I’m sitting in a pub on a Tuesday night, 3609 miles away from the man himself and yet even here, in the basement of a small drinking establishment in a country many miles away, Donald Trump’s name comes up, almost inevitably. Naturally my ears perk.
I’m an American. I was born in a sprawling suburb outside Philadelphia. I went to a public high school with a football team, cheerleaders, and 2000 students. I eat at McDonalds. I don’t own a gun. I’m registered Independent.
I listen to the girl talk about John Oliver’s take on Donald Trump. I’ve seen the video myself after it appeared on my Facebook news feed courtesy of both an American and an Irish friend of mine. I wanted to interject into the conversation and in proving another stereotype, offer my uninvited opinion. But upon reflection, being American doesn’t qualify me as having special knowledge of Donald Trump. Perhaps previously, a deep knowledge of the US Senate would entitle me to speak on Obama during the 2008 election, but what is remarkable (among other things) about this electoral cycle is that nobody, white, black, man, woman, Irish, American, has any grasp on what is going on with Donald Trump, the Republican Party, or the country’s current state of politics. Trump probably won’t become president of the United States, and if he does it certainly doesn’t reflect a country gone off the rails, but rather a deeply flawed voting system.
By now the scaremongering news of Trump’s impending election will have probably reached your newsfeeds, timelines, or broadsheets. Yet before we all apply for Canadian passports, a few things are worth noting. Firstly, it’s very difficult to get Canadian citizenship, though for $400,000 you can become a citizen of St. Kitts & Nevis.
Secondly, Trump is far from winning the Presidency. In the US there are many political parties on the spectrum, ranging from far left to far right. Generally, however, the only two that ever present candidates for election are the Republicans (right, conservative, GOP) and the Democrats (left, liberal). Trump is representing the Republican party and currently vying for their nomination as their choice of presidential candidate. Should he win enough Caucuses and Primaries – state by state votes amongst only the Republican party – he’ll become their nominee. After this he will have to face off in a national election against the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Most polls predict Trump and Clinton will win their respective nominations, but following this eventuality, nearly all have Clinton beating Trump soundly come November. While panic is perhaps warranted at the thought of Trump winning anything, the chance of him becoming president are statistically unlikely.
Interpretation of the statistics
Moreover, in light of the Irish election, it is noteworthy that Trump’s polling numbers within just the Republican party have peaked near 40% and constantly averaged about 35%. Looking at the converse of this, that means 65% of the Republican party do not want Trump, yet here he is en route to becoming their nominee. Many people complain often about the flawed voting system in the US but frequently they are referring to the Electoral College, an anachronism used to determine the national election, not Party Primaries.
Still, the candidate who succeeds in this voting system, leaves a majority of the party unhappy with the pick, and allows a winner, in this case, Trump, to win with barely over 1/3 of the vote. Contrast this with Ireland where votes are more than a single X on the ballot, but rather a number ranging from 1- n, depending on how many candidates are running. Here preferences are more accurately reflected, and it would be unlikely that a candidate who is over 51% disliked will win an election.
Trump to me feels like a lottery. And remarkably, statistics show that the comparison isn’t all the extreme. Trump’s supporters and lottery ticket purchasers in America both skew towards non-college educated, lower income, demographics. Trump is mainly supported by people who have only graduated high school, a fairly low standard of education in the United States where an undergraduate college degree is considered a minimum for many salaried jobs.
I remember when the billion dollar Powerball lottery was climbing in value, both my parents at two separate moments texted me asking if I had bought a ticket. I told them no, of course not, there is no chance of winning. I remember that night standing with a friend in a 7/11 store waiting to get subway tokens. There was a separate line for everyone buying lottery tickets and for everyone else. I came home that night and my parents were arguing with each other because they both had bought four lottery tickets, one for each member of my family. What is remarkable is that my radically pragmatic dad, and my deeply cynical mom, both were so enchanted by the tiniest chance they may win money that they caved, and like a lot of America that week, bought their first lottery ticket.
With Trump, many people are registering to vote, becoming politicised and attending rallies for primaries for the first time in their life. To many, he represents a small opportunity to make a radical change in America the same way the lottery is a 0.00000034246575% chance to radically change that number in your bank account. Except Trump’s chances of becoming the President of the United States are 3/1 according to Paddy Power.
Revolutionary? I think not
Although Trump tried to give the impression that he is revolutionising politics, he has far from achieved this. At one point in the film The Social Network, Sean Parker, says, “Napster wasn’t a failure. I changed the music industry for better and for always. It may not have been good business but it pissed a lot of people off.” Trump doesn’t measure up to this.
Yes Trump pisses a lot of people off with his despicable rhetoric and radical demagoguery, but he has neither changed politics for better nor for ever. He’s gained a strong and loyal following from newcomers to politics, from a very old demographic who are statistically less educated than the voters of every other candidate.
National polls show Trump losing to nearly any candidate from the Democratic party. Trump has next to no endorsements save for the embarrassment that is/was Christie’s failed attempt. Even now, Cruz is only 84 delegates behind Trump despite his poor showing on Super Tuesday. Subtract Kasich and Rubio whose delegates (would more likely than not end up with Cruz) and Cruz soundly beats Trump in the race despite all the polling and the positive spin we hear reported by Trump rallies. Once the noise of the GOP Primary is over, it will be very simple to distinguish a true candidate like Clinton or Sanders from Trump. I can foresee many traditional conservative voters picking the lesser of two evils and going for a more moderate Clinton against Trump in a two person national Presidential race.
And then, after this cycle, America will regress to the mean: the career politicians of yesteryear will flourish again. We will all be thankful.