Donald Trump's "Loser" Rhetoric May Be Haunting Him
For those of us who have spent more than a year closely watching the Donald Trump campaign, waiting for rationality and sanity to set in — and for the candidate who's spewed racist, xenophobic, misogynist rhetoric to get soundly drubbed out of national politics — it’s hard to celebrate weeks like these, when reason appears to be reasserting itself and Trump's numbers in the polls tank hard. It’s like the boy who cried wolf, but instead it’s the poll who cried the end of Trump. We just aren’t ready to believe it.
I’ve felt this most viscerally when viewing the latest forecasts from FiveThirtyEight, whose current polls-only forecast gives Trump a 12.5 percent chance of winning the election. I find myself feeling queasy with false hope rather than relieved. The site has even had to put out a piece specifically countering allegations that the polls are simply skewed against Trump and the GOP. And yet my unease persists.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Jon Favreau, former speechwriter for President Obama, tried to gird us for the possibility of a Trump comeback, writing for The Ringer, “The media will eventually grow tired of the ‘Trump’s finished’ story line and move on to the much more clickable ‘Trump’s comeback’ narrative. Any day now, some Quinnipiac poll that shows a tied race in Pennsylvania will force Democrats to lose control of their bladders.”
Favreau is right, and in an election that has had more twists than a Chubby Checker's song, there’s nothing wrong in mentally preparing for all eventualities.
However, what is worth taking time to note what's going on around this latest downturn in Donald’s fortunes. Monday’s declaration by Maine Sen. Susan Collins that she wouldn't vote for Trump was the latest of a series of public disaffections by GOP leaders against the party's nominee. These aren’t opinions given in the privacy of a pollster’s phone call, but clear, active, prominent displays of Republicans rejecting Trump.
To look a layer deeper, it’s worth noting that the justifications these Republicans give for jumping ship are hardly new. Trump’s rudeness, his cavalier I-do-what-I-want nature, and his unwillingness to apologize have been proudly on display since the primaries. Yet pundits marveled at how the rules don’t apply to Trump, as he picked up state after state in the GOP primaries. Perhaps the chickens are coming home to roost, and the qualities that made him surge in the primaries are hurting him in the general election.
Where Trump has really painted himself into a corner, though, is on his statements surrounding winners and losers. Now that Trump is down in the polls, his own rhetoric might be starting to work against him. Studies have suggested that voters tend to support candidates who physically look like winners. An article in Scientific American cited an increasing body of research that showed, "Even when it comes to electing their leaders, it seems, people are heavily influenced by the images that these politicians project (even unwittingly)." While Trump has played up his "winner" image and contrasted it against the "losers," he is no longer giving off that air. Perhaps it is possible that as the narrative paints Trump less as a resurgent underdog and more as someone struggling to stay afloat, his "loser" aspects will snowball. I can only hope it rolls downhill all the way to to November.
Image: Bustle/Caroline Wurtzel