Was it possible to be more pessimistic about Donald Trump’s chances? About all the signs that he’s already giving up? About all the messages sent from the top-tier GOP leaders on this week’s Republican National Committee convention of fat cats? About all the indications that his administration is no longer accomplishing as much as a former president could? About all the expressions of shock and dismay that the year’s progress — and we can’t call it progress because “progress” implies the exultation of a long-sought one, especially from America’s most strident nationalists — has produced among the other Republicans in the race for his party’s nomination?
Were they shouting, “Stop him”?
Oh, this was no small dilemma: I was all set to write yesterday’s column — my bold, hopeful, zero-tolerance-for-bad-faith-hearsay essay about the prospect of an Electoral College landslide this fall — about how, yes, it might be possible to get it right now by writing Trump off. But as many of you have pointed out, the last time people promised that the consequences of failure were far too dire to be allowed to go unattended they were going through a nasty bankruptcy. The phrase was, of course, “John McCain,” and, as Chris Coons has pointed out, the Arizona Republican should have been sitting comfortably in the comfortable seat of the Senate in 2011 and 2012 had he not opposed bipartisan background checks legislation, which had already passed the House by a bipartisan vote. He was attacked by Sarah Palin as a “traitor” who favored “traitors and Communist China” for opposing the NRA’s constitutionally questionable and politically weak assault weapons ban. He was mocked and mocked and mocked by Bill Maher and Joe Scarborough.
No! Go ahead, write Trump off; try to take him out.
But! They failed to remember that even Barack Obama was going through a bitter defeat in his first midterm election. You can’t write off anyone unless you become convinced that nobody has a shot to succeed them.
Last time we did that, we didn’t. We ended up with the president who’s the best thing for America we’ve had in the White House since we lost Herbert Hoover in 1932.
So let’s try to wrap our heads around that possibility. What if Republicans can take Trump down, and we get the president we’ve needed? What if a wave election sweeps the seats that Hillary Clinton won in the popular vote? What if, with Democrats promising a too-cozy, Trump-inclined coalition to come in the next cycle, Trump fares better in a 2020 re-election campaign? What if he loses and still has a chance to be a transformative politician again?
Well … that would certainly make for an interesting place to hang the story.