Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trump's Super Tuesday,
how it happened and what's next

I CONSIDER myself the Republican nominee,” Donald Trump said last night at Trump Tower, at a victory rally celebrating his clean sweep of five northeastern states – a serial victory over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich that was, in fact, something of a forgone conclusion before the polls even closed.

On what Yahoo News called Super Acela Tuesday – aptly named since the Amtrak commuter train service runs through all five states — Trump let the word go forth: He’s the man to stop, and nobody else.

“Honestly, Sen. Cruz and Gov. Kasich should really get out of the race. They have no path to victory at all,” Trump said. “We should heal the Republican Party, bring the Republican Party together. And I’m a unifier.”

Never mind the fact that, even after winning 105 delegates in Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland last night, Trump still needs almost 300 more delegates to reach the magic number of 1,237 that clinches the GOP nomination. The Donald’s fortunes have clearly been revived.

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Of all the reasons why Trump has risen from the resuscitator his campaign needed a few weeks ago may have a lot to do with the voters who didn’t vote as much as those who did.

Nate Silver at Five Thirty Eight writes: “Trump faces unusually high levels of intraparty opposition for a front-runner — or at least he had seemed to until the past two weeks. But Kasich and Ted Cruz are also deeply flawed, and somewhat factional, candidates.

“It’s asking a lot of voters to cast a tactical vote against Trump when that tactic requires (i) going to a contested convention in order to (ii) deny the candidate with the plurality of votes and delegates the nomination in order to (iii) give the nomination to a candidate they don’t particularly like anyway. The #NeverTrump voters might not be voting for Trump, but they might be staying at home.”

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TRUMP IS still in an enviable position compared to Cruz and Kasich, both in the delegate math and in the way he’s positioning himself in a context of inevitability — as befits a man who would be both king and kingmaker.

And who’s to argue? The Koch brothers washed their hands of Trump’s campaign antics a long time ago. The party leadership — specifically the Republican National Committee and its operatives — have been agonizing over how to stop the Trump juggernaut for months.

And they shouldn’t be surprised; they’ve had fair warning. We all have. The Trump campaign has been generating its own meme, its own myth of inevitability since Trump won his first primaries at the dawn of the year.

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When Trump got in the race last year, the RNC, conservative thought leaders and conservatives in Congress knew or should have known they were getting a tough, presumably angry billionaire attention addict who’d been making candidate noises for years. Someone who could pay his own way and speak his own mind, someone who’d spent 30 years as both a businessman at the heart of the nation’s major regional economy and a showman on the margins of popular culture. A candidate prepared to be more than (as Hugh Hewitt put it last night on MSNBC) “Nelson Rockefeller without the art collection.”

When the GOP field of candidates was crowded at its peak — what the hell was it back then, 17 candidates? 29? 53? Didn’t really matter, they all blurred together in the early going — the conditions were being created even then for the ascendancy of Trump as the one to beat.

You saw it on the debate stage week after week after week. No one else in the field was as willfully provocative; no one else had the frisson of pop culture so fully at their disposal. Nobody else had the ego, the money or the nerve ... and no one else in the field was as pissed off, as angry about the lamentable American present as Donald Trump appeared to be.

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IN THE RELATIVE vacuum of political personalities (some crushed by The Donald’s hand, others imploding on their own), Trump rose to the surface and stayed there. There was too much noise from the other candidates for anyone to see a need to watch him closely.

Back then, from December through early March, a #NeverTrump movement was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. We were having too much fun enjoying the circus. The only unified front that mattered was the one the Republicans hoped to build against the Democrats.

That was then, this is now.

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Now the weeping and wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth already endured by the Republican party leadership is about to get a hell of a lot worse. If the estimate for Trump post-Super Acela primaries is accurate — 950 delegates, give or take — it puts Trump close to the magic number, but not so close that some last-minute bureaucratic challenge, some rabbit from the hat, somehow, some way, somewhere couldn’t be discovered to stop Trump, even at the eleventh hour.

Because that’s what the mainstream GOP thinking comes down to now. Whether he reaches the magic 1,237 or not, and short of an effective petition to the Republican National Convention’s 112-member rules committee, all that stands in the way of a Trump coronation in Cleveland is a brokered convention, something that would showcase the divisions of the party before a national audience. And the GOP doesn’t need or want that. Any more than many rank-and-file Republicans want Donald Trump nominated in the first place.

Conceding the high probability that he wins the nomination (absent force majeure from the rules committee or God Him/Herself), the Republicans’ last hope is to work like hell to turn a monstrous liability (by their own admission) into a gleaming asset. We’ll watch with interest as the GOP pivots from a #NeverTrump mindset to one of total commitment to the idea of a Trump administration. And we’ve already seen what they’d totally committed to.

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WE GOT a good glimpse of that the night Trump won the New York Primary. We may have gotten another peek at life under Trump courtesy of The Boston Globe.

On April 10, tongue deeply embedded in cheek, The Globe published a satirical front page depicting the news of a day in the life of America under President Trump. If satire is truth made wicked funny, we should be very afraid — and the Republicans should be careful what they wish and work for.

Some of the breaking stories: “Curfews extended in multiple cities.” “Markets sink as trade war looms.” “DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN.”

Want some more? “A Republican-controlled Congress … passed sweeping changes to libel law in the United States, moving the bill to the desk of the new president who has promised to sign it. The legislation, a fulfillment of a Trump campaign promise, will make US libel law similar to Great Britain’s and is expected to expose journalists to frequent high-dollar lawsuits.”

“Markets from the Dow to the FTSE to the Nikkei have sunk on speculation that China is dumping some of its US Treasury holdings after the Trump administration announced tariffs as high as 45 percent for all Chinese imports and 35 percent for some Mexican goods.”

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It’s all fun and games until somebody gets elected, of course, and with last night’s panoramic triumph, the Trump campaign is moving toward that possibility, however remote it might be.

“We should heal the Republican Party, bring the Republican Party together,” Trump said last night. “And I’m a unifier.”

But ten months of wild, sometimes dangerously provocative campaign hijinks have shown us that Donald Trump’s no more a unifier of the Republican party than any of the candidates he defeated earlier in the primary season. Trump can’t hope to unify the Republicans; its nomination of him for the presidency, over thunderous objections from the party’s own leaders and a plurality of its voters, is symbolic of that split; it starkly indicates just how un-unifiable the current GOP really is.

What now divides the Republicans – how to respond to the power of demographics, the rise of generations-younger voters, the need for dramatically new and adaptive leadership in a fast-changing world — has been dividing them for years. Trump is just the most recent beneficiary of that long division.

In the weeks to come, as the outcome of primaries in Indiana, Nebraska and California almost certainly reinforce the narrative of his own invincibility, Trump will probably be crowned as the party’s standard-bearer. And in November, Trump and the GOP will go on to a fate both surely predicted and probably deserved.

Image credits: Trump top and bottom: CNN. Path to Trump victory chart: Five Thirty Eight. Boston Globe satiric front page: © 2016 The Boston Globe.

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