I suppose that there are still some people waiting for Donald Trump’s bubble to burst – any day now! But it keeps not happening. And it’s becoming increasingly plausible that he will go all the way to the Republican presidential nomination. Why?
One answer – probably the most important – is what Greg Sargent at The Washington Post has been emphasizing lately: The majority of Republican voters actually support Mr. Trump’s policy positions. After all, he’s just saying outright what mainstream candidates
have implied for years through innuendo – how are voters supposed to know that this isn’t what you do?
I would, however, add a casual observation: At this point, Mr. Trump has been the front-runner for long enough that it’s very hard to imagine his supporters suddenly losing faith. That would be too embarrassing.
Bear in mind that embarrassment, and the desire to avoid it, are enormously important sources of motivation. Just consider what has happened to the supposedly smart guys who predicted six or seven years ago that interest rates would soar and that we would
see runaway inflation. Almost none of them have conceded that they were wrong or that they should have done more homework. Instead, many of them – especially the academics – have become ever more obsessed with claiming that they were somehow right, or
they’ve been trying to tear down the reputations of those of us who were right. Nobody likes looking like a chump, and most people will go to great lengths to convince themselves that they aren’t.
Now think about someone who has supported Mr. Trump since the summer. For the Trump bubble to burst, many people like that would have to slap their foreheads and say: “Wow, he’s not a serious person! What was I thinking?”
Very few people ever do that sort of thing. Someone who has spent months supporting Mr. Trump despite establishment denunciations – which is something like a third of Republicans – will go to great lengths to avoid conceding that he has been foolish.
At this point, such people will insist that any negative reports about Mr. Trump are the product of hostile mainstream media. In fact, Mr. Trump’s very durability so far is likely to make him highly resilient in the coming months.
All this suggests that even if Mr. Trump’s candidacy does finally decline, his support is likely to flow not to an establishment candidate, but to another outsider figure. Everyone who knows Senator Ted Cruz well hates him. In this environment, that probably
enhances his appeal.
The general election will, of course, be quite different. But it’s getting really hard to see how the Republican establishment reasserts control.