For most of us, Donald Trump’s huge primary wins which caused dismissing all other Republicans from the US presidential race is not a surprise. People understood what he was standing for and what he’s plans are, so after the big win on Super Tuesday in March, things became much clearer. And if the Republican Party wants to destroy itself, it could attempt to impose another candidate: but otherwise, Mr Trump is in the final.
Nothing is certain in the US elections, even if he may not be the next president, it is a far more possible outcome than many believe – or want to believe. Surveys show his support is far from confined to blue-collar white men. The political class, and the pundits who cosy up to them, cannot understand why he has become the first man since Eisenhower to get to a US general election without having held any elected office.
That is because they have a pitiful understanding of the American people, who no longer conform to the patronising stereotypes of the past – stereotypes rooted in a deference to machine politicians that the contemptuous and often corrupt behaviour of those politicians has destroyed completely. Something similar is true in Britain, which is why so many in Westminster can’t grasp why the Leave campaign prospers in the polls.
Doubtless some Republicans will continue to express horror at Mr Trump, and do all they can to stop him. They can back Hillary Clinton – the likely other option – a dismal machine politician of the sort with whom they feel comfortable, however odious her politics and personality would normally be to them. One of their pet pundits, the highly respected George F Will, has voiced the contempt of the Republican political elite by urging Mr Trump to be defeated in all 50 states of the Union.
Full marks to him for candour. But Mr Will seems not to realise how much he and the Republicans he has endorsed in recent years have made the Trump phenomenon possible. Mr Trump has a chance of the White House because modern Republicans have either governed disastrously – such as George W Bush – or had nothing to offer except platitudes and drivel, as with Mitt Romney in 2012. The political elite who now savage Mr Trump – whether failed politicians such as Mr Romney or commentators such as Mr Will – are the same people who have created him as a political force.
Mr Trump can win in November. Mrs Clinton is hugely unpopular. Many supporters of Bernie Sanders – still in the race, in the hope that many Democratic “superdelegates” will shift their allegiance from Mrs Clinton to him as he is more likely to beat Mr Trump – have made it clear they will abstain rather than vote for her. Paradoxically, some Republicans will do as Mr Will demands, and vote for Mrs Clinton; but Mr Trump will cause millions of Americans who have not hitherto voted in general elections to turn out on polling day, precisely because he offers something not normally available at general elections.
Mrs Clinton will find him hard to tackle, compared with the central casting politicians she has hitherto fought either for the Senate or when she took on Barack Obama for the nomination in 2008. Trump is unpredictable, and won’t play by the Queensberry rules. He will goad Mrs Clinton about her campaign funders, and the favours she has done for Wall Street. He will goad her about her conduct during the inglorious presidency of her much-diminished husband. He will goad her about the attack on Benghazi in which an American ambassador died while she was Secretary of State. He will goad her about using her hacked private email server to store state secrets, for which she still could end up being indicted. He will goad her about her – absurdly – taking a campaign donation in return for attending his last wedding. And he will goad her about things he hasn’t even thought of yet. Tens of millions will love it.
Perhaps instead of protesting the impossibility of Mr Trump winning, we should focus on the consequences if he does. Whether David Cameron should apologise to him for the infantile insults he threw at him, and which show yet again how our Prime Minister too rarely considers the consequences of his words and actions, will depend on his still being prime minister when and if Mr Trump becomes president. That may rest on the referendum. In any case, there will be bigger fish to fry than the effects of Mr Cameron’s stupid and arrogant decision to grandstand about another country’s politics.
If Mr Trump follows through on his promises to start a trade war to protect American workers, there will be a profound shock to the global economy. There will be a very different policy in the Middle East, with Mr Trump promising a full confrontation with his sworn enemy, Islam. That could have profound effects for the defence and security of all countries allied to, or thought to be allied to, America.
Just as dangerous as radical Islam is Russia, an aggressive kleptocracy that has expanded its territory and influence not least thanks to the inertia of America under President Obama and the impotence of the EU. When Presidents Putin and Trump first sit down together – two self-obsessed egomaniacs and narcissists who have much in common – the result will either be a new cold war or the most remarkable alliance in history.
No wonder traditional politicians are so distressed. A peasants’ revolt is under way in America – as, indeed, it is in Britain and in much of Europe – and they are the target of the revolutionaries’ anger. It threatens nothing less than the end of an old order – an order that has failed because of its contempt for the feelings of voters who believed they lived in a democracy.
Perhaps Donald Trump has alienated too many Americans to win. But in the present climate, only a fool would say he won’t.