Yes, of course. She can beat him. And she will. All sorts of people, however—particularly Bernie supporters I see on social media every day—think she cannot. I’ve been having exchanges on this for weeks now, the latest one earlier today, with a particularly zealous Hillary-hating academic gauchiste, who informed me that “[s]he can’t beat Trump.” Period. Another Hillary-hating academic gauchiste, with whom I periodically exchange contradictory viewpoints—who has a bee in his bonnet about Mme Clinton, making her sound like the worst person in American politics, if not in the Western world tout court (sorry, but that distinction goes to Nicolas Sarkozy)—has been going on for weeks about how Bernie would be a much stronger candidate against Trump than would Hillary.
Now I may have voted (absentee) for Hillary in yesterday’s Illinois primary but am indeed well aware of her weaknesses as a candidate: entre autres, her high negatives—dangerously high for a presidential candidate—with many Democratic voters and even more independents strongly disliking her; her political opportunism and clumsy triangulation, of seeming to change her positions on issues to keep up with public opinion (the latest case in point being her flip-flop on the TPP); the coziness with Wall Street and 1% more generally, whose world she and her family very much belong to; and the simple fact that she’s been around for too long a time, recalling the 1990s and a centrist neoliberalism that increasing numbers of Democratic party voters reject. As I told a colleague yesterday, Hillary gives the impression of a candidate who is past her sell-by date.
Well, no politician is perfect. Hillary’s vulnerabilities as a candidate are well-known and will certainly be exploited to the max by whomever the Republican nominee may be, not just Trump. But, as I wrote on a third-party comments thread three weeks ago, Trump—assuming he’s the GOP nominee—is sure to be so vulgar, sexist, and below the belt in his attacks on Hillary that it will likely backfire on him, turn off a lot of people, and increase the resolve of Democratic voters. Seriously, given the way Trump reflexively talks about women, does one expect him to pull his punches with Hillary? Moreover, it is uncertain that Trump, as the anti-GOP establishment candidate, will have the well-oiled GOP attack machine at his disposal, with its army of consultants and hired guns. Some will no doubt sign on but as Trump will likely continue to trash the GOP establishment during his campaign—or, at minimum, keep his distance from it, and it from him—he’ll pretty much be on his own. And Trump is such an extreme narcissist and loose cannon that it’s hard to see him exercising the discipline necessary to wage a successful presidential election campaign.
Continuing with my thoughts of three weeks ago—which were in response to an opinion piece by writer-lawyer-sociologist Nathan J. Robinson, who argued that “unless the Democrats [were to] run Sanders, a Trump nomination [would mean] a Trump presidency”—those who assert that Trump will prevail over Hillary ignore the certain full-throttle negative campaign that Hillary—who will have a ton of money—and her super PACs will unleash on Trump. If Hillary has her vulnerabilities, so does Trump, and then some—the bottom line: he has no qualifications or credibility to be president of the United States, not to mention leader of the Free World, and which are obvious to the majority of voters outside his high school educated fan base—but for which he received a free pass during the GOP campaign until the past two weeks, with none of the other candidates going after him until it was too late.
Such will not be the case with Hillary. Because if the GOP has its attack machine, so do the Democrats. The airwaves across the nation—and not just in the swing states—will be flooded with attack ads tearing down Trump, and which will be augmented with an onslaught by Hillary’s countless surrogates, plus some Republicans and cable TV piling on. The Hillary campaign will have a field day with Trump. Never will an American presidential election have witnessed a candidate who, to use a French expression, is dragging as many casseroles as is Trump. Donald Trump is an opposition researcher’s dream candidate (e.g. this, among countless other things he will be hit with). Trump will witness an assault from the Hillary campaign such that he’s never experienced in his life and, given how thin-skinned he is, he probably won’t take it well, having a nervous breakdown or blowing his fuses, which will further undermine his credibility. Negative ads do work and “can and will stop Trump,” as the Über-conservative blogger Erick Erickson asserted two weeks back. And then there will be the debates, where Hillary will mop the floor with Trump. As James Fallows noted after the last GOP candidate debate, Trump “does not know anything about government or policy…[H]e has less preparation than any nominee in U.S. history for the subject matter and responsibilities of the job.” Trump will likely make Sarah Palin look like a veritable policy wonk.
Another thing: As indicated above, the Hillary campaign will have a lot of money, and certainly more than Trump. Her campaign and super PACs will be inundated with cash. Trump will get small contributions from his fans but will basically have to self-finance his campaign, burning through a chunk of his (no doubt exaggerated) fortune. And there will be no Chapter 11 for him after he loses. And with his brand name degraded to boot (any bets on how many tenants will move out of his various Trump towers?).
In Nathan J. Robinson’s piece linked to above, it is asserted that “Trump’s populism will have huge resonance among the white working class in both red and blue states; he might even peel away her black support.” To this, I say nonsense! The white working class—in the US and elsewhere—will not defect en masse to a loud-mouthed demagogue. And in the US, that angry, right-leaning segment of the laboring classes is simply not numerous enough to swing a national election. In France, the Front National has been the nº1 party among working class voters since the late 1980s, with the FN’s support reaching a little over a third of that electorate. But that’s been the ceiling. And it will be for Trump too (Trump’s French equivalent being Jean-Marie & Marine Le Pen). And normally Democratic working class voters who defect to him will be more than compensated by educated Republicans who will vote Hillary or sit out the election, as historian Varad Mehta, in arguing that Trump cannot win the White House, wrote on the conservative Federalist website last month. And there is no way significant numbers of black voters will defect to Trump (and any who do will be more than offset by normally GOP or non-voting Latinos who will go to Hillary).
The bottom line here: Trump is the most unpopular of any of the candidates in the presidential race—in either party—and with the widest gap between his negative and positive poll numbers. Since last August he has flatlined at 36-37% popularity (and is now dropping), and with the spread presently at a whopping –29 (Clinton’s, by contrast, is at –12). Trump is, as The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last wrote in its latest issue, “the most disliked general election candidate since pollsters started testing favorability.” No one gets elected to anything with Trump’s current numbers. Hillary’s are also negative, of course, though less so, and this dates only from last March, when the email story broke. Before that, her poll numbers were positive. She is perfectly capable of closing the gap. And with voters concentrating their minds on the prospect of a President Trump, she will.
As for Bernie Sanders—who, in view of yesterday’s results, will, sauf miracle, not be the Dem nominee—one wonders if he would have it in him to attack Trump in the way Trump and the GOP would attack him—if he would be temperamentally capable of going after all of Trump’s manifest vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a costly, national TV campaign—and responding in kind to the inevitable Republican offensive, as the prospect of a “socialist” president would mobilize GOP super PACs big time (Koch brothers et al), including those that hate Trump. Knowing Bernie’s modus operandi, one has a hard time seeing him do this. And his core base within the Democratic party, not to mention outside of it, is simply too narrow. And then there’s the money, as Bernie wouldn’t have the Democratic establishment behind him or the army of super PACs ready to tear down Trump. And Bernie’s army of small donors wouldn’t do it. For these reasons, I have been nervous about Bernie being the Democratic nominee. It has been my conviction that a Bernie general election candidacy would be extremely risky and may not work out—that it could possibly be a fiasco, particularly if the GOP nominee is someone other than Trump (see below)—and harm the Dems down the ticket on November 8th.
But this is purely hypothetical, as Hillary is, barring unforeseen disaster or debacle, going to be the Dem nominee. And, like I said above, she will beat Trump on November 8th, as there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that the American people will elect that vulgar, loudmouthed, sexist, racist, narcissistic, egomaniacal ignoramus president of the United States—and absolutely not if the other candidate on offer is a solid, mainstream centrist whom not a single person doubts is qualified to be POTUS. It will not happen. And it will doubly not happen because Hillary will have the entire Democratic party united behind her—and with current Bernie supporters in swing states voting for her to a man and woman—whereas Trump will not the have the Republican party—a sizable chunk of which is horrified by the success his candidacy—united behind him. And in an election between a united party and a divided party, the united party wins. Always. So liberal-lefties and other worrywarts need to stop wringing their hands, fretting, spooking themselves, and getting all frantic and bent out of shape over the possibility of Trump winning, as it ain’t gonna happen.
This all assumes, of course, that Trump will indeed be the GOP nominee. He’s certainly in the driver’s seat after Super Tuesday III but if he has not put 1,237 delegates in his column when the primary season ends in June (emphasis added), one may be sure that the GOP establishment will pull out all the stops to deprive him of the nomination at the convention in July. I have been wrong with too many of my predictions in this race but will bet that if this situation comes to pass, the GOP establishment succeeds. With its survival at stake, it will do absolutely everything in its power to stop Trump if he doesn’t have the nomination wrapped up before Cleveland. Cruz—who is even more unelectable than Trump—will obviously not be the man, nor will Kasich. If the GOP convention is brokered, Paul Ryan will be the nominee, je le dis d’ores et déjà. The convention will end in chaos and with an enraged Trump declaring an independent candidacy, but the GOP establishment won’t care, as it would rather lose in November with one of its own (Ryan), but limiting its losses in Congress, than witness a debacle with Trump, and definitely losing the Senate in the process and with a sharply reduced majority in the House. As for an independent Trump candidacy, he’ll have to expend his own fortune to finance it—spending money he may not have—and he may not get on the ballot in all fifty states (the GOP will try to block him everywhere they can). As a third candidate, he will most certainly not attain anything approaching Ross Perot’s score in 1992. On n’en est pas là mais on verra bien.
UPDATE: Correcting myself on the prospect of Trump launching an independent candidacy if he is deprived the nomination at the RNC in Cleveland (July 18-21), this would, in fact, be almost impossible in view of the filing deadlines in the states and signature requirements, which are stringent in a number of them (see here and here). So there’s almost no chance it will happen. (March 19th)