There is little about Donald Trump’s run to the GOP nomination that follows the traditional script. He is brusque, has little support from the mainstream, an extremely high unfavorability rating and seems to skate each scandal like Clinton before him. Sure there have been party crashers in the past on both sides of the aisles, but most do not snatch the nomination, with the obvious exception of Barry Goldwater in 1964. And even in the murky waters of “positioning,” where flip-flopping and shifting toward the center from primary to general election are quite common, Trump still stands out as an outlier who seems to have left another famous flip-flopper, Romney, in his wake. Just taking a look at a few examples of his ever-changing position on key issues (from a much longer list available here) should serve as a timely reminder of the potential Hairpiece-in-Chief:
In one of the most recent examples of his see-saw platform, Trump made the outlandish claim that women should be “punished” if they have an abortion before backtracking and saying it should be within the state’s purview, then that doctors who perform abortions should be the ones to be punished. Given that abortions are the law of the land at the federal level, even if under constant attack by some states, this is a rather troubling perspective, particularly when taken in concert with other anti-democratic, anti-legal positions the Trumpinator has avowed. And by the way, back in 1999 he claimed to be “very pro choice.”
The War on Terror
Trump’s position on fighting the “war on terror” is as radical as his immigrant policy, though it seems to change from one day to the next, though invariably bellicose, jingoistic and more in line with satire than statesmanship. Sometimes he wants to send troops back to Iraq, sometimes he just wants to bomb members of ISIS (and sometimes their families too), sometimes he just wants to go after their money by bombing their oil fields. Sometimes this position shifts within an interview, or even within a couple of sentences, which seem to have less to do with each other than a Family Guy episode. On the related question of torture, Trump is all for it, but has changed his position in relation to international law. At first he said we should break it, then maybe not, now we should change it so we can avoid those laws legally (and waterboarding is one of his favorites, it turns out).
Speaking of radical positions, I suppose this is the one that sets him apart from the majority of Americans, while also being the issue that essentially launched his improbable run toward the nomination. The wall has always been a big part of his rhetoric on reducing the number of immigrants getting into the country, but it has been coupled with calls to kick out every illegal in the country (and every Muslim, while we’re at it). Sometimes he hedges on this issue, but he still seems intent on throwing 11 million Americans out, including the dreamers (except when he says he might let them back in). On the related issue of H1B Visas, given to high-skilled workers from abroad to fill positions in the U.S., Trump started out against them then was for them, then reverted to his old position, then claimed they were a necessary evil and then went back to his original position that they were bad.
Iran Nuclear Deal
He started out as a supporter of this deal, brokered by the Obama administration and said he would uphold it. Then he decided we should renegotiate the deal while demanding that Iran release U.S. prisoners and that sanctions be restored.
I could go on, but I’m starting to get dizzy. He has also shifted positions on the Muslim deportation/immigration ban, whether to repeal Obamacare, whether he despises David Duke and the KKK or kinda likes their position, on the Syrian refugee crisis and, most recently, on whether he will support the Republican nominee (if it’s not him, of course, though one never does know (Guardian)). Given that the vast majority of his current supporters are white men without a college education, maybe this Charlie Brown wishy-washiness will go unheeded, but it does seem like an issue that could help derail him in the general election.
In fact, current polls show him getting crushed by his presumptive opponent Hillary Clinton in a showdown that would match two of the most divisive candidates in recent memory (NYT). Head-to-head polls versus Clinton show Trump trailing in every key state, including Florida and Ohio, despite her soaring unpopularity ratings with swing voters. Clinton leads by double-digits in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three states in the Rust Belt that Trump has vowed to return to the GOP column. And his unpopularity is so high that he could even put Republican strongholds, like Utah, into play. While any other candidate would run away with an election against someone like Trump, there is concern that Hillary Clinton is herself someone that the masses love to hate. Given the kind of candidacy Trump is running, however, it seems a little early for the fascism that could well be around the corner if we continue on the current path of growing social, political and economic inequality.