There have been countless headlines in the last year imploring voters to take Donald Trump seriously. So many words have been written urging the folks who previously denied Trump's staying power to wake up, smell the self-tanner fumes, and recognize that The Donald has the (terrifying) potential to take this election. However, despite the fact that Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee, that reality hasn't set in. And this state of affairs will continue as long as prominent Democrats, like former Speaker of the House and California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, are making "guarantees" that Trump won't win the general election.
In an interview with the Recode Decode podcast, hosted by Kara Swisher, Pelosi was adamant: "Trump is not going to be president of the United States ... Take it to the bank. I guarantee it."
They are the words that so, so many of us want to hear. However, the real problem with statements like this — which have been made everywhere from your college roommate's Facebook statuses to the Republican primary debate stage — is that they willfully ignore the realities of this election by dismissing the power (whether it's due to cult of personality, authoritarianism, fear-mongering, or another mysterious force) that Trump clearly has. Regardless of their morale-building intent, stating that a Trump loss is a "guarantee" without promising a long haul of work, including campaigning and mobilizing voters, is terribly misleading and dangerous.
To be clear, when it comes to keeping Trump out of the White House, the onus is on any and all critics. Making sure Trump doesn't become commander-in-chief won't happen automatically.
Pelosi made an excellent point about the forces that have allowed Trump to prosper (a bitter sh*tstorm of knee-jerk racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and good ol' fashioned anger), but she fell short of diagnosing the true problem when she called him a "here today, gone tomorrow” candidate. After all, we've had far too many yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows, and too many WTF moments with Trump, for this to be true. Far too often, it was the way he's been underestimated and dismissed by his opponents — treated like a fad, a pop culture moment, or a joke — which has ensured his lasting presence in this election and the mobilization of the people who support him. The very same toxic environment that paved the way for the steady rise of Trump could easily have the power to sustain him in the general election.
The philosophy governing many Republicans (particularly the ones who were in the #NeverTrump camp) during the primary race relied on things working themselves out as they always had: An establishment-approved candidate would rise, and the excitement around Trump would transfer to that candidate. Yet we're now looking at Trump as the presumptive nominee, with the likes of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (each considered more ~realistic~ options for the GOP) completely out of the game. It's clear that the rules (and, more importantly, the values of conservative voters) have shifted. There's no War of the Worlds ending here, and the body politic's chances of flushing out the poison without a real fight are gone.
If you look at the match-up polls between Trump and Hillary Clinton, they simply don't back up any broad-stroke "guarantee." Instead, they promise something many of us have feared: an ugly, close fight. While Clinton held a five-point advantage on Trump in previous weeks, it inched down to a three-point advantage in a NBC News / Survey Monkey poll released Tuesday. While Clinton maintains solid leads in some demographics (particularly with female, black, and Hispanic voters), Trump holds his own among independent and conservative voters. It would be a grave mistake to promote the idea that Clinton (or any non-Trump candidate) has this race lock down, or to underestimate how crucial it is to turn out for your candidate come fall.
One thing is clear: It's never safe to become overconfident.
Image: Bustle/Caroline Wurtzel