Trump wins, predicted Northern State University political science professor Ken Blanchard. Speaking with Northern colleague Dr. Jon Schaff at Wednesday’s NSU Noon Forum, Dr. Blanchard said that Donald Trump’s apparent momentum this week and other factors give the Republican nominee a strong (but still not bet-worthy) shot at winning on Tuesday.
Blanchard said that historically, when the race is tight at election time, challengers usually beat incumbents. Blanchard cross applies this historical tendency to paint Hillary Clinton as more of the incumbent—member of the incumbent party, former member of the incumbent Administration, not to mention receiving the endorsement of the incumbent President as the candidate who will continue his policies—and Trump as the challenger, not only to the current Administration but to the Republican Party establishment. Blanchard also cited Clinton’s rising negatives and falling voter enthusiasm as weighing in favor of a Trump win.
Blanchard cautioned, however, that Trump’s numbers look like Romney’s in 2012: a surge at the end that stalled shy of 50%, plus polls that overpredicted his actual support. Calling Trump a “human jack-o’lantern,” Blanchard said a more traditional Republican candidate would have been five points ahead and “cruising toward victory” against Clinton, whom he said is part of “one of the most corrupt families to occupy the White House.”
Looking back rather than ahead, Dr. Schaff called 2016 the “Neil Postman election.” Invoking the 1984 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Schaff said that television turns everything into entertainment and trivializes everything it touches. Donald Trump is perfect television-era candidate. Schaff said Trump is “manifestly ignorant of public policy” and gets his information by watching “the shows,” a weird sort of idiot-box Ouroboros. Schaff said that the TV networks gave Trump the equivalent of nearly $3 billion in free publicity—and how could TV not? Television can’t help but devote a majority of its coverage to a candidate who gives them ratings—Schaff cited CBS chairman Les Moonves’s February 29, 2016, statement that, Trump’s candidacy “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS…. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”
Schaff blames not just TV but the popular primary system for the rise of Trump… a rise predicted, said Schaff, by James Ceasar in his 1979 book Presidential Selection. Schaff said that allowing rank-and-file voters to select Presidential nominees instead of party leaders leads to costly, perpetual campaigns that favor demagogues over moderates and team players. Demagogues make for good TV, but they don’t make for good governance, which requires collaboration and compromise. Competent compromisers get Cantorized. Schaff added that good candidates are hamstrung by campaign finance rules that hinder them from raising the money they need to beat back TV candidates like Trump.
Looking beyond the Presidential match-up, Blanchard said he foresees the GOP holding the Senate but only by a seat or two. Schaff said the GOP will likely lose the Senate, but he recognizes that Trump-mentum could change that outcome. With both District 3 Senate candidates in the audience (but only one of them taking notes to prepare a blog post to share the experience with the public), neither Blanchard nor Schaff dared venture further down ticket.