The Omnivore was asked a question last night about how bad Hillary as a candidate really is. The Omnivore at first--for a moment--opined that, say, Biden vs. Trump would be a larger margin--but perhaps not THAT much larger. This is based on the idea that while a lot of people see Joe Biden as a bit of clown, few seem to have a visceral hate for him.
But partisanship still reigns: voters would "come home" to Trump even so. The story that we tell ourselves, that Hillary is uniquely bad--that her character is incredibly flawed--is probably just that: a story. In the end, it would be about Supreme Court justices and Liberal Victory vs. Conservative Defeat--so would that mean . . . wait--
Would We Even HAVE Trump Without Hillary?
The Omnivore reflects that Sanders aside, it was pretty obvious since 2015 that Hillary Clinton was going to run. The narcissistic wound that Obama inflicted on Republican America was still in evidence and was exacerbated by a follow-up of Clinton: if the Democrats had run a white guy (Biden) in 2016, the insult & injury quotient wouldn't quite be that high.
In a lot of ways Trump was elected to strike a cultural blow. A blow against political correctness. A blow against "liberal elitists." A blow against scolding voices of diversity. If you think there is a swarm of liberals out there somewhere calling you a racist and a sexist and a neanderthal then, even if you've never really met one you might want to hit back.
That's the idea behind "Rolling Coal" where you modify your truck so that it belches black smoke over the Prius behind you. It's a mechanical "fuck you" targeted a people the driver doesn't even really know.
Do you know anyone who has a rig set up to Roll Coal? Chances are, if you do, you're voting for Trump (and that's assuming you aren't set up to Roll Coal yourself: the Venn Diagram of people with Coal switches on their trucks and Trump voters is a single perfect circle).
So it stands to reason that part of the value of Trump as a candidate was his apparent (and born out) willingness to say to liberals what GOP base voters wanted said. Boy has he said it. He's been rude. He's been misogynistic. He's been manly (he has a big penis and he'll let you know it). He's a strong man for hard times (praises Putin).
So if it had been Biden plowing through O'Malley and Sanders--with Hillary on the sidelines--might the voters who went for Trump have, instead, gone for someone with a better profile for winning? Say Rubio?
The Omnivore thinks it's possible. Trump is almost unquestionably a reaction to Obama. As The Omnivore has noted, he embodies a lot of the things Obama was criticized for (celebrity, required use of a Teleprompter, not knowing too much about the constitution, running an explicitly divisive campaign, etc.) Perhaps Trump would have been required even so.
After all, one of Trump's targets is the GOP establishment and they were going to be around no matter what--but there's another possible factor:
Did The GOP Base Believe Hillary Couldn't Win?
The Omnivore pays more attention to the comments sections of conservative message boards than you do. As such, The Omnivore was hearing about "Hillary's health problems" a long, long time ago. People were using all kinds of wishful thinking to explain why Hillary would, in the end, not run. She was too old. Too sick. Obama hates her and would sabotage her. She doesn't want Bill back in the White House. Whatever.
This was fear. It may not have been overt--but the coding was definitely whispering past the graveyard.
This was, however, supported by the GOP messaging. The story was told (and sold) that Hillary was uniquely hated (she wasn't: she had 60% favorables as Secretary of State and is regularly at the top of Gallup's most-admired-woman-in-the-world). They were told she was a light-weight. She's not: she's an ace debater and a policy wonk (as we saw three times in a row with Trump). They were told that she would basically collapse under pressure.
But is it possible that if the GOP base believed they were in a hugely superior position might they have gambled more? That's possible. It would be a substantial miscalculation--but given the quality of information so-called "high information" conservative voters have access to today, it's not impossible.