Why Trump Is Doubling Down and What Hillary is Avoiding
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The recent shakeup of the Trump campaign appears to suggest that Donald Trump has accepted his own advice as the best advice. By deciding to bring in Stephen Bannon–the former head of Breitbart and one of the most polarizing figures in the conservative political world–as campaign CEO, Trump is saying that moderating his views is not the way he believes he will win the election. If anything, Bannon is an even more polarizing, take-no-prisoners type of political operative than is Trump. He brings to the Trump campaign the alt-right group as well many of the most extreme divisive forces in American politics.
By this decision, Trump is clearly discounting the views of the all those advisers who had urged him to moderate and change his attacking style. Despite a long history to the contrary, Trump does not accept the notion that regardless of what got him the nomination, this style will not get him elected. (It will also would not help him govern.)
Trump’s provocative, bombastic, attack-dog style may jiggle his base but it will not bring him anything approaching the voters necessary to be elected. It is not clear how he has made the mathematical calculation, but Trump has absolutely sold himself on the fact that the power of the audiences at his rallies proves that all the polls in state after state are wrong. For Trump, the enthusiasm of his audiences are the repudiation of the pollsters. This version of electoral politics is totally nonsensical even to untrained political scientists.
On the Clinton side there remains a large contingent on her left of dissatisfied Sanders supporters who may well sit out the election. They refuse to recognize that winning elections is not governing; but requires attracting a larger base and appealing to a broader, less intense, more moderate set of positions. Disaffected Sanders voters need to heed the advice of comedian Sarah Silverman that they “…are being ridiculous.”
Sanders people are proud and committed to their views, but they need to comprehend that governing is hard work and is not the fun of campaigns. If they want change in the country in any of the issues about which they care, they need to insure that Hillary is elected. Then, to make things happen, they need to be prepared to get into the trenches and make policy; this is governing.
They can be proud and committed to their positions and walk away from Hillary but it could have consequences. If she wins without their support, Clinton will never feel she owes the Sanders supporters anything. If she were to lose because of the absence of their support in key states, they only will have themselves to blame as the nation struggles under Trump.