stealing the nomination from Sanders.  The question would be how far he pushes things.

In Part V of the series, I argued that Trump's ability to stir up any real trouble would be limited by the emergence of movement leaders on his behalf.  Sure, Trump could insist that HRC stole the vote in the worst election scam in the history of the universe, and demand a popular uprising, but without real ground-level leaders, it wouldn't get past some angry tweets for us all to laugh at.  Dennis Chong's work showed the problem.

Here, let's talk about how the Republican establishment fits in.  Back during the primaries, those trying desperately to salvage an incredibly crappy book called The Party Decides, which I always knew was garbage (see here), argued that if Trump didn't get over 50% of the delegates, the convention would go to a second ballot, and the Republicans would nominate someone other than Trump.  See, The Party Decides is about how party establishment types have wrested control of the nominating process from the great, unwashed masses to ensure that they get the nominees of their choice, and the Republican muckety-mucks never liked Trump.  So, party establishment types would find a way to hold Trump under 50% in the delegate count, hold a contested convention, and stop Trump.

Throughout that mess, I called bunk.  Why?  Because people within a power structure have no incentive to tear down that power structure, and the contested convention scenario would have torn the party apart.

Now, Republican leaders have a lot to lose if Trump loses in November and tries to cause a ruckus.  Why?  Because they are either in office now, or have future political prospects, and those get weaker if Trump stirs shit up, disrupting the political system in a major way.  They need him to go away after losing.

If Trump loses narrowly enough for a Florida 2000-style court battle, then hell, every movie these days is a reboot or a sequel anyway.  However, if Trump loses by too big a margin for a plausible lawsuit, the Republican establishment needs the transition to HRC's administration to be peaceful in order for the regular GOP to have its normal chances for 2018 and 2020.

So, the regular GOP needs Trump to go away as quickly and quietly as possible, should he lose.  Trump doesn't do anything quietly, but I said "as possible."

The problem is that they can't just wait until after the election to make Trump go away.  Why not?  Anyone remember "unskewed polls?"  Basically, here was the situation in 2012.  The economy was growing, and the incumbent party had only won one previous election.  Good ole' Alan Abramowitz and his "Time for a Change" model (my favorite) predicted an Obama victory, as did most political science models.  But, a lot of Republican operatives couldn't deal with that.  Partly, denial about the state of the economy, and partly, head-up-the-ass-syndrome, which afflicts most political operatives.  But, most of the polls showed that we political scientists were right, and that Obama was leading.

Then, some dipshit came along and decided that all of the polls were biased because, um, liberal bias, or something.  He decided to "unskew" them by adding some percentage of the vote for Romney.  Where did he get that percentage?  Well, he had his head up his ass, so that's where he looked, and that's where he pulled the percentage.  He put together a web page called, you guessed it, "unskewed polls," and the entire Republican community got their polling information from this fuckwit, thereby convincing themselves that Romney had it in the bag.

You may have seen this clip of Karl Rove.  You want to know why he was so convinced?  Because he believed in the "unskewed polls."

If Republican establishment types allow themselves to get sucked into the unskewed polling trap, as they did in 2012, that sets the stage for Trump to stir shit up after the election because it will make it much easier for Trump to convince his supporters that the election is rigged.

If Republican establishment types let the unskewed polls rhetoric bandy itself about and then try to shut Trump down after the election, then to Trump, they're just part of the rigged system against which Trump is fighting.

No, if Republican establishment types are going to prevent Trump from causing trouble after the election, they cannot allow the unskewed polls nonsense to proliferate this time.  Not when Trump is already setting the stage for a rigged election claim.

In my July 4 post, I talked about why those who make rigged election claims when they lose fair-in square are the most dangerous people in politics.  Sanders crossed that line many times, and much of the dissent in the Democratic Party is the result.  Yes, Sanders endorsed HRC, but Sanders also either lied to his supporters, or just deluded himself about the state of his campaign long after he lost, and made contradictory arguments about who should and should not have their votes counted in Democratic primaries (HRC's Southern victories shouldn't count because Southerners are Republicans, but closed primaries are illegitimate because they don't let Republicans vote).  Trump almost certainly will make the rigged-election argument should he lose in November.  Republican establishment types have every reason to oppose him should he try.  But, they need to start before election day by not going down the path of unskewed polls.

I wonder if they will.

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