Trump will lose, or I will eat this col­umn

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - DANAMIL­BANK Twit­ter: @Mil­bank

In­ever ex­pected to write these words, but I miss Mitt Rom­ney.

On Wed­nes­day, the day the fron­trun­ner for the 2016 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion was in New Hamp­shire al­leg­ing that Syr­ian refugees flee­ing for their lives may ac­tu­ally be clan­des­tine ter­ror­ists, the 2012 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee was in Washington, talk­ing sense.

“Don­ald Trump will not be the nom­i­nee,” Rom­ney told a group of busi­nesss­chool stu­dents at Georgetown Univer­sity. And why won’t Trump, who, when he isn’t be­smirch­ing Syr­ian refugees as ter­ror­ists, is ma­lign­ing Mex­i­can im­mi­grants as rapists, get the nod? Be­cause, Rom­ney said, “when all is said and done, the Amer­i­can peo­ple usu­ally do the right thing.”

The Post’s Philip Rucker recorded Rom­ney’s cat­e­gor­i­cal pre­dic­tion, and his ra­tio­nale. “I know there’s some skunks in any en­deavor — busi­ness, pol­i­tics — and they get most of the vis­i­bil­ity, but there are also some re­ally good peo­ple,” Rom­ney said. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple are a very good peo­ple and by and large find peo­ple of sim­i­lar char­ac­ter to elect to the high­est of­fice in the land.”

Rom­neyis right. In fact, I’m so cer­tain Trump won’t win the nom­i­na­tion that I’ll eat my words if he does. Lit­er­ally: The day Trump clinches the nom­i­na­tion, I will eat the page on which this col­umn is printed in Sun­day’s Post. I have this con­fi­dence for the same rea­son Rom­ney does: Amer­i­cans are bet­ter than Trump.

The Post’s media re­porter, Paul Farhi, took me to task last week for ex­press­ing such a sen­ti­ment. I was one of the pun­dits he named as be­ing “con­sis­tently wrong” in pre­dict­ing Trump’s demise, one who “de­clared his can­di­dacy dead or mor­tally wounded” while Trump in­stead “main­tained his lead­ing po­si­tion in opin­ion polls.”

Specif­i­cally, Farhi took is­sue with my Sept. 20 col­umn, af­ter the sec­ond Repub­li­can de­bate, when I asked: “Could this be the be­gin­ning of the end of Don­ald Trump?” I ex­pressed the hope that “Trump will in­deed suc­ceed in mak­ing Amer­ica great again — by mo­ti­vat­ing Amer­i­cans, even fel­low con­ser­va­tives and Repub­li­cans, to re­pu­di­ate his non­sense.” The media re­porter re­but­ted my belief that Trump would fail by point­ing to a new USA To­day poll show­ing that Trump had gained six points since July.

Alas for Farhi, The Post’s Philip Bump posted a piece 57 min­utes ear­lier un­der­min­ing the Trump tri­umphant theme. Bump noted that Trump has shed eight points in polling av­er­ages from his peak be­fore the sec­ond de­bate and that “there are signs that Trump is hit­ting the ceil­ing of his sup­port” at 23 per­cent.

More to the point, my pre­dic­tion that Trump will ul­ti­mately fail isn’t about pun­ditry or polling. It comes from faith that U.S. vot­ers are more sen­si­ble than many poll-ob­sessed jour­nal­ists and com­men­ta­tors give them credit for. Trump (and Mus­lim-bait­ing Ben Car­son) won’t pre­vail in the Repub­li­can pri­mary be­cause vot­ers, in the end, tend to get it right.

Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers may be an­gry at the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment, but they are not ir­ra­tional: They don’t wish to nom­i­nate a sure loser. And Trump is that. Amer­i­cans, in a gen­eral elec­tion, will never choose a can­di­date who ex­presses the big­otry and misog­yny that Trump has, re­gard­less of his at­tributes. (Sim­i­larly, lib­er­als love Bernie San­ders in the Demo­cratic pri­mary race, but ul­ti­mately Democrats won’t choose San­ders, be­cause, re­gard­less of their per­sonal pref­er­ences, they know a so­cial­ist won’t be elected pres­i­dent.)

Con­sider what Trump said in Keene, N.H., last week about those flee­ing Syria in the largest refugee cri­sis since World War II. “This could be one of the great tac­ti­cal ploys of all time,” he said of the des­per­ate masses flee­ing Syria’s civil war. “A 200,000man army, maybe. ... I don’t know that it is, but it could be pos­si­ble.”

And what would hap­pen to the refugees un­der Pres­i­dent Trump? “They’re go­ing back,” he said. To their deaths, pre­sum­ably. The same day Trump posited this para­noia, Rom­ney was at Georgetown, telling stu­dents about an 1814 let­ter John Adams wrote to the po­lit­i­cal philoso­pher John Tay­lor. “Re­mem­ber,” the na­tion’s sec­ond pres­i­dent wrote, “democ­racy never last long. It soon wastes, ex­hausts, and mur­ders it­self. There never was a democ­racy yet that did not com­mit sui­cide.”

Ours hasn’t — yet. “We’ve beaten the odds,” Rom­ney said, “in part be­cause we’ve had, I think, peo­ple of real char­ac­ter who have led our coun­try as pres­i­dents ... and the Amer­i­can peo­ple have risen to the oc­ca­sion time and again and have in fact then elected good peo­ple.”

I sec­ond Rom­ney’s anal­y­sis. No mat­ter what 2015 polls say, 2016 won’t be the year Amer­i­can democ­racy mur­ders it­self.

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