Worst-Case Scenario

« August 2015 »


It is a widely-held, oft-repeated litany of the chattering classes in the media whenever they discuss Donald Trump:

"He won't be the nominee, and he won't be the next President."

And this is almost certainly true. It's not as true as it should be, though, and more importantly, it's not as true as the people who are saying it WANT it to be true. Because there is a chance - a slim chance, but a chance nonetheless, that Donald Trump could become a Thing.

You caught a whiff of the Thing last week, when billionaire Mark Cuban mentioned that he didn't care what Trump's policies were, he just admired Trump for the forthright and direct way he states those policies. Sure, his policies range from bat-shit insane to non-existent, but he's so refreshing! Not like politicians!

A bigger warning sign that A Thing might be brewing was video footage of a New Hampshire focus group expressing support for Trump partly because of his celebrity, partly because of his business "success", partly because they agree with Trump's insane, racist opinions, and mostly because of his "refreshing, blunt speech".

Now, I know a little bit about joke candidates becoming A Thing. I experienced it first-hand. I was in fact partially responsible for it. Because I voted for Jesse Ventura and he became the governor of Minnesota.

Now, Jesse at his worst wasn't anywhere near as bad as Trump at his best. I know now he's a deep-end conspiracy theorist, but back in 1998, he was a third-party guy, a former actor, a former pro wrestler, and yes, spoke bluntly and plainly in a way that other politicians didn't. Also, his opponents were Norm Coleman and Skip Humphrey, who respectively were a generic asshole and a generic centrist Democrat, and together they were white-bread enough to make ALL THE SANDWICHES.

Take that and add in a healthy dollop of "fuck the system, what's the worst that could happen" nihilism, and boom, wrestler as governor. And we survived. It wasn't that bad, really. A little too pre-glibertarian libertarian for my modern tastes, but I got a Sega Dreamcast out of it, so it could have been worse.

Trump would, of course, be worse. He'd hold a much higher office and be much worse at the job. But the same kind of cocktail that pushed Jesse into the Governor's Mansion could push Trump into the White House.

How could it happen? Well, first, Donald cannot stop being Donald. But he has to be Donald within a certain window. He can't lose the bluntness that's gotten him to toe top of the polls so far, but he can't do something that turns more than the Dumbest Third against him. I don't know what that would be, but maybe he'll shake Obama's hand or something.

Four years ago, a series of equally dumb, equally weird nutjobs flamed out in sequence, and the same bunch of voters moved from one to the next. There was no momentum. If Trump doesn't flame out, though, he'll gradually acquire more and more of a larger and larger fringe. Like a Shitamari. If his poll numbers grow, more and more people will jump on the bandwagon just to be a part of it.

The other main thing that needs to happen is that the Republican machine has to still be able to exert power over the nominating process. Jesse was able to be in the race because he ran as a third-party candidate. For Trump to win, he needs to be the Republican nominee. If the people with the money and the power can stop that from happening, they will. But they might not, because when the nutjob ruining your day has ten billion dollars, or two billion, depending on who you believe, your main source of leverage over him vanishes.

And if he wins the election, a toxic mix of tribalism, nihilism, and a shitty Democratic campaign could, all current polling aside, hand the Oval Office to the Walking Tribble. Is it a long shot? Hell yeah. But it's not impossible. And all the things required for it to happen have happened before - just not all at the same time.