Why Donald Trump is going to lose, in one image
Now that Election Day is only a few weeks away, everybody’s wondering what Donald Trump’s performance so far as a general election candidate — a performance which could be most charitably be described as “erratic” — means for his prospects of victory.
People are studying all sorts of different tea leaves in attempts to find an answer to that question. But I would submit there is only one thing you need to look at.
It’s this image:
Slate has been doing a weekly feature called the Conservative Pundit Tracker, where they check in on a group of 25 prominent right-wing talking heads to see what they’re saying that week about how they will cast their own personal ballot in November. (This week’s edition is here.) They then distill their findings into an interactive graphic, screenshotted above, putting each talking head into the column that best fits what they’re saying. It’s a neat little visualization, go check it out.
Anyway, as of this writing, of the 25 pundits they follow, exactly two are saying unambiguously that they will vote for Donald Trump. All the rest are saying that they’ll vote for Hillary Clinton (4), stay home and not vote at all (1), vote for a an alternative candidate like Libertarian Gary Johnson or independent Evan McMullin (8), or are just keeping their mouth shut on the subject completely (10).
Two out of twenty-five conservative pundits saying they’ll vote for the conservative party’s candidate.
That’s not just remarkable, it’s kind of astonishing. (As Trump would say, it’s YUUUUGE.)
These are all people, remember, who earn their living promoting the Republican Party. And yet only 8% of them can say with a straight face that they will vote for that party’s nominee!
Now, I’m not claiming that this figure is directly predictive, that only 8% of registered Republicans will vote for Trump in the fall. Trump has always been less popular with the conservative elite than he has been with the rank and file. So a lack of enthusiasm for him will always be more pronounced among the chattering class than among average Republican voters.
But I do claim that this picture means that Trump will lose, because it’s indicative of a deeply divided party — and in modern American presidential politics, where elections are decided by swings of just one or two percent in a few battleground states, when one party is divided and the other is not, the divided party is going to lose.
In an age when the demographics of the nation are already not going their way, it’s beyond critical for any GOP candidate to be able to at least hold on to the party’s existing core constituencies. Holding the Reagan coalition together is crucial. But all you have to do is look at that image to see how fractured that coalition has become. Which makes the trajectory of the candidate who’s depending on it pretty predictable.
There’s still a little more than two months left in the campaign, of course, and a lot of things could happen that could change that trajectory. But absent some kind of massive shift that miraculously puts Humpty Dumpty back together again, it’s difficult to see a party as divided as the GOP is today pulling off a victory.