Should Democrats be terrified by Donald Trump?

Last week, Matthew Continetti, writing in the Washington Free Beacon, offered seven reasons why “Democrats should be terrified by Donald Trump.” Continetti’s seven reasons are:

1. Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump in the polls is quite small.

2. Trump’s positions are popular.

3. Trump will have months to find and occupy the political center.

4. Clinton is a terrible presidential candidate.

5. The country wants change.

6. Michael Bloomberg’s entry into the race would help Trump.

7. Global chaos helps Trump.

All of these propositions are defensible and most of them strike me as true. Although I don’t believe they add up to the conclusion that Democrats should be terrified of Trump, they do suggest that Trump has a realistic shot at defeating Clinton.

The argument that Trump has no realistic shot is based on several considerations. First, many simply refuse to accept the idea that America would elect as president someone as brutally nasty and ignorant about policy as Donald Trump. I have trouble believing this myself. But intuitive disbelief, though a respectable grounds for holding an opinion, is an insufficient basis for ruling out the opposite view.

Second, many say that Trump will be an easy target for Clinton and her mainstream media allies. They will pummel him for his business practices (as Mitt Romney was pummeled) and for his insulting remarks about women and Hispanics (as happened with Romney, but this time with far more basis in fact).

There’s no doubt that the pounding will occur and it may end up sinking Trump. But unlike Romney, who scarcely fought back, Trump will counter by attacking Clinton’s record of corruption, dishonesty, and possible criminality. And Trump will be far better positioned than Clinton to tie the corruption he cites to the political culture Americans are so disillusioned with, and the possible criminality to national security concerns.

Third, many point to polls showing that well over a majority of Americans view Trump unfavorably — a larger percentage than the considerable portion that views Clinton this way. Trump’s numbers are, indeed, problematic. Yet, polls also show him running only slightly behind Hillary. And just today, for whatever they are worth, there are suggestions that Trump might beat Clinton in New York.

How can we reconcile these poll results? The answer may be that many of those who view Trump unfavorably are Republicans like me who, if push comes to shove, might well vote for Trump in a two-way race against Clinton. By contrast, few Democrats disapprove of Clinton, so that the overwhelming portion of those who do disapprove of her are highly unlikely to vote for her nonetheless.

Continetti’s article doesn’t deal with the question of whether conservative Republicans should be terrified of Donald Trump. I believe we should, at a minimum, be alarmed. But not primarily because of concerns over whether he is electable.

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