Sorry, Wishful Thinkers: Trump Will Almost Certainly Still Be the GOP Nominee

Donald Trump is having a disastrous month. After a very brief honeymoon following his securing the delegates necessary to win the GOP nomination outright, Trump did the opposite of pivoting to center. Instead, he doubled down on hateful racist rhetoric against Muslims, Hispanics, Elizabeth Warren and anyone else on his target list, while revoking press credentials from major newspapers. In the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting he couldn’t even manage to put Democrats effectively on the defensive because the narcissist in him couldn’t help but praise himself instead of showing any real sympathy for the victims. He’s so eager for the media spotlight that he wasn’t even smart enough to lay low for a few days when Clinton suffered a bump of bad news over her emails.

Donald Trump, in short, isn’t just unfit to be President. He’s unfit to wage a modern presidential campaign.

That last bit is what is particularly disconcerting to Republican leaders who were trying to make peace with Trump as the nominee. Instead, there is now a renewed push to remove Trump from the ticket at the Convention, even though it would require an unprecedented shifting of party rules and overturning of democratic outcomes. In the minds of some in the GOP, though, it’s a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t problem: scuttling Trump would create an internal civil war and likely lead to bloodbath in November, but at least the party might salvage its image in future elections. Leaving Trump as the nominee would reduce internal tensions, but the party would likely still be demolished in the election and suffer decades of recriminations from women and minority voters in the bargain.

There are also those who believe (or hope) that Trump is actively seeking a way out the campaign himself: that he’s short of money and doesn’t really want the job, so he is actively self-sabotaging so that there is no way he will become president. Under this theory, Trump’s opponents need only offer him a sweet enough deal and he will find an excuse to remove himself before the convention.

The problem is that both of these underestimate Trump’s power within the GOP and his own narcissism. The reality remains that the GOP primary election proved that there is very little constituency left for a more subtly bigoted GOP that serves up supply-side ideology on behalf of the wealthy while expecting middle- and working-class Americans to suffer their own economic exploitation with pride on behalf of Burkeian principles. There are very few who want or believe in that version of the Republican Party anymore. Removing Trump as the nominee would guarantee him leading his flock to sabotage the GOP up and down the ballot with utterly disastrous consequences. Nor does the GOP have much hope of of mitigating Trump’s influence on women and minorities: the genie is already out of the bottle, and in Trump’s wake dozens more candidates like him will use his more openly xenophobic, economic populist approach to win GOP primaries all across the country.

As for Trump making a convenient exit himself? Unlikely. While the Donald does hate to lose, he can always go all the way into November, get a thumping from Clinton, and claim that the GOP establishment stabbed him in the back and denied him a chance at victory. He can then spend the rest of his life as a kingpin of sorts, conning his devoted Alt Right flock in any number of schemes to increase his wealth and influence. If he exits now, on the other hand, he’ll fade into a lesser version of Sarah Palin.

No matter how poorly Trump fares in the next month, he’s still almost certain to be the nominee. And there’s not much of anything the GOP can do about it.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.