Tuesday, May 3, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: "Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and unpredictable." General George S. Patton
Welcome to the American Singularity.
Every time I think I’ve seen it all, history comes along and proves me wrong. I spent five weeks in Florida during the 2000 recount. I was in a hotel in Tokyo with the Treasury Secretary when I saw terrorists fly planes into the Twin Towers. I was in New Orleans two days after Katrina made landfall. Barack Obama and Sarah Palin reshaped American politics in 2008 and beyond. And now, I’ve been around long enough to see Donald Trump become the presumptive nominee of the Grand Old Republican Party. I wish I was shaking my head wondering what happened. But I’m not. Trump’s success is inversely proportional to the GOP’s unwillingness or inability to recognize the tectonic shifts occurring within its voters. The next few weeks will make official what Reince Preibus declared tonight - that Trump will indeed carry the Republican banner into November. I’ll never say I’ve seen it all again.
Ted Cruz’s 2020 Vision
I was at first surprised that Ted Cruz dropped out of the race when I saw the news. Given what had been his strength in wooing delegates at state and local organizing conventions, I’d thought he might make a play at truly disrupting the convention. The last two weeks have been brutal for the Cruz camp. After last week in particular, when his campaign transmogrified from a well-run, tactically excellent campaign to a flailing mess in Indiana, it made sense. Indiana was his self-declared Alamo. He’d lost momentum, elections and ultimately viability. With the shock of Trump’s ascension still reverberating, the talk of Ted Cruz 2020 began.
But that’s jumping the gun on several fronts. While I do believe that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and subsequently defeat Trump in the General Election, there are no guarantees. Next, there are an awful lot of Republicans with money and influence in Texas who will likely mount an ugly and bruising primary challenge to Ted Cruz in 2018. Can they beat him? Who’s to say. Can they damage him? Absolutely. And lastly, Cruz had the benefit this year of being among the three youngest Republican challengers. Rubio might take another shot. But in 2020, should Clinton be president, there will be a new crop of aspirants who a) likely loathe Cruz personally and b) aren’t going to let him have a clear path just because he thinks he’s earned it. For goodness sake, can we get through this election before we start talking about the next one?
It was an ugly night on Republican Twitter. The fault lines were myriad and striking. Preibus’ diktat about party unity brought howls from the #NeverTrump forces on one side and those who (probably) believe that a united GOP is the only thing that can survive Donald. Then there were the “I’m With Her” Republicans like my old colleague and friend Mark Salter. They’re not only #NeverTrump, they’re voting for Clinton. I watched my feed as long-time operatives split with one another over Trump. I saw even more who had posted photographs of themselves changing their voter registration to Independent; one guy burned his DC voter card. We’re well past squabbling. Trump’s victory is precipitating the full blown existential crisis that many of us have been predicting this cycle.
Then there are the hundreds, if not thousands of Republican candidates running at all levels across the nation who have to decide how they run their races. Several operatives I’ve spoken with and whom I respect greatly are telling their clients (and anyone who will listen) that the theme is country above party. If Trump is carrying the GOP flag, don’t let it wave near you. If you’re Senators Pat Toomey (PA) or Kelly Ayotte (NH), party unity is something that would be nice to have but a luxury you won’t enjoy. They will have to run races hyper-specific to their states and the issues facing them. They likely will have to repudiate Trump, at the risk of stoking The Donald’s ire. What’s the alternative? Jump on Trump’s back and go lemming-like over the cliff? Not likely.
Hillary Can’t Put Bernie Away
So Bernie Sanders won again tonight, staking his claim to stay in the race and preventing Hillary Clinton from donning her own mantle before Trump was fitted for his. Weird year, huh? For Clinton, Bernie is at least a known commodity. He runs to her left on just about every issue. That’s something she’s been calibrating for her entire campaign. But as she continues to slog it out with her septuagenarian sparring partner, Trump will turn his fire on her. And he is far harder to pin down on issues. On some, he’s to her left - certainly on trade and national security. Trump is so all over the place, Clinton very well might end up the center right candidate in the race, if only because no one can determine where on the spectrum Trump actually falls.