I think of Donald Trump as a hamster on a wheel; a bicyclist on a stationary bike. (Pick your metaphor.) There’s lots of feverish spinning, but he’s actually going nowhere. It’s like the plane image laid on the ground by a cargo cult. It looks like a plane, it’s trying to signal to planes overhead, it has lots of passengers around it ready to go, but it doesn’t actually fly.
Trump doesn’t actually fly. For all the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of Trump’s neo-white power movement, with its high-energy mass rallies, Trump is probably playing a zero-sum game with the white vote.
For every non-college educated white voter Trump energizes beyond the white vote that Romney got in 2012 (57% to Obama’s 40%), Trump probably turns-off a college educated white voter. So he’s peddling or running–or cargo cult signalling (again, choose your metaphor)–in place.
And that means that if Hillary can get roughly the same (not better, just the same) percentage of the black, Hispanic, and Asian vote as Obama did in 2012, it stands to reason that she’ll win.
So we need to break the spell here. What we’re witnessing in Trump is a cult of personality that has emerged out of (white) Republican despair. It is premised on a false idea: that the Republican Party doesn’t need to become more gender balanced, multicultural, and multiracial; that there’s room for growth in the white vote if a Republican nominee just goes harder white and harder right. Trump is a dream-candidate for the Limbaugh, Hannity, and alt-right wings of the party–and it’s a false dream. Call it the Trump delusion.
Trump has probably reached a ceiling with the white vote. Like Romney, Trump can no-doubt get to about 57% of the white vote–but that won’t be enough. (Trump is so offensive and idiotic, he might even manage to get less of the white vote than Romney.)
So after he loses in November, then what?
Then we’re in Leon Festinger territory; the territory of cognitive dissonance, rationalization, and recriminations. Like a cult that predicts the end of the world, and it doesn’t happen, the issue for Republicans after the election will be the following: Hannity, Limbaugh, Alex Jones, et al. have long claimed that a candidate like Trump could bring out untapped reserves of white voters–a new silent majority–and win in a landslide, returning America to a more familiar, white dominated past. When this doesn’t happen, what next?
If the Republican Party is in the realm of the rational (which it appears not to be at this moment, but might be after November), the vast majority of Republicans will draw the following conclusion: The missing white voter is like the missing or absent messiah who never actually shows up. He is a fantasy. The Republican Party expects this Great White Hope–anticipates him, longs for him to come and save it–yet he never comes. The party obviously needs to diversify.
But what actually tends to happen to prophets when their prophecies prove false? The movement just keeps on going, but slowly drifts ever further to the margins of society. “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Trump is Wallace 2.0. Wallace never went away, and when Trump fails, there will probably be a Wallace 3.0, just weaker next time.