Changing your mind is often viewed as a bad thing. People who change their minds are derided as flip-floppers or unprincipled. On the other hand, it isn’t always a good thing to dig in your heels and stick to your guns when you receive new information or the situation changes. As Winston Churchill said, “I’d rather be right than consistent.” Along these lines, I have recently changed my mind on Donald Trump.
I still don’t like Trump and have no intention of voting for him. Trump’s record and demeanor are both disturbing. As a conservative, it would be hard to vote for someone who supports higher taxes, universal government healthcare and is inconsistent on social issues like abortion and religious freedom. To an economic conservative and free trader, his desire for high tariffs is problematic. It was high tariffs like the ones proposed by Trump that turned a recession in 1929 into the Great Depression. As a lover of liberty, the threat of violence if Trump does not win should disqualify him from consideration for leadership of a country that prides itself on peaceful transfers of power.
On foreign policy, Trump’s much-touted erratic behavior and inconsistency could literally cause a war. On at least two occasions in US history, in Korea and Kuwait, failure to establish clear US policy led to shooting wars. Trump’s off-the-cuff foreign policy pronouncements could easily do the same in a world where Russia and China are already expanding their spheres of influence.
My change of mind regarding Trump involves his ability to win. For months, I have joined many others saying that “Trump can’t win.” I didn’t believe that Trump could win primaries. I didn’t believe that he could go above 50 percent. I didn’t believe that a liberal New Yorker could sweep the conservative Christian South and vanquish many more experienced and better candidates. I was wrong on those counts.
While I still believe that Trump would almost certainly lose to Hillary Clinton, I now feel compelled to add the qualifier, “almost.” It is not inconceivable that Donald Trump could beat Hillary Clinton.
The possibility of a Trump victory over Hillary is not a reflection of Donald Trump’s magnetic personality, his policy acumen or any positive quality that a prospective president might possess. It hinges entirely on two factors. The first is Hillary Clinton’s weakness as a candidate and the overwhelming aroma of scandal and corruption that permeates her campaign. The second is Donald Trump’s ability to destroy opponents.
Neither Trump nor Hillary is a likeable candidate. Hillary’s negatives are exceeded only those of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Likewise, neither candidate is trusted and both are believed to be corrupt. Even though Trump shares many of the same negative traits possessed by Hillary, he will still attack her in the same hypocritical manner in which he criticizes “Lying Ted” Cruz for his lack of honesty while at the same time Trump himself was recipient of the Lie of the Year award for his numerous truth-challenged pronouncements.
Furthermore, both parties are divided. The Never Trump movement makes up a large part of the Republican Party, but Bernie Sanders voters are also swearing off voting for Hillary. A recent Rasmussen poll found that almost a quarter of likely voters would not vote for either Trump or Hillary in a head to matchup. The race would likely have historically low turnout and historically high interest in third parties. This is where Trump’s long shot opportunity lies.
A Trump-Hillary campaign would be the dirtiest campaign that most of us have ever seen. Both candidates would viciously attack the other’s long list of weaknesses and character flaws. This is the kind of campaign where Donald Trump, the insult comic, excels.
While Trump stands little chance of winning voters with a positive vision for the future that, almost a year into his candidacy, he has yet to articulate, he does have a chance of destroying Hillary’s image to the point where many voters will just stay home and not vote for either of them. In an election with depressed turnout, the question becomes which fractured party can drive more of its remaining base to the polls. Donald Trump stands a much better chance in this sort of election than in a high turnout election where he has to compete for moderate and independent voters.
Trump would almost certainly still lose, but he has beaten the odds so far. Political betting sites now give him about a 30 percent chance of becoming president. It is possible, but far from likely.
In spite of his recent victories and his likely victory in Indiana tomorrow, Trump is not assured of winning the nomination. If Trump is the Republican nominee, he might conceivably win, but it is far from certain that President Trump would be good for the country.