Thursday, July 21, 2016

Donald Trump has the same problem as Stephen Harper

Donald Trump has won the Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States. He should be congratulated for that achievement.  However, that was the easy part.  The next thing he has to do is create a coalition of American voters big enough to put him into the White House.  On that score he has a very steep hill to climb.

As I have stated a few times on this site, during the last Federal election in Canada I found Stephen Harper was throwing an inordinate amount of red meat to his base.  At no time during the election did he attempt to expand the appeal of the Conservative Party beyond his base.  In fact, I would say he did the opposite.  I suspect the reason why is because the Conservatives were not certain that they could count on their base to come out and vote for them or to just vote at all.  In the end the Conservatives did hang on to their core vote but only after two months of effort.

Donald Trump has the same problem.  The Republican base is fractured.  Party stalwarts, including the last two Republican presidents have come out against him in this election and his greatest opponent during the primary season just jammed a political sword between his ribs during the current Republican convention.  Those high profile Republicans that have endorsed him have not exactly been effusive in their praise of him.  They have said the minimum necessary and then retreated back into the woodwork.

This all means that Donald Trump is going to have to spend a great deal of time and resources over the next few months repairing the rifts in the Republican Party.  For him to have any chance of winning he needs to expand his base from those who absolutely love Donald Trump to include those Republicans that think he is the worst thing to happen to the GOP since Barry Goldwater.  In short, he is going to have to do what Stephen Harper did and shore up support from those voters most likely to vote Republican.

It is an open question whether he can accomplish this task and even if he does he then needs to expand his appeal beyond the core Republican vote.  Mitt Romney won that vote in 2012 but failed to expand beyond it and it cost him the election.

The second part of his task will be the hardest part.  He has managed to alienate virtually every demographic in the United States except old and middle aged, poorly educated, angry white men.  He is going to find it very difficult to walk back alot of what he said about the different demographics in the last few months.  Most will not believe him and a large segment of those who have supported him from the beginning may feel a bit betrayed if he does begin to pander to them.  As well, the amount of time to do it is short. The election is only four short months away and although that is many lifetimes in politics it is still a very short timeframe in which to repair the rifts in the Republican Party and expand his appeal beyond it.

All this has to be done while taking on an opponent who will have a very popular sitting President campaigning for her and a still very popular former President campaigning for her as well.  The only saving grace for him is the fact that Hillary Clinton is not very well liked either but she at least can count on maintaining the core Democratic vote going forward.

My guess is Donald Trump faces a nearly impossible task.  He does not have the time, the charisma, the political smarts or the temperment to be able to mend all of the bridges he burnt to win the nomination while running against an opponent who will be actively trying to prevent him from accomplishing that feat.

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