Donald Trump will be the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. I thought this months ago, and today it’s blindingly obvious. What baffles me is that this is only now dawning on the political class. He was written off as a joke when he entered the race (and in the case of Huffington Post, officially written off as a joke), but even then I knew he’d have some solid base of support. How could I have been so prophetic, when I usually screw these things up? Because the horrible things he said, his history of conspiracy mongering, his perceived independence from the establishment, and his grotesque bravado were the prime ingredients for the perfect contemporary right-wing candidate.
The GOP has been cultivating the Trump electorate for generations now. You can draw a direct line from Nixon’s “silent majority,” through Reagan’s sunny obliviousness, through George W. Bush’s flippant swagger, through rabid anti-intellectualism of Sarah Palin, right to the substanceless jingoistic braggadocio of Donald Trump. For decades, the Republican Party has succeeded by intentionally fostering an electorate of fanatical ignoramuses, and now this their harvest.
So each time the pundit class declared that the latest offense to decency vomited up by Trump would finally – finally! – sink his candidacy, I thought, no, this will only solidify his current base of support, and probably attract more. And that’s what happened every time. It just shows how utterly out of touch the political class is when they think that the contemporary GOP electorate would be, say, horrified at someone who disparaged Mexicans, Muslims, women, or the disabled, or that they’d recoil at someone who dissed John McCain – the GOP base hates John McCain! Where have you people been?
So here we are, with Trump having racked up three huge primary victories in a row, and folks are still scrambling to figure out how Trump is ultimately beaten. Sorry, folks. This is your guy. Cruz can’t beat him, because there’s too much overlap in their supporters, and Trump’s foundation is granite-solid by now. Cruz’s best hope is that he can peel some of Trump’s people off, but he’s going to need a lot of very strong pick-axes to do that. So no dice. Rubio has very little overlap with the Trump base, so his only hope is to sop up what’s left of the drop-outs’ support, and convince voters of Kasich’s lack of viability. I don’t think he can do it in time, not by a long shot. I presume when he loses the nomination, though, he’ll declare victory anyway.
Oh, and apparently Kasich could maybe possibly beat Trump in Ohio. That’s about as meaningful as Howard Dean’s post-dropout victory in Vermont in 2004.
There’s also a lot of talk about how Trump’s ascension means the end of the GOP. The splintering among the Republican Party’s constituencies, they say, is irreparable and will lead to a total overhaul of the party.
First of all, this is what was said about the GOP after they lost so badly in 2008. “GOP in exile” and whatnot. Did they rejigger their party as they licked their wounds? No. They steeled themselves (and Steele’d themselves), and if anything became even more resolute in their increasingly extreme positions.
Second of all, while the GOP has a real problem when it comes to the presidency right now, owing as much to demographics and the Electoral College as their to their own madness, in congressional districts and statehouses they are doing just fine. More than fine. Because stupidly complacent moderates and liberals skip midterm and off-year elections, the most extreme corners of the Republican Party control state legislatures, city councils, school boards, and, oh yes, Congress. So maybe the White House is a tougher climb for the GOP right now, they are otherwise sitting very, very pretty.
So to sum up, Trump will be the nominee of the Republican Party because he is exactly what the GOP has been training its electorate to want. And while it may cost them the White House (or at least I really, really hope so), it’s only going to strengthen their determination and tighten their grip on every other aspect of government they control. And that’s where the real problem is.