The Ides of March
And so it comes down to this. In an election cycle that has been one of the most unpredictable and unexpected in memory, tonight’s primary votes in a near half dozen states in the Rustbelt and the Deep South are likely the highest stake ones yet. As the GOP establishment readies itself for one final goal-line stand in Ohio and Florida against Trump’s flying circus insurgency campaign it is clearly a do or die moment for both sides.
For Trump this is a big night. Should he win the winner-take-all primaries in Ohio and Florida, and do well in the others, the Donald’s march to the top spot on the Republican’s nomination ticket may well be unstoppable (at the time of this writing, it should be noted, he has commandingly won the Northern Mariana Islands caucus and taken all nine delegates that were at stake). Should he lose either Ohio or Florida, or even underperform across the board, then his chances of cinching enough delegates to win the primary race outright sink dramatically.
Beyond that, I’m not sure what else there is to say for Donald Trump that I have not opined on at length already. Trump has run a campaign that in many ways has been grotesque, crass, vulgar and offensive, and on a personal level I do find him to be a rather distasteful individual (who incessant boasting and self-promotion is but a mask, I suspect, for a deeply held degree of personal insecurity). All of that being said, Trump also has become the undisputed frontrunner of the race because he alone fully managed to recognize the winter of discontent that had taken hold amongst the American electorate. He saw the millions of voters left behind by the tides of modernity that in equal parts were ignored by the Republicans and despised by the Democrats, and he alone realized the potential that was there for the one who would give them a voice. That the voice turned out to be harsh, and the message it conveyed at times overly simplistic, was irrelevant; to his supporters all that matters was for the first time in a very long time someone finally seemed willing to have their backs. A sweep tonight may ultimately seal the deal for the Manhattan real estate mogul.
To John Kaisch, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz this evening is even more important. The hand being dealt to them tonight is for table stakes. It would seem that my previous predictions on Marco Rubio have proven to be a tad premature, as the Florida senator’s strong showing in South Carolina failed to provide the springboard he needed to vault himself into the role of undisputed leader of the anti-Trump vote. Instead a poor showing on Super Tuesday, where Ted Cruz proved to be the more successful candidate by notching wins in his home state of Texas along with Oklahoma and Alaska, led to wilting of his support. Indeed, the so-called GOP establishment is increasingly mimicking the performance of Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella from Into The Woods as they deign “not to decide” on who their horse in the race ultimately is, instead flitting from one candidate to the other while Trump continues to steamroll his way from one state to the next. The sad reality of this is that now the best either Ted or Marco or John can aspire to at this point is to deny Trump a mathematical majority of delegates opening the door for some last minute jiggery-pokery on the convention floor to steal the nomination out from under him. Trump may need a daunting sixty percent of the remaining delegates for a first ballot win, but for Ted Cruz it’s a nigh-impossibly seventy five percent with the math for Kaisch and Rubio being so farcical at this point I would even bother tallying it up.
And the unvarnished truth is, if by some act of magic Trump is robbed of the nomination on the floor of the convention he still wins for it will be the one time in this entire campaign he will have legitimate cause to complain of being mistreated. Imagine, if you would, any other candidate had achieved what he had so far? Trump has proven to be the only candidate in the race to win pluralities, if not always outright majorities, of every demographic of the GOP party. He’s won with moderates and conservatives; he’s won with evangelicals and with secularists; he’s won states from the Deep South and the Rust Belt and the leafy suburbs of New England; he’s won New Right Republicans and Rhino country club bluebloods. This is a feat no other candidate has achieved at this point, and in any other primary race the other also-rans would be taking their balls and going home at this point.
Nor am I entirely convinced Trump is undeserving of his shot at the Presidency at this point. A very good friend of mine (who is also a committed leftist) had been predicting a massive right-wing, populist backlash for well over a year before Donald Trump first announced his candidacy in the gaudy lobby Trump Tower. Discontentment with the ruins and ugly underside of the Enlightenment Consensus has been bubbling away for years and it finally has begun to boil over. To simply dismiss Trump’s ascendency, as far too many of the mainstream media still do, as simply a revenge of Jim Crow-era geriatrics and Neo-Nazi types is a mistake. Indeed, where Trump actually some white supremacist in disguise I suspect he would have voiced some objection to his daughter (who of all his children seems to be the family favorite and also one of the few people who Trump actually listens to) marrying a Jew and converting to Judaism. Trump is not America’s Hitler; if we’re searching for a historical comparison he might, in a pinch, prove to be the United States’ Julius Caesar, harnessing anger and dissatisfaction with an out of touch and oblivious elite to further his own vainglorious ambitions.
It is anger that is deserving, and has built over years of national sovereignty slowly being chipped away by globalization and illegal immigration, as domestically the promise of the American Dream has proven to be a stillborn birth to an entire generation that has known little more than a stagnant economy and precarious personal finances. It’s an anger that society’s self-anointed “elites” have either refused to acknowledge or sneeringly dismissed, and now one can almost taste the panic at no longer being able to do so. If Trump does indeed manage to complete his insurgency takeover of the GOP tonight, let alone the White House in the fall, it will because years of complacency from the top enabled him to do so. Should he fail, the conditions that led to his rise will still be there, and Trumpism (perhaps next time led by a less easily dismissed standard bearer) will remain a force to be reckoned with for many more election cycles to follow.