It’s happening. For the first time, Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton in an average of national polls:
Are overconfident Democrats scared yet? Are those who prayed for a Trump nomination because it “guaranteed” a Democratic victory finally regretting those prayers? They should be. While I’m well aware that the popular vote does not decide a presidential election, this national trend signals measurable Trumpmentum. As this website has said time and time again, the Republican Party, from its leadership to Fox News to the voters, was inevitably going to rally around him. It’s a process, but it’s happening.
And while the GOP raises all hands on deck in its effort to block Clinton from the White House, Bernie Sanders, but for his blue uniform, could be mistaken for one of its crew. As Trump consolidates support and wails on “Crooked Hillary,” often with Sanders’s own words and ideas, Clinton herself is left badly damaged. Primaries create wounds; general elections rip them open.
Clinton is now fighting an impossible two-front war. Both fronts are led by populist insurgents who want Clinton, her family, and her forever-rigging establishment support in Washington and the media out of power. Both are critical of her hawkish foreign policy votes in the Senate and decisions in the State department.
Yet these fronts also squeeze her from opposite sides of domestic policy, leaving her only a tiny ideological center-left nook that isn’t nearly large enough to assemble a platform that can win a majority of the country. Republicans obviously won’t vote for her, but liberals are claiming they won’t either. Sanders, who wasn’t a Democrat until seven months ago, has succeeded in driving a wedge into the party. Each accusation, implication, and primary won is another sledgehammer into that wedge, cleaving it so deeply that reassembly is no longer guaranteed (though I do suspect still possible). Jill Stein is looking awfully good to disaffected progressives of the United States, who seem to care less that, as senators, Sanders and Clinton voted identically 93 percent of the time, and more about something which transcends a voting record. It’s her iffy character, shady intentions, and dirty money that are not worthy of their vote, and they’ll let Trump into the Oval Office to prove it.
The effects of the two fronts on camp Clinton reveals itself through Clinton-Trump polling. Here were the polls from mid-February to the end of April:
That was 20 straight polls for Clinton, half by double digits. It’s after this stretch where Trump escaped the Republican Primary and Sanders was rejuvenated by his May victories. Now she’s lost to Trump in three of the last five polls.
Sanders and his vocal supporters rightfully remind us that Sanders polls much better nationally and in state polls against Trump than Clinton does, and his favorability is much stronger. They’d also be accurate to point out that Clinton’s struggles against Trump are more the fault of her record, personality, and past mistakes than the fault of a humble senator from Vermont. But I also don’t think they can totally absolve themselves of this downturn. Their actions, including their passionate social media movement, are complicit in Trump’s momentum.
Regardless, it is the right of Sanders and his supporters to push forward and hope for a miracle. Of course, the miracle won’t happen and their undying hope for it will increase the likelihood of a Trump Administration. Close to three million more people have voted for Clinton in this process. Team Sanders claims to be the better match-up in the general election, but so did John Kasich in the weeks leading up to his campaign ending. It doesn’t matter. An AFC team doesn’t get to the Superbowl because it matches up best against the NFC Champion; it first must win the AFC title game. Right now, Team Sanders is down three touchdowns at the two-minute warning, but they’re still trying to take out the opponent’s quarterback.
Still, if the issues and priorities of Sanders and his supporters are more important to them than whether Clinton or Trump sit behind the Resolute Desk for four to eight years, then conscience demands they continue blitzing. Meanwhile, for the first time, Trump leads nationally in general election polling. What’s the next ceiling his detractors need him to crash through to believe in his viability?
This is happening.