The idea of someone like Donald Trump becoming the most powerful man in the world would normally seem delusional. Unfortunately, we live in delusional times. Over the past week, it’s become increasingly clear that Trump has a fair chance of capturing the White House. Despite the fact that Trump is a policy ignoramus, a compulsive liar, a dealer in fraud, a white supremacist enabler, and an all-around creep, he has been inching up in the polls as Hillary Clinton‘s lead shrinks. And this would be very bad news indeed for all things LGBTQ.
In large part, that’s because of Clinton’s disastrous week: the news of her (mild) pneumonia coming out only after she appeared unstable in public, her comment that half of Trump’s supporters were a “basket of deplorables.” (Which, by the way is a classic gaffe: it’s undeniably true, but political civility forbids such comments–at least by Democrats.)
The odds still favor Clinton, but if the trend continues, that won’t last for long.
Scary as it is to consider, here are seven ways that Trump could actually become our next president.
1. Wavering Republicans make their peace with Trump
One of Trump’s main problems is that, compared to past GOP nominees, he is under-performing among key voting blocs, especially suburban women and college-educated professionals. If those voters decide that they would rather risk a Trump presidency, with all its unknowns, than a Clinton presidency, with its predictable agenda, Trump could start making up some lost ground.
2. Trump continues to temper his language
The shifting polls aren’t just because Clinton is doing worse as a candidate. It’s also because Trump is doing better. Up until last Friday, when he reverted back to his Big Lie strategy, Trump has been relatively calm, at least by Trump standards. No attacking Gold Star parents or federal judges. Intentionally muddying the water on his anti-immigration rhetoric. A benumbed press actually treated the candidate as if he were normal. If Trump can keep that up, the numbness may extend to voters who are uncomfortable with Clinton and want a change, no matter what.
3. Clinton has another health scare
The last thing you want as a presidential candidate is footage of you looking like you’re about to keel over, particularly when you haven’t told people you are sick. That’s the kind of thing that sows doubt in people’s minds. It also feeds another lie from Trump surrogates that Clinton is suffering from something more serious, like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, which, of course, she is not. She’s healthier than he is, according to medical experts.
4. An October surprise frightens the country
If there is a terrorist attack, particularly if it’s large scale and on American soil, Trump will voice the visceral response, which is kill them all and let God sort them out. His rhetoric of retribution and demand for a policy change (guaranteed to be unspecified or nonsensical) will make him look like the strong candidate. Clinton is plenty hawkish, but Trump will blame Obama and by extension her for whatever happened. Voters may be scared and prefer the extreme response, not a measured one.
5. Clinton’s supporters end up concentrated in just a few states
It’s entirely possible that we could see a replay of 2000: the candidate who wins the popular votes loses the election. Clinton could rack up large margins in her strongholds, like California and New York, but if she loses by even a razor-thin margin in the swing states that matter–Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, chief among them–it won’t matter. Trump could lose by millions of votes nationwide, but if he wins the Electoral College, that’s the only thing that counts.
6. Third-party candidates siphon votes from Clinton
At present, at least, the two third-party candidates–Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein–are polling far better than past third-party candidates. And their success comes at Clinton’s expense, especially with younger voters. (Bernie Sanders did not help Clinton in this regard.) If young voters decide that they want to send a message, their protest votes could siphon enough from Clinton to clear the way for Trump to win.
7. The mainstream media keep insisting on false equivalency
Judging from the volume of coverage in the press, you might think that the candidate whose foundation failed to deliver on State Department access to its big donors was just as bad as the candidate who routinely stiffs people working for him and rakes in money from scams. The mainstream media keeps replaying Clinton’s decisions, like her e-mail server, because there’s smoke there (and Clinton’s defensive crouch doesn’t help her). But there’s never any fire. Meanwhile, Trump is a towering inferno of unethical and possibly illegal practices. Yet the press doesn’t treat the two differently. The media shouldn’t pull it’s punches on Clinton, but right now it’s signalling voters that they are facing two equally bad choices.
Just in case you’ve been asleep for the past year, here’s a bulletin: Trump is a lot worse than Clinton.