Last December, my curiosity piqued by the conventional wisdom that Trump could not win the nomination unless he drew more than 50% of the vote in the primaries, I carried out and posted on this blog a careful calculation based on two assumptions: That there would be three candidates left in the race until late in the primary season [Trump, Cruz, and Carson, or Trump, Cruz, and Rubio] and that Trump would draw between 35-40% of the vote. I concluded that under those conditions, he would win the nomination. I was right. Emboldened by my success, I return now to the task of prognostication. Needless to say, this effort carries no more weight than my previous effort. But blogging is not for the faint of heart.
Accordingly, I offer the following prediction: Shortly after the Democratic Nominating Convention in late July, Hillary Clinton will open up a widening lead in national polls and a very substantial led in Electoral Vote estimates. Sam Wang and Nate Silver will project the probability of a Clinton win in the high 80 percents or better, and this estimate will grow as November 8th approaches. Clinton will win the election. The Democrats will regain control of the Senate, and will gain seats in the House, but will probably fall short of regaining control, although it is not impossible that they will gain the 30 seats needed to make Nancy Pelosi once again Speaker. What leads me to this optimistic conclusion? [I have already indicated that I view a Clinton presidency with dismay, but I consider a Trump presidency a disaster fraught with dangers of genuinely democracy-ending potential. I really am not interested in re-litigating this matter here.]
The calculation begins, of course, with the well-known and much discussed Electoral College advantage enjoyed by the Democrats together with the demographic changes that are favorable to them. But what has eased my deep anxiety about the prospect of a Trump presidency is the clear evidence that Trump is utterly incapable of controlling his self-destructive impulses. It has very quickly become the conventional wisdom that he is a narcissistic bully, but in addition he has, as Elizabeth Warren noted, a very thin skin. He is compulsively incapable of ignoring criticism from any source, and his response to it is becoming increasingly desperate and unconvincing. What is more, he is, astonishingly, utterly unable to recognize that a general campaign requires a quite different organization and approach than a primary campaign.
That he is despicable goes without saying. That he is a non-stop braggart is well established. But he has acquired, perhaps it now appears unjustifiably, a reputation as a shrewd businessman, which would seem to imply some capacity for acknowledging and adjusting to reality. There is a good deal of evidence accumulating that he completely lacks that capacity.
Now, all this may be wrong, but I am reminded of David Hume’s observation that the degree of our emotional investment in an event irrationally colors our estimate of its probability. A Trump presidency would be so utterly awful that we tend to exaggerate its likelihood.
If my confidence is misplaced, it will not matter, because the day after Donald Trump is elected, we will have more serious matters to concern us than failed predictions. And it goes without saying that I shall work all fall to help Clinton win North Carolina, which in a very close election could be the margin of victory for her. The day after she wins, I will go back to doing what I can to mitigate the harm she will do as president.