Opinion

Don't Eulogize Donald Trump Yet

Let’s not forget that he’s been down and out before – and has still come back to life. This election is too volatile for anyone to predict how it will end.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the KI Convention Center on October 17, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. / AFP PHOTO / Tasos Katopodis
Tasos Katopodis / AFP

Donald Trump, conventional wisdom has it, is done. Following his most recent spate of scandals, the possibility that the GOP nominee could actually win the presidency has been rendered nearly impossible by many (if not most) serious political pundits in the United States and elsewhere. The New York Times currently gives Trump a 10-percent chance of winning, while Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gives him an 11.8-percent chance. CNN’s polls of polls, released Monday, shows Hillary Clinton beating her rival handily – by 8 percent.

Overall, the consensus is clear: Trump simply cannot recover from his current predicament. And in January, Clinton will enter the White House as the first female U.S. president. An Los Angeles Times reader perfectly captured the fatigue and impatience that has taken hold over many a journalist and plenty of voters, when he asked: “Trump is finished. Can we vote and be done with this campaign already?”

Hate to be the buzzkill here, but hold your horses, people. Remember, we’ve been here many, many times before. In the past 18 months, Trump’s campaign has been pronounced dead and buried on countless occasions, only to defy conventional media wisdom and miraculously come back to life.

Granted, it is difficult to imagine how the Trump campaign can possibly recover right now — the man has been accused of sexual assault by numerous women, and innumerable recordings and videos showing him making lewd statements about women (so crass they make even the current iteration of Trump seem almost-classy by comparison) keep turning up.

But just because it is difficult to picture something, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. While it’s not very likely, Trump may very well recover and who knows, even win this election. Don’t believe it? Just consider how many times in the last 18 months it looked like this is “the beginning of the end” for Donald Trump.

What follows is a short list of multiple occasions in which the Trump campaign looked all but finished in the media, only to recover shortly thereafter. It is downright impossible to give a full list here (seriously, just take a look at the length of the list that ThinkProgress prepared in October 2015), so what follows is more of a quick refresher course in the dangers of prematurely eulogizing Donald Trump:

Summer 2015: In July, a mere month after he launched his presidential campaign with the infamous speech in which he declared all Mexicans to be “rapists,” Trump mocked Senator John McCain for being captured during the Vietnam War. In The New York Times, Nate Cohn called this “the moment when Trump’s candidacy went from boom to bust.” Many other pundits followed suit. Trump, of course, soared to even greater heights. In August, following a disappointing performance during the first Republican debate and subsequent lewd remarks about blood coming out of Megyn Kelly’s “wherever,” the consensus held that this was truly “the beginning of the end” for Trump. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

June 2016: Pundits had pronounced the demise of the Trump campaign numerous times during the Republican primary, yet Trump took it handily. Then, during this month, his poll numbers dropped drastically after he attacked federal judge Gonzalo Curiel for his heritage so drastically that the candidate was trailing Clinton by 12 percent at one point. Again, this was the “beginning of Trump’s end.” It wasn’t. He recovered by July.

August 2016: Remember the previous meltdown of Trump’s campaign? Time Magazine ran a cover story on the inner turmoil within his campaign, chronicling Trump’s disastrous summer. Again, this was “the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.”

September 2016: By this month, however, the mood changed and analysts started proclaiming that Trump is headed for a win. By September 26, FiveThirtyEight gave him a 51.1-percent chance of winning if the election were to be held then.

Is Trump really finished? Maybe. But don’t count on it.

Which leads us to the present day, with his campaign again beset by scandal and bad polling, with Time Magazine running yet another “total meltdown” cover story, and pundits again pondering a post-Trump America as if there aren’t still three weeks left to go until Election Day. Once again, this is “the beginning of the end.”

On the one hand, it is easy to understand why Trump’s decline does indeed feel permanent this time. Trump himself — with his rantings about a secret cabal of “international bankers” stealing the election from him, his self-victimization and his burgeoning Pete Townsend impression — seems to be preparing excuses for the day after he loses the election.

The allegations against Trump should be more than enough to kill any candidate. Only he is not just any candidate, and this is not a normal election, and in the past 18 months Trump has done countless things that should have doomed his candidacy, but somehow didn’t. Simply put, this election is too volatile, too extraordinary, for anyone to legitimately predict how it will end. As I mentioned above, many have tried, and they all failed spectacularly.

Don’t get me wrong. Most likely, Trump will lose this election. But the air of inevitability that’s surrounding his eventual loss is premature. If the last 18 months has taught us anything, is that it ain’t over till it’s over. With three weeks to go before this nightmare of an election is over, Trump’s campaign will most likely be pronounced dead and resurrected at least a dozen more times.

If we’re lucky, we’ll witness its true end soon enough.