It's about that time when presidential polling starts to matter. The frontrunners, nationally as well as in Iowa and New Hampshire, remain the same as they've been all summer. The most recent RealClearPolitics average of national polling has Donald Trump at just under 30 percent and Hillary Clinton at about 56 percent. Trump, a product of entertainment/politics culture difficult to find historical parallels for, has unsurprisingly dominated news coverage. He has a knack for outdoing not just other candidates but himself when it comes to trashing constitutional principles and being a bad person.
Most recently, Trump blew a hole into the news cycle by announcing he was in favor of closing the U.S. borders to all Muslims trying to enter legally, eventually having to walk that back so as to exempt American Muslims who may be overseas. Do the details matter? Donald Trump has very little chance of being president. His odds are at 8 percent, compared to 55 percent for Hillary Clinton, according to ElectionBettingOdds.com.
More importantly, Trump's comments have garnered derision not just from his Democratic opponents but most of his Republican ones. Even Rand Paul, who has supported closing immigration from a number of "high risk" Middle Eastern countries characterized Trump's call to stop all Muslim entry into the U.S. a "mistake." Other candidates, and even Speaker Paul Ryan, condemned his comments. So many Republicans blasted Trump for his inane comments that he's threatening to leave the Republican party. Most Trump supporters would be able to find another Republican candidate to support. But the opposite is not true—supporters of other Republican candidates are highly unlikely to switch to Trump if their preferred candidate backed out. I think even Trump would concede (or brag) that he's nobody's "second choice."
Trump's views are awful, but there's no sign they're part of mainstream Republican thinking. If anything, his candidacy has allowed other Republicans to illustrate how much worse Republicans could be than what their opponents claim about them now. Trump has not been able to substantively break 30 percent since jumping into the race. It's his ceiling. That 30 percent is a subset of Republican voters, who make up just 25 percent of the American population. Trump is a tempest in a teapot.
Not so for Hillary Clinton, who looks poised for a relatively easy win in the Democratic primaries. Clinton may not be calling for an end to all Muslim immigration, but the policies she's supported and executed have directly contributed to the instability in the Middle East and North Africa that is being exploited by Trump's xenophobic fervor. And her party, just last week, began an organized call to curb the Second Amendment rights of Muslims on the "no-fly list." That list contains tens of thousands of names, almost exclusively Muslim, placed arbitrarily based on leads often generated by the irrational fears of tipsters, or even law enforcement, and not any kind of detective work, let alone due process.
None of the Islamist terrorists to hit the United States since 9/11, including the Fort Hood shooter, the Boston Marathon bombers, the Chattanooga shooter, and the San Bernardino shooters were on no-fly lists. But countless innocent Muslims are, with little recourse of getting off, even if they're veterans. The no-fly list is not some carnival barker's brain fart on the campaign trail, it's a federal tool, with basically no oversight, that's used to keep thousands of Muslims from flying and that the ruling party in this country, right now, wants to use to keep thousands of Muslims from exercising their right to bear arms as well. But Democrats can point to Donald Trump, who has articulated a position—no Muslim entry into the U.S.—that is not shared by any elected Republican in Washington and that no politician is actively working to implement.
Similarly, the fears Trump exploits when he calls for an end to Muslim entry into the U.S., and that other nativists exploit when they call on suspending immigration from certain countries or for the U.S. to stop accepting refugees, exist in large part because of the policies of the Obama administration, and specifically those executed by Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state during President Obama's first term.
Today, ISIS is reportedly training pilots in Sirte, Libya, a city just across the Mediterranean Sea from the shores of Italy. ISIS is believed to be building up a base in Libya in case the international coalition operating in Iraq and Syria manages to dislodge them from the territory they hold there. The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is a result of the disastrous U.S. war in Iraq, but its ascendancy in Libya is a result of the 2011 U.S. intervention in that country, one that Hillary Clinton gave her full-throttled support as secretary of state. Clinton also voted for the Iraq war back in 2003. She's had to apologize for supporting the latter war, but the foreign policy and the professed anti-war positions of the Democratic base have not forced her to apologize for supporting the intervention in Libya. She continues to defend it.
That Clinton appears to be headed for an easy victory on the Democratic side without engaging with her responsibility for the situation today is a tragedy. So is that Republicans are poised to choose a candidate who won't be able to challenge Clinton on her positions because they support them too (and all the Republican candidates, save for Rand Paul and maybe Ted Cruz, do).