Trump Stumbles

     The day that Donald Trump lurched hard to the right was on the day he told the NRA convention he supported guns in schools.
     At a family dinner in San Diego, my sister had the same reaction. She said he had abandoned his gut instinct, gave a standard speech using individuals as political props, and lost his way.
     My nephew pointed out that Trump’s pronouncement would not hurt him with his supporters.
     That is true.
     But in order to win in November, Trump would have to convince people, voters, who are somewhere in the vast middle, not enthusiastic about Clinton and not too sure about the Republican alternative.
     And Trump’s fans are not going anywhere. The gun-toting right has no other candidate to turn to. So he didn’t need to go all-in on guns.
     And I don’t need to see a poll to know that not many people think it’s a great idea to allow guns in schools. Trump was just hurting himself, a strategic mistake.
     Up until then, what had appealed to many, including Democrats, was Trump’s paean to the common man. He sang the song of the factory workers without work, the really, actually, abandoned middle class, those who have lost any realistic hope of doing better than their parents, those who have been ground under by the shifting tectonic plates of the economy. It was a little like Bernie’s song.
     But as soon as Trump tried to get serious, all of that slipped away like morning fog.
     While I have thought for months that he had a good chance of going all the way to the White House, I think he finally stumbled.
     He is, as I see it, abandoning his populist stance, and embracing Republican cant on enough issues to be sucked back into the political mainstream, enough to be seen as part of the same political system that so many Americans are rightly tired of.
     Lined up against him, Hillary Clinton is no dream candidate for the Democrats. She does not inspire enthusiasm, seems incapable of it, largely.
     But the old alliances will largely come into play, I am guessing. Unions and minorities, including the Hispanic voters, will turn out for Clinton. The Tea Party will go all-in for Trump. And the business folks will have a hard time generating a vigorous campaign for the hard-core, isolationist views of that slice of the American voters.
     So I think the folks in the middle will swing to the Democrats, for the most part, and the pivot states will have seen enough of the Donald to vote against him.
     But then you have my census worker.
     She phoned to ask some questions the other day, and I returned the favor. She lives in a white, working-class suburb with her daughter.
     She well understood the value of the census, explaining that it was needed to direct government funds for schools, roads and healthcare. But that was where her liberalism ended.
     When I started asking questions, she told me she was a very conservative Republican. She said the main reason she was voting for Trump was because members of her family cannot find work.
     But then she went down the Trump speaking points, hitting them one by one.
     “It’s not immigration, it’s an invasion,” she said. “Obama wants to bring in Muslims and not even check them.”
     On guns, she said she grew up around them but never learned to shoot. “When Obama started talking about gun control, I went out and bought a handgun,” she said. “If they want it, they can come get it bullets first.”
     This is a census worker employed by the federal government. “The country has gotten really messed up in the last seven years,” she said. “There is no stability.”
     She likes Bernie Sanders better than Hillary Clinton, but she could not see having a “socialist” president.
     The census worker regurgitated Trump’s attack on Clinton as an “enabler of the degradation of women” while at the same time “running on the woman issue.”
     Getting into the nitty gritty of public benefits, she said 41 million people get some type of government assistance. She was not entirely opposed to public benefits, but she believes social security should be preserved over welfare.
     I noted that Trump has not been that conservative on some issues. He is the best alternative, she shot back. “I would not vote for Hillary if she was the only person on the ballot.”
     Unfortunately, the census worker had called on a land line at home that is very rarely used. The charge ran out and the phone died.
     Jobs, nativism, guns. That’s the Trump platform. It certainly will pack some punch. But as that message gets defined and locked in, my prediction, and so many about Trump have been wrong, is that in a national election he will not have the numbers.

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