Wednesday, March 2, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: "Truth will always be truth, regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief or understanding." W. Clement Stone
Welcome to the American Singularity.
Last night’s Super Tuesday contests clarified the Democratic race for president and continued the upheaval within Republican ranks. Hillary Clinton handily won several large states, leaving Bernie Sanders largely with Vermont (his home) and a couple of other contest that, while representing wins, don’t further his case to be the Democratic nominee. The real story is, as it has been for nearly eight months, the continued fracturing of a decades-old Republican presidential coalition.
Donald Trump picked up wins in seven states and expanded his lead in the delegate race. He had the inside track for the nomination before last night and he still does today. Senator Ted Cruz did just over the bare-minimum needed to keep him in the race – he won his home state of Texas and its neighbor to the north, Oklahoma went along for the ride and its neighbor to the great white north, Alaska. And because the “where can Rubio win” question has been asked since last fall we finally have our answer: Minnesota.
The Participation Trophy Primary
In 2016 we’ve now decided that it’s not necessarily whether one wins a state or not, it’s how a candidate stacks up against the (often) artificial expectations set for them by their opponents, the media and the political chattering class. Explaining results now sounds more like a company’s quarterly stock update. Well, they aren’t doing great, but they met the Market’s expectations so they get a pass. And while that may work when we have a crowded, largely divided field, but come March 15th campaigns are going to start winning and losing outright as we move to Winner Take All states in the GOP primary.
Cruz and Rubio are still alive and both will be in the race for at least the next two weeks or so. If they don’t do well in this weekend’s contests and those next Tuesday (March 8th) their rationale for continuing will grow bleaker. They can take comfort I suppose in at least having a path. Neither Ben Carson nor John Kasich were anywhere near a Super Tuesday state. Ben Carson, as of this writing, has just suspended his campaign which explains why he was in Baltimore last night; a city in a state whose primary isn’t until April.
Shifting Sands = Shifting Goals
When a campaign for president starts out there are a few big goals: The biggest of them is win the nomination. Once you’ve done that you can determine how best to pursue the presidency itself. But after last night and listening to both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz I’m beginning to wonder if they’ve shifted their main task away from winning the nomination outright, which seems increasingly unlikely or to just play spoiler to Donald Trump’s march. Certainly the GOP Establishment, still sitting in its foxhole shell shocked by this campaign, would see that as a worthy endeavor. The money to bring the #NeverTrump phenomenon is likely already pouring into coffers around the country.
But if we believe that the GOP will implode with Trump as its nominee, what makes us believe swiping it from him at the Convention would have any other outcome? Even if Trump only takes a solid plurality to Cleveland, a concerted and successful effort to engineer a floor fight and send someone else to the General Election would surely result in a walk out of Trumpists at least and an Eastern European parliamentary melee at worst. I was talking to a long-time GOP operative last night while the returns were still coming in. They said, “Maybe we should just wait for Trump to win or lose in November and just take the party back. Tell him he can be whoever he wants to be but you’re not one of us.”
To which I rejoined, “Here’s the problem with that. The people that support Trump? They’re our voters. What exactly is the party without them? A bunch of consultants, party bosses and DC insiders? What do we win with that?”
The drumbeat of the GOP’s self-immolation grows larger by the day. The internal tensions with which Republicans have dealt are decades-old. When a Trump voter hears Sen. Mitch McConnell say he’s going to drop The Donald “like a hot rock” not only are they not surprised, it’s exactly what they’d expect from a long-time DC pol and why they’re back Trump in the first place! We’ve gotten ourselves into a death-spiral, a flat-spin. The GOP now finds itself beaten and battered; riven by extreme forces both inside and out. The best most of us can do is hold on as long as we can and jump to safety when we need to. Of course, what are we holding on to? And into what are we jumping?
As I wrote earlier this week, the idea of stopping Trump to save the Party doesn’t appear to be a resonant message. And yet last night I heard both Cruz and Rubio reciting the lines about the “true conservative” in the race. Aren’t we learning anything from our Trumpine experience? The old labels of left and right, conservative and liberal are breaking down. One can be largely conservative and want cheap healthcare. One can be a lifelong Republican and believe rich people should pay more in taxes. We still haven’t wrapped our heads around the fact that Trump’s appearance has not only released the torrent of frustration and anger so long pent up in the Silent Majority; his very presence appears to be rewriting the political language that so many of us have spoken for so long.
We don’t just need a plan to stop Trump. We need a universal translator to even begin talking to the hundreds of thousands, or even millions of Republican voters who have written us off. In most cases the causes of their disaffection are absolutely understandable whether they’re exclusively the fault of the GOP Establishment or not.
Donald Trump may nor may not wrap up the nomination before the end of March. If he does, there will be teeth-gnashing, continued bewilderment and full-blown panic among party leaders. If he doesn’t a fight to Cleveland will further cleave the GOP. It’s not just inside versus outside anymore. It’s old versus new. Legacy versus the new new thing. What I need versus what’s good for the party or the special interest. Maybe it’s always been those things, it just took Donald Trump to throw a bucket of ice cold water on a sleeping elephant.