Election prediction: Trump loses even if he wins

Column:

Election prediction: Trump loses even if he wins

Trump gloats on the campaign trail

Donald Trump praises James Comey on the campaign trail after Comey announced that the FBI is reviewing additional emails related to Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information. Oct. 31, 2016. (CBS Miami)

Donald Trump praises James Comey on the campaign trail after Comey announced that the FBI is reviewing additional emails related to Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information. Oct. 31, 2016. (CBS Miami)

Eric ZornEric ZornContact ReporterChange of Subject

I don't know which candidate will win the presidency next Tuesday.

The polls seem unusually volatile, and even though the fundamentals tend to favor Democrat Hillary Clinton, the tide of news lately has been running against her and this bizarre election season has offered one surprise after another.

I do know, however, that, win or lose, history will be unkind to Republican Donald Trump.

The inevitable tell-all memoirs from those inside his campaign will reveal that he is even more thin-skinned, even more ignorant of current events and public policy, even more vain and even more of a bigot and cynical con man than we now know.

Investigative reporters and biographers will underscore the obvious — that he was the most erratic, ill-prepared, impulsive, shallow and therefore dangerous person ever to be a major-party presidential nominee.

History will show that his promises were all bluff and bluster. History will show that he had notions, not plans, and that they ran the gamut from far-fetched to preposterous.

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton in new poll but trails early voting
Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton in new poll but trails early voting
Emily Guskin and Scott Clement

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are all but tied in the latest Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll, which finds Clinton backers slipping behind in enthusiasm even as the Democrat has an edge in early voting.

The tracking poll finds little shift in Clinton's overall support following news of...

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are all but tied in the latest Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll, which finds Clinton backers slipping behind in enthusiasm even as the Democrat has an edge in early voting.

The tracking poll finds little shift in Clinton's overall support following news of...

(Emily Guskin and Scott Clement)

History will show that Trump's pursuit of victory inflated the false hopes and inflamed the worst passions of Americans who feel left behind in the new economy and threatened by the increasing multicultural diversity in society. It will show that in exploiting and deceiving these voters with his slogans and coded appeals to nativism he left the country polarized, paranoid and peeved, as dysfunctionally split as it's been in more than 100 years.

Victory will not vindicate him. As president, Trump will be, to use his favorite word, a disaster. He will disappoint his supporters, vindicate his harshest critics, terrify our allies and embolden our enemies. His splenetic personality, minuscule attention span and profound lack of knowledge and curiosity about the intricacies of domestic and global politics will make him easy to goad into missteps. His stubbornness and self-regard will prompt him to stay treacherous courses.

Defeat will not rehabilitate him. In defeat, Trump will leave a toxic legacy of degraded public discourse that will take years to clean up. His nastiness and dishonesty have plunged our politics to a new low in the modern era. His rhetoric has brought white supremacy, anti-Semitism and unapologetic sexism out of the shadows and into the malignant mainstream.

You know this, too, I suspect.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Evan Vucci / AP

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Golden, Colo.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Golden, Colo.

(Evan Vucci / AP)

But Hillary Clinton rubs some of you the wrong way. She wrongly used a private email server when she was secretary of state and may have exposed confidential information to foreign spies. You can't point to any real-world negative consequences of this admitted misdeed — an undercover agent exposed, a mission compromised — just like you can't point to any government policy change or concession that looks like a quid pro quo for donations to the Clinton Foundation, her family's charity.

She's lawyerly, secretive, calculating and too often has her finger to the wind on matters of policy. I get that you wish she were less sketchy.

But she is in most ways a conventionally flawed politician, no more ambitious, deceitful or venal than many of the glad-handers who run for public office. And she is extremely knowledgeable about the issues and the ways of Washington.

Paul Ryan votes for Trump, won't campaign for him in final days of race
Paul Ryan votes for Trump, won't campaign for him in final days of race
Sean Sullivan, John Wagner, Jenna Johnson

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday that he has voted for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but he has no plans to campaign for him in the final week of the race.

"I stand where I've stood all fall and all summer. In fact, I already voted here in Janesville for our nominee...

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday that he has voted for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but he has no plans to campaign for him in the final week of the race.

"I stand where I've stood all fall and all summer. In fact, I already voted here in Janesville for our nominee...

(Sean Sullivan, John Wagner, Jenna Johnson)

To compare her to Trump — to wring your hands that this is a choice between comparable "evils" or to pivot away from whatever appalling thing Trump has just said or whatever frighteningly glaring weakness he has just exhibited with a whiny "but Hillary …!" is to grossly misrepresent or misunderstand the stakes of this election and to enable the catastrophic rise of a uniquely perilous man.

Hillary Clinton is the only person who can prevent a rash, unqualified demagogue from becoming the president of the United States.

There is no way around this: To spout false equivalencies between the two or to support the petulant, symbolic candidacies of third-party ideologues because your sense of purity has been offended is to make her defeat more likely.

The best analogy I've heard for this election is that a terrible storm is bearing down upon us. You can either join in raising the alarms and aiding in getting the people to safety, or you can stand by and criticize the fine points of evacuation plans, cast doubt on the strength of the storm and disparage the reputations of the emergency managers.

One other thing I know: Not only will history be unkind to Donald Trump, win or lose, it will also be unkind to those who enabled him.

Twitter @EricZorn

Donald Trump through the years

Take a look at Donald Trump's life long before his 2016 presidential bid.

Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune

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