It is now 21 days until election day and Trump, by polling averages, is down about "two Brexit's worth" (that was 538's pod-cast's line). In other words, to even things up he needs a 3-4 point tightening and a 3-4 point swing (wherein it turns out that the common margins of error are going against him). There is no poll on RCP or Huffington Pollster that shows Trump winning by anything.
Barring a very, very deep gray swan, the goose is cooked (add additional bird metaphors). Even a won debate can swing at most 3-4 points--and the 3rd debate counts the least. So what now?
Question 1: How Does Trump Take A Loss?
The above is Trump on election night 2012. Trump's delegitimizing of the electoral process, the media, and government leadership at all levels is both new and dangerous in America. We have had 200 years of almost uninterrupted transitions of power and are the envy of much of the world in that regard. The one time a presidential election was considered illegitimate by much of the country, it resulted in the Civil War.
Trump might not know what the ramifications of his words are--but that just underscores how potentially disastrous he would be as a president and is as a nominee. The other possibility is darker: he does understand what he is doing and wants to drag America down with him if he doesn't win.
So: does he graciously concede if/when he loses?
Relatively smart people believe that Hillary might be coming for their guns. Very, very stupid people believe that Obama has been intentionally sabotaging the United States because of [ reasons ]. Trump's inner circle includes Alex Jones who is a first-order conspiracy monger (he has said that both Obama and Clinton are literal demons, smelling of sulfur and attracting flies via evil magic). It includes Steve Bannon who is an absolute bomb-thrower. More an anarchist than a conservative.
Question 2: What Do His Supporters Believe?
Trump's supporters will, largely, believe that the national election was rigged (in impossible ways such as in-person voter fraud or fraudulent elections officials, most of whom will work for the Republicans). Will they believe that Hillary plans to turn Black Lives Matter into a national police force to seize property from white people?
Will they think that Hillary's first order of business will be to escalate to a nuclear war with Russia? How might they react to that?
Who could tell them differently that they would believe? - Of the people they believe, who would have the character to do that?
You see the problem.
Question 3: Assuming Trump Loses Bigly, What Happens to the GOP?If the GOP were truly dedicated to appointing pro-life justices they would have nominated someone other than Trump. If the GOP were interested in a big tent that included all (or almost all) Americans, they would have nominated someone other than Trump. If the GOP were not stained by misogyny and racism, they would have nominated someone other than Trump.
Trump is a caricature of everything "myth" (now, unfortunately in air-quotes) about the GOP. His internal support from the GOP--both the voters, the Republican National Committee, and leadership--despite defections or semi-defections--indicates that he is, in fact, the standard-bearer.
The GOP clearly needs a new standard: Trump's downsides (undisciplined, bomb-thrower, indifferent to facts, willing to change positions in the course of a single paragraph of speech, dislike of staples of politics such as the use of teleprompters to give polished speeches, lack of transparency in business dealing, and incredibly thin-skin and tendency to personal insults) were all fantastically obvious from the start.
In short: he was what the GOP wanted--he is what the GOP got--and the need for him overrode the entire conservative value set (small government? Not Trump. Gun-Rights? Trump supports No-Fly-No-Buy, social conservative? Trump is pro-gay rights and does not ask God for forgiveness).
So what next?
Keep in mind that a lot of the GOP will want to run Eric Trump in 2020.
The RNC / Nominating Procedure
The canary in the coal mine will be whether or not / how the GOP changes its nominating procedure. More super-delegates? A requirement of government service to get into the race? A set of disqualifiers? More control "at the convention"? Whatever they decide, if the decisions will prohibit another Trump, it means they have decided to challenge the Trump / GOP Base. This would be ballsy as it could break the party on contact.
Unfortunately: apparently Reince Priebus plans to run for another term and large factions of the RNC support Trump strongly. If there is no significant change it means the party is committed to stasis.
Don't Break The Mid-Terms
The Omnivore finds it unlikely that the GOP will do anything to further alienate their base until after the 2018 mid-terms as they will plan to regain control of congress. That's sensible--but it may come at a cost.
Already John McCain has said that the Senate will oppose EVERY Hillary SCOTUS judge--no matter what. Coming from McCain, this is pretty wild. It may be because he needs some crazy in his voting demographic and he has denounced Trump so he has to get it organically.
That said, if they actually do this--and if the Democrats have a majority--they may overplay their hand. If Garland is placed on the court and there is a 4-5 break, SCOTUS would most likely hear a case about gerrymandering and rule against it. This would damage the GOP's ability to ensure a majority in the house.
If they plan on raw obstructionism, as McCain has telegraphed, a Democratic Senate majority could use that as cover for breaking the filibuster ruling, after which they could install whichever justices they want (i.e. Barack Obama). While this would be deeply unpopular with the GOP base, The Omnivore could see it selling reasonably well to the American people as a functional government, even if very liberal, is preferable to a non-functional one.
ConclusionsTrump has the ability to damage both conservatives and American politics very, very badly. He seems on course to do both. That this was pretty clear and not the result of a shocking John Edwards-style scandal should give everyone pause.
But it won.