The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Desire for Change Won’t Be Enough for Trump to Win

Stephen Moore recently expressed a theory about the election, one I’ve found to be commonly held by Trump supporters who are optimistic about his chances, with the economy that Twitter forces on its users: “If people think our country is going in the right direction they’ll vote for Hillary. If they think it’s not, they’ll vote for Trump.” The theory justifies optimism about Trump because most Americans do not think the country is going in the right direction. In the most recent average of polls, 66 percent of Americans think we’re on the wrong track and 26 percent think we’re headed in the right direction. Does that mean a Trump landslide is on the way?

No. Americans thought the country was on the wrong track four years ago too: The poll average on June 28, 2012, had 62 percent saying “wrong track” and 30 percent saying “right direction,” only slightly more positive than today. The gap narrowed during the campaign, but even on Election Day a majority picked “wrong track.” In September 2012, Fox News asked, “Do you want the country to mostly stay on the course it’s on or do you think many policies need to change?” The result was a 73-24 percent split in favor of change. The incumbent president nevertheless won re-election handily.

Trump is a candidate well suited to get the votes of people who are so unhappy with the status quo that they want to blow the system up. (Leaving aside whether he actually would blow it up, he appeals to that sentiment.) But a lot of unhappy voters are more cautious than that; and some of them are left-wing. In November, Hillary Clinton will get the votes of many Americans who are dissatisfied with the state of the country but consider Trump unacceptable for various reasons. Even if people want change, they have to be convinced that the change on offer would be for the better.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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