Trump Won’t Lose—So He’ll Have to Quit
Politics is hard, so The Baffler has employed expert comic mind David Rees to give us a visual rendering of the day’s signature political controversies. The only problem is that David can’t draw, so his cartoons are word pictures—which is to say, words.
Just about everyone who’s paid to think about politics has been consistently wrong about Donald Trump. Their predictions about his electoral chances have been left scattered and broken in his campaign’s wake, as sad and delicate as porcelain dolls crushed into shards by a hurricane. From the hard-assed data-crunchers to the dewy-eyed scribes of the American character, most analysts simply couldn’t understand what was happening. It turns out that black swans are sometimes orange.
I include myself in this critique: I remember insisting that Trump wouldn’t actually enter the 2016 race (because it would be too much work). I was wrong. And when he did join the race, I told my friends he’d be crushed by Marco Rubio—a man I believed to be charismatic, primarily because I had never seen or heard him. I was wrong again (and twice over, counting the Rubio-charisma error). Even as Trump started dispatching Republican nominees, I announced that the GOP would never allow him to clinch the nomination (because he would drag down the party). I was wrong yet again. Wrong wrong wrong! Three wrongs, enough wrongs to make a tricycle of wrong, wherein each wheel is replaced with an embarrassing error. Dreadful tricycle, how you shame me! My shattered predictions! My precious porcelain dolls! Will I ever be right about anything again?
Answer? YES. Because I am a political cartoonist.
You see, in spite of these failed predictions—and putting aside those times when I woke up at crazy hours to text my friends panicked insomniac dispatches like “OMG we’re all gonna die, Trump will be POTUS, help me”—there is one prediction hovering overhead, yet to be refuted, that I continue to believe:
Donald Trump will not make it to the Republican National Convention.
I don’t mean that he’ll be assassinated, or get lost on the way to Cleveland. I mean that Donald Trump is going to drop out of the race.
Why do I think this? Partly because he’s mentally unhealthy. And he won’t be able to handle the next phase of the campaign.
I’m calling it: Trump will drop out of the race by July 5 at the latest.
The past week has proved that Trump isn’t used to actual media scrutiny. I don’t know why the media and the GOP decided his racist attack on that judge was a bridge too far, since the guy eats and shits bridges 24/7, but things are only going to get more intense. His psychological problems will prevent him from keeping his cool, and every further outburst will create a new garland of headaches for Republican politicians. These politicians will, in turn, continue distancing themselves from his statements, which will offend both his delicate sensibilities and his lifelong belief in his own infallibility. He will feel betrayed, and, because he has no impulse control, he’ll lash out in a further escalation of intensifying emotions and world-class diaper-wetting.
This cycle of umbrage, overcompensation, and further offense will solidify the inevitable narrative that he is unfit—too immature, too emotional, too fucking stupid—to be president. This won’t deter his supporters, but it will buy his enemies (in the media, within his party, among the Democrats) permission to needle him further. None of this will be fun.
But there’s another psychological reason Trump will drop out: He can’t face the risk of losing an election. Trump famously has a zero-sum worldview: any human interaction ends with a winner and a loser. Winners deserve to win, and losers deserve to lose. This is why his core campaign message during the primary—more than the wall, more than the Muslim ban—was his lead in the polls. His lead in the polls was what justified his lead in the polls. The reason he was the most qualified candidate for the Republican nomination was because he led in the polls. The reason he had the best policies was because he led in the polls. The reason he could make American great again was because he led in the polls. I tuned in to one of Trump’s rallies earlier this spring: he was celebrating the latest polls and analyzing his margins over Cruz and Rubio with the retainer-slobbery focus of a first-time D&D gamer reviewing his paladin’s hit points. Trump basically sounded like a graphing calculator having a stroke. The crowd was reduced to bewildered silence—they showed up to scream about foreigners, and their guy was vomiting data on them.
That data is about to change. As the Democrats wrap up their primary campaign, this erstwhile King of All Polls is going to watch Hillary Clinton continue to improve her performance against him in the aforementioned polls, i.e. all of them. (I saw a poll today that had her within three points of Trump in Utah. Utah.) There is no way Trump can reconcile this trend with his campaign’s core argument: namely, that he leads in the polls. This is the danger of reducing your platform to the quantitative equivalent of a snake sucking its own dick.
At some point Trump will realize that the longer he stays in the race, the more he looks like a loser. The media will be clobbering him every day. (And by “clobbering,” I mean “asking him questions about things he has said.”) The Republican establishment will keep him at arm’s length, and those arms will grow longer with every new poll. Super PACs will start airing brutal ads about his temperament, past allegations of physical abuse, financial misdeeds, and everything else that’s been quietly researched and assembled over the past twelve months. The audience for his rallies will dwindle—you only need to see that show once. And what will he have to look forward to? Nationally televised debates against a politically savvy, morally ruthless, hyper-prepared policy expert . . . who happens to be a woman? No thank you!
I’m calling it: Trump will drop out of the race by July 5 at the latest. He will blame the unfair media and political correctness, allude to some wack-ass conspiracy involving Black Lives Matter and/or Hezbollah, and go to his grave telling everyone he knows that if he had stayed in the race, he would’ve beaten Clinton. Remember: It’s better to be a quitter than a loser, because a quitter can always say he would’ve been a winner. (NOTE: Do not share this fact with your children.)
However, if Trump actually stays in the race through the convention, my back-up prediction is that he’ll quit the morning after his first debate with Clinton.
If that doesn’t happen, my back-up back-up prediction is that Trump will drop out of the race a week before the election.
However, if Trump stays in the race all the way to the end, my emergency back-up prediction (every pundit is allowed one) is that he will win.