Lots of people are freaking out about Donald Trump.
And indeed, with Ted Cruz's sudden departure from the race on Tuesday night, in the wake of his crushing Indiana defeat, the GOP is left facing the near-certainty that their nominee for president will be Donald Trump.
That is, I'll admit, an extremely scary thought.
So, my friends, first allow me to recommend some mindfulness meditation. Restore balance to your thoughts. Imagine a ray of sunlight filling your body from your toes to your head, slowly. Openness, tranquility….
The Republic is not ending, President Obama's joke this past weekend notwithstanding. Catastrophic thinking is all the rage these days, and I'd like to try a little bit of a cognitive behavioral intervention on the masses.
You may be worried that because nothing has stopped Trump yet, nothing will stop him. Or because elections are always close, this one will be close. Because Hillary Clinton is the one candidate who's nearly as unpopular as Trump, she has no advantages; because the American people are capable of acting selfishly and narrowly and reacting with rage….
These thoughts make you feel afraid. Or they leave you in a state of high irony, where you turn to your Facebook feed for satirical solace. Or depression. Or anger.
Your confidence in the integrity of these beliefs and feelings is quite high. You're about 80 percent sure that you're right.
Trump wouldn't have become the nominee unless the electorate was extraordinary unsettled, and in the mood for blood; he's going to open up an equally unsettling and nasty campaign against Hillary Clinton, who might be indicted for her role in mishandling classified information; white people are going to revolt against eight years of Barack Obama's policies, which favor the non-white and the non-advantaged; Clinton will be a conventional candidate who is quite unsuited to run in an age where moments matter more than stories.
Take a deep breath. Slow down.
Still, you think, nothing has stopped Trump yet, so nothing will stop him. He appeals to working-class voters. A Republican Party that nominates him is out of for blood and will stop at nothing. He's bringing new voters into the party, for goodness sake. Clinton is terribly flawed.
These fears are unfounded. Let's unpack them.
No one has stopped Trump yet. Well, okay. But ask yourself: Did the Republicans put forward any candidate with the guts to take Trump on when it mattered? Did they not stop Trump because Trump best reflects the party as it's currently constituted? Was Trump, far from being a surprise nominee, the inevitable nominee? Is there a plausible case to be made that someone might have stopped Trump had they intervened earlier, or done something differently, or if the Republican leadership hadn't spent 10 years promising things they knew they couldn't deliver?
Trump appeals to working-class whites who traditionally vote Republican in general elections. That's a true statement. It is also true that a not insignificant percentage of Bernie Sanders voters told exit pollsters they'd vote for Donald Trump in a general election instead of Hillary Clinton. So you're worried that white voters are going to revolt. That Trump is going to be uber-popular among them. While it's true that Trump may get a higher percentage of white voters than Mitt Romney got— 60, 61 percent, maybe — there's a strong ceiling to the success a Republican candidate can have if he only appeals to white voters. There's even a ceiling on the percentage of white voters Trump can possibly turn out. White voters don't exist in little vacuum-sealed packets; they might turn out at higher numbers, but if they do, they probably will not turn out at higher rates, because Trump provokes so much opposition among non-white voters. And we've seen that opposition to a candidate is generally a larger driver of these marginal increases. Trump needs a real coalition to win in November — one he has a poor (but nonzero) chance of building.
A Republican Party that nominates Trump is out for blood. True — and a Democratic Party that faces him is out for blood, too. This is kind of a wash. Does Donald Trump inspire less fear and loathing than Hillary Clinton? Really?
He's bringing in so many new voters. Actually, more people have cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. There is no evidence he is bringing in new Republican voters; he's just awakening dormant Republican voters that would have been there for him in the general election anyway.
Hillary Clinton is terribly flawed by comparison to Donald Trump. This is nonsense. Her message, to an electorate that needs to hear compassion for their economic anxieties, has been refined, and will be further refined. She is unlikely to get indicted. She has shown herself to be more flexible than she's been given credit for. Trump may have been able to get his supporters to overlook his own record of questionably treating blue-collar workers, but Democrats will make sure that Bernie Sanders supporters are given that information. Clinton is eminently more qualified, and demonstrably less flawed, than Trump.
So take a deep breath. Relax. It's going to be okay. The end of the world is not at hand.