Thomas Jefferson wrote the following in a letter to a friend: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be.” This, sadly, is the predicament in which our country finds itself. Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of people will vote in GOP primaries to nominate a man for president whose contempt for facts and the founding principles of our nation are exceeded only by that which he harbors for his supporters. Ironically, we can’t really blame this on Donald Trump. The real problem is the willful ignorance of his supporters.
Donald Trump is a grifter who created a fake university to bilk thousands of ordinary people out of enormous amounts of money. He’s a brazen hypocrite who denounces illegal immigrants, yet has a long history of hiring them. His pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare is plainly BS. He has often praised socialized medicine and still does. And, though he touts financial savvy and his mastery of negotiation as his primary qualifications for the presidency, he won’t release his tax returns so we can see for ourselves just how good he really is at the art of the deal.
Yet his supporters are legion. Why? To answer this honestly, it’s necessary to emulate Trump’s refusal to be politically correct—most of his supporters are too intellectually rigid to do their homework. They simply refuse to do the minimal research necessary to learn about this man’s astonishingly sordid history. Thus, they remain willfully ignorant of the above-listed facts. Rather than conducting the due diligence required of them as responsible citizens, they yammer about their betrayal at the hands of a nebulous “establishment” most couldn’t define to save their lives.
All they know about “the Donald” is that he had a TV show, is rich, and affects disdain for political correctitude. Yet they believe him when he says that, as President, he can easily fix complex public policy problems that have eluded solutions for decades. At length, some of the Donald’s supporters will realize that, as the immortal P.G. Wodehouse wrote about a group of characters who had been taken in by a particularly slippery poseur, “They had taken him at his own valuation, and had been cheated into admiring him as a man who amounted to something.”
But, by the time Trump’s supporters have their epiphany, it may be too late. Unless they trade up to an honest candidate tomorrow, he may have the Republican presidential nomination virtually locked up. There will be many subsequent GOP primaries, of course. But, if Trump comes even close to running the table tomorrow, the chances of any other candidate overtaking him will be dramatically reduced. As Henry Olsen writes in the New York Post, “After Super Tuesday, we should know with certainty if Donald Trump is unstoppable or if another candidate has a chance.”
By this point in the column, most Trump supporters will have stopped reading and begun typing semi-coherent comments accusing me of being an elitist RINO and a GOPe. This is a real problem. Open-minded readers would instead begin searching the Internet for stories relating to Trump University. Others might research Trump’s continued affinity for hopelessly dysfunctional socialist health care systems. Still others might look into his habit of hiring illegal aliens. But most of Trump’s supporters are afraid to poke their heads above the ramparts of willful ignorance.
You will note that some variation of “willful ignorance” is repeatedly used above. Not all of Trump’s supporters are genuinely ignorant. Many are intelligent, informed people so disgusted with Beltway business as usual that they have reached the conclusion that only some dramatic upheaval will stop our slide toward a form of government more closely resembling a European-style social democracy than the constitutional republic designed by the framers. There are plenty of politically sophisticated commentators, including some who write for TAS, who take this view.
But these well-meaning folks have allowed their desire to save the Republic to cloud their judgment. Trump is not the man for the job. First, he hasn’t a prayer of winning the general election, even against the likes of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Many of his supporters have mistaken his respectable showing among independents and Democrats in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries as proof that he has crossover appeal. But many of these people were almost certainly Dem trolls who voted for him in the Republican primaries because he’ll be easy to beat in the general election.
Few of these people will vote for him in November. Among the general electorate, Trump has abominable numbers. As Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight points out, “His favorability rating is 33 percent, as compared with an unfavorable rating of 58 percent, for a net rating of -25 percentage points. By comparison Hillary Clinton … has a 42 percent favorable rating against a 50 percent unfavorable rating, for a net of -8 points. Those are bad numbers, but nowhere near as bad as Trump’s.” If your net unfavorable figures are worse than Hillary’s, you’re toast.
Moreover, no discussion of Trump’s numbers is complete without mentioning how many Republicans say they will never vote for him. In the most recent Quinnipiac nationwide poll of Republicans, fully 28 percent said they would never support Trump for the GOP nomination. And, if we take social media into consideration, the most popular Twitter hashtag on Saturday was #NeverTrump. Yesterday, after Trump refused to publicly condemn David Duke, or even admit that he was familiar with the most prominent white supremacist in the nation, #DavidDuke took off like a rocket.
The title of this column uses the word “stupid,” but that shouldn’t be taken as an allusion to the intelligence of “the Donald’s” supporters, but rather the long-term effect of willful ignorance. A refusal by Republican voters to see through this man’s fraudulent campaign will result in a big win for Trump in some very important primaries. In the long haul that will cause tomorrow, for those who don’t go into denial after Hillary’s inauguration, to be remembered as Stupid Tuesday.