There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs in polling: people often respond to a poll differently depending on how the poll is conducted. If a poll is done by a person, whether door to door or by phone, respondents often exaggerate or outright lie because they don't want to disappoint the poller, whereas polls done anonymously get different, more honest answers from people. This makes sense: let's face it, no one likes admitting to another human being that they, say, never exercise or eat healthy food.
This difference in honesty is often called the Bradley effect, named after Tom Bradley, an African American gubernatorial candidate in 1982 who led every poll leading up to the election and then lost, because, it was surmised, white voters didn't want to admit they weren't going to vote for him in polls. The Bradley effect has made itself known again recently because Republican voters may have been lying in phone polls about which candidate they support, not wanting to openly admit that they support Donald Trump.
When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, he was happily egged on by late night TV show hosts and pundits, who realized that having a reality TV star with a huge ego and a penchant for blunt statements in the race would make for interesting stories and easy satire. And Trump's initial lead in the polls was seen as just a momentary blip for someone with lots of media coverage. Remember that a similar candidate, Herman Cain, led the polls for a short time back in 2012 before the far more experienced Mitt Romney took over. Everyone predicted that Trump would fade soon. Well, as of January 8th, 2016, Trump doesn't look like he's going anywhere: according to the website Politico, Trump, while losing to Ted Cruz in the state of Iowa, is leading the field nationally, at at resounding 35 percent, a full fifteen points ahead of the second place Cruz. How did we get here? How did a man who's never held any political office at all in his entire life, and who offends Latinos, women, and Muslims with nearly every speech, wind up as a likely candidate for the office of the leader of the free world?
OK, let's all take a deep breath here. Donald Trump will not be president next year. How do I know this? Well, first let's examine his popularity: as of 2015, according to a Pew Research poll, 23% of American voters are registered as Republicans, which translates to about sixty seven million people, and of that number, he's getting a little more than a third, which puts him around twenty two million total voters. That makes him a big fish in the pond of the Republican candidates. but in a country of 270 million adults, it hardly makes him hugely popular beyond his outspoken base.
Furthermore, in the aftermath of the 2012 election, the Republican party took a long hard look at itself and realized that they had no chance of holding the white house in the future without finding some way to appeal to non white voters. Gone were the days when those voters could be ignored, as Ronald Reagan had done so successfully in the 1980's; part of the reason Mitt Romney lost was because President Obama received a whopping 77% of the Latino vote. The party was going to have to change or face becoming more and more irrelevant on a national scale. This common sense advice forgot about one thing: actual Republican voters. The overwhelmingly white, mostly rural and southern based party had no desire for any kind of appeal to nonwhite voters, and opposed any kind of immigration reform beyond building a wall with Mexico, and Trump has, of course, completely capitalized on that sentiment. This may help him in getting the Republican nomination, but it will definitely hurt him in a national election, where Obama's 77% of the Latino vote will probably increase for whomever runs against him.
So not only will Trump never be president, Republican party officials are worried that his name on the ballot will drive turnout against the Republican party in general election, threatening their hold on the house of representatives and the Senate. As a progressive, this doesn't bother me a bit.
|Now drink from the trough of race baiting and spray it on the crowd|
In many ways, Trump is a monster of the Republican party's own making, as the party has become increasingly right wing over the years. It all really began in 1987 when the Federal Communications Committee ended the so called "fairness doctrine" that stipulated equal time for opposing editorial opinions in broadcasting. This brought about the rise of right wing media, spearheaded by Rush Limbaugh. Soon Limbaugh and his ilk found a large audience (of mostly angry white men) for extremely conservative politics mixed with race baiting, homophobia, sexism and crazy conspiracy theories, in other words, many of the same elements that are propelling Trump to the top of the Republican heap. It's reasonable to say that what's happening with Trump is what would happen if someone like Limbaugh were to run for office; like Limbaugh, Trump says outrageous things, brags constantly and rarely apologizes, and is loved for it by a certain base of people who reflexively agree with every statement. Just as Limbaugh has often said things that you think would get him fired, only to continue as popular as ever, so Trump has continually lead in the polls despite making one absurd, offensive or outright wrong assertion after another. (Politifact, a non partisan fact checking organization has rated a stunning 78% of Trump's statements as false). Don't forget that Trump's real entrance into modern politics came when he repeatedly stated his belief that President Obama was born in Kenya and not in Hawaii, a theory that continues to be promoted in right wing media to this day, despite it being completely disproven.
So if the Republican party does nominate Trump and lose in a landslide, they have only themselves to blame, they've been playing to the extreme for so many years that they've lost any idea of moderation in their party and play only to people who honestly believe that a Muslim born Kenyan somehow stole the presidential election. If, on the other hand, Trump should happen to somehow win, oh man would we be in trouble! He would probably prove to be such a divisive and crazed president that the Republican brand would be ruined for good, but, the damage he could cause getting to that point....is downright unthinkable.