When Donald Trump first announced he was running to become president of the United States in June last year, I can’t remember many who weren’t rolling their eyes over the sheer impossibility of Trump winning the Republican nomination, let alone seeing "the Donald" in the White House. Yet, today, Trump has found backing from a variety of top politicians, including the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Alaskan State governor Sarah Palin, and is surprisingly close to the 1,237 delegates he needs to receive the Republican nomination.
Across the board, Trump is remarkably, and consistently, unpopular, especially outside his own party. With Independent voters, Trump has a minus 27% net favourability rating, while with Democratic voters his rating sinks to minus 70 - easily the worst of all the GOP contenders.
Of course, Trump isn’t universally popular within his own party either, but it's his opinion ratings with General Election voters that could sink him - they are lower than those of any other presidential candidate, including Hillary Clinton. At least two of the Republican campaigns (current and former) have plans in place to try and avert the threat of Trump winning the nomination if there is a brokered convention (where no candidate has a majority of delegates before the first official vote at the party’s nominating convention). Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell (the senate majority leader) has set out a plan that would see Republican legislators standing for re-election in November explicitly disown Trump. The Republican party itself could be set to fracture under the pressure of Trump-mania.
Many of Trump’s claims seem improbable, including the deportation of every illegal immigrant in the USA (which has been derided by the other Republican candidates). Furthermore, the majority of Republican voters disagree – according to a survey carried out in 2015, 56% believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States if they meet certain conditions. Currently, the US spends $2billion a year on detaining undocumented immigrants and preventing illegal border crossings, and it’s thought that there are approximately 11.3 million undocumented immigrants.
According to the Center of American Progress, it would cost approximately $10,070 to deport each immigrant, with an overall cost of $114 bn (£81bn). Analysis by the American Action Forum suggests that this process would take over 20 years – a lot longer than the two-year target that Trump has set. The report, published in 2015, also estimates that undocumented immigrants made up 6.4% of the workforce in 2014, and that by deporting these 11 million workers, the US economy would shrink by $1.6 trillion (6%), by 2035. So Trump’s project certainly wouldn’t come cheap.
But mass deportations would not just have an economic impact. They could also have a terrible social impact. The use of a “deportation force” on this scale implies the rise of a police state, pithily described by Hillary Clinton as “absurd, inhumane, and un-American”. The rounding up of the neighbours, colleagues, friends, and even family members of “regular Americans’’ would surely lead to an outcry. It would not only disrupt the lives of virtually all Americans, but also cause massive interruptions for business, and almost inevitably, Trump’s force would end up deporting a few actual American citizens in the process. Even with an error rate of 0.1%, that’s still thousands of American citizens who are supposed to be protected by their constitution.
Trump is looking more and more unstoppable for the nomination right now despite his ridiculous claims, especially since Marco Rubio has dropped out. But for many Republicans the unthinkable has become reality – voting for Hillary Clinton. In an election with the least popular frontrunners of a generation, many Republicans have come to the conclusion that in order to stop Trump (a candidate who, in a recent poll, half of Republican voters said they were unsure they could bring themselves to support come November) - they might have to put their vote in the hands of Clinton, who seems to be the only person this late in the game who is strong enough to take on Trump, and win.