Tuesday, February 23, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by a Smart Person: “A reform is a correction of abuses. A revolution is a transfer of power.” Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Donald Trump scooped up his third straight and largest victory of the Republican primary season. Capturing more than 40% of the vote, Trump carried his momentum from New Hampshire and South Carolina out west and won every demographic within caucus-goers. If this were any other year and Trump were any other candidate, he’d be referred to as the presumptive nominee and the rest of the field would be under pressure to get out of the race.

But this is 2016.

Trump has not just defied, he has rewritten the rules of how a Republican presidential candidate runs for the nomination. His larger-than-life personality and absolute surety of cause is what so many angry Republicans are looking for after what they see as years of milquetoast RINOs who go to Washington and join the machine.

The Two-Way Race Fallacy

Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the current conventional wisdom says, are fighting each other because once it gets to a one-on-one race against Donald Trump, the alternative will win. I no longer believe this. Maybe I never did. This calculation might work if it were Crus v. Rubio, but it’s not. As candidates continue to drop out, their relative bases of support will not go to just one candidate. And if we look at the race not as “Conservative” vs. “Moderate” and stick more closely to the “Insider” vs. “Outsider” it appears, based on the results of the first four contests, that Trump could theoretically do better in a two-person race. Take a look at the results below:

Iowa “Outsider” Vote: 65% (Trump, Cruz, Carson, Paul)

New Hampshire “Outsider” Vote: 49% (Trump, Cruz, Carson)

South Carolina “Outsider” Vote: 62% (Trump, Cruz, Carson)

Nevada “Outsider” Vote: 75% (Trump, Cruz, Carson)

This actually sets up just about as you’d expect. New Hampshire, as the least-friendly to outsiders is both more ideologically moderate and holds an open primary. As we look forward to next week’s Super Tuesday and specifically the “SEC Primary” of several southern states, there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect Trump to win in those states again. Republican primary voters are screaming from the mountaintops that they want radical change in Washington and Trump is their tribune. Even the Evangelical voters, whom were supposed to be a solid bloc for Ted Cruz, are showing themselves to be more angry than they are religious.

If Ted Cruz does poorly next week, and especially if he loses his home state of Texas, it will be difficult to see how he continues. Indeed, if Cruz can't capture the Lone Star State he will go down as a better-funded and better-organized Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum; an Iowa winner who ultimately lacks national viability. Further, if we agree that Cruz's voters are as much “outsiders” as they are religious, Trump could scoop up his support and that of Ben Carson, should he ever actually admit that he’s not going to be president.

The Incredible Shrinking GOP Establishment

I’ve said previously that I believe why we’ve seen the success of Trump and Cruz is because there very well might not be enough “establishment” Republicans left to vote in primaries to save the likes of a Jeb Bush or Chris Christie. The chatter among the punditry and press this week has been why the Establishment never did anything about The Donald and what, if anything they can do now. The Establishmentarians appear to be of two minds on this right now:

The Acceptors

Welcome to entrenched Washington Republicans in 2016. Those that believe he’s going to be the nominee are happy at least he’s not Ted Cruz. They’re political bureaucrats. One way or the other, they’re going to keep their powder dry. No need to make enemies with the current frontrunner. They go along to get along with everyone as much as they can – job security (or opportunity) is more important than really believing that someone might or might not be right for the Presidency or the party.

The Deniers

Meet the other half of Entrenched Republicans. They’re not necessarily in Washington, but many likely are. They’re likely part of the donor class, or involved in it. Their biggest issue is that can’t believe that Republicans are really behind someone like Trump. Why? Because frankly, they don’t really understand “true” conservatives, Tea Partiers and activist voters. They’re one more part of the coalition to be placated long enough to get through an election and then ignored or thrown scraps from time to time.

But those voters are angry and so far they’re having none of it. Why aren’t they doing much about it? For many of the same reasons as the Acceptors above. If Trump is going to be the nominee, don’t go out of your way to antagonize him. If worse comes to worse, Hillary gets elected. They can probably live with that; they won’t shake up the status quo that keeps Washington run as-is today.

Both have similar tendencies for similar reasons, if different starting points. All the chatter about Marco Rubio now being the savior of the Establishment – hey gang, the Establishment you love so much? Republican primary voters HATE it. They truly believe you’re worse than the Democrats; at least they’re honest about what they believe and what they’re willing to fight for it.

If the Wall Street/Biz Community/Conservative Intelligentsia had any sense of reality they’d know that Trump is absolutely the frontrunner. He’s won three straight states. What other candidate has won three straight only to be counted out as “just the crazy anger candidate.” They can tell themselves all day long “he’s not really a conservative” – his people don’t care. They love him for saying Wall Street guys make too much money. They believe it, because they’ve felt it, that unfettered free trade has wrecked American manufacturing.

Universal healthcare? Trump supporters may not like Obamacare but they don’t like insurance companies, either. I’d wager that some healthy percentage of Trump voters have either been denied coverage or dropped altogether. Who gets stuck with Washington’s bills? The guy in Ottumwa, Iowa who can’t afford health insurance or to send his kid to college. Trump is an antidote to that long-simmering frustration. They love him because he knows the system is corrupt and is willing to give it a big middle finger.

Rather than understanding why Trump is popular, and trying to find a way to reorient the party to address some very real issues, the powers-that-be have become comfortable within the system they’ve designed. The biggest irony of 2016 is that Washington’s behavior created the resentment that feeds Trump’s run. Their unwillingness or inability to counter him looks to be ensuring he will be the nominee this fall.

AuthorReed Galen