In the wake of Donald Trump’s compelling New York primary win, a friend of mine exulted at the profound silence from opponents of Donald Trump on Facebook. It signals, he proclaimed, the collapse of opposition to the New York real estate magnate by people like me, so-called “RINOs” — though it should be noted that he, himself, lives in Texas and is not a registered Republican. He likes to lecture those of us who are, though, about how our party has betrayed its base (people like him, even if they refuse to call themselves “Republican”) by failing to take down President Obama and his progressivist hordes who have dominated the national agenda for more than seven years now. My friend claims that the “GOPe”, as he terms the Republican establishment, is made up of a bunch of wimps and traitors to the cause because they’ve been more interested in compromising with Democrats than sending them packing.
What could they have done differently? Shut down the government, he insists, like Texas Senator Ted Cruz had demanded multiple times. Just let the chips fall where they may. Stop paying for anything until that Democrat in the White House cried “uncle.” The Republicans won Congress, he argues, and then failed to take the fight their Tea Party supporters demanded of them to the Democrats.
This is delusional because it assumes that shutting down the government or not paying the nation’s bills was even feasible without causing substantial economic damage and riling voters across the country to condemn reckless Republican “obstructionists” but it reflects the level of anger animating some 40% of today’s Republican base (including those non-Republicans like my friend who have voted in GOP primaries this election season). And now the delusion has spread, it seems, giving Donald Trump a significant 60% win in New York — his home state and mine.
Well, my friend, in all his euphoria at this Trumpian triumph, is certainly right about one thing, if by the “collapse” in opposition to this self-avowedly “terrific” billionaire he means something like despondent resignation to what now seems all but inevitable. I’ve argued and cajoled and written thousands of words at this point, here and in other venues, on the dangers Trump poses to the Republican Party, to its brand and reputation, and to its status as a national party — and, should he actually win the election against Hillary (or whomever the Democrats ultimately put up), to the country at large. All to no avail. My fellow Republicans have either been deaf to my entreaties or overtly hostile to them. Trump it seems has hit a chord and speaks for a large segment of these angry voters, many of whom, though clearly not all, make their political home in the GOP. Now in my home state — and his — Trump has shown that he’s gained a more substantial level of support than he’s been able to achieve in other states until now. A cloak of inevitability seems to be descending ever so swiftly upon his regal shoulders.
In the process, he’s also moderated his public persona (somewhat anyway) and restaffed his operation at the top in a drive to turn what had initially looked like the campaign lark of a rich guy, used to throwing his weight around to get his way, into a serious run at a prize he now increasingly seems to believe is his due. And me? I’ve resigned myself to what looks more and more like a futile effort to halt a hostile takeover of my party — and the country at large.
With last night’s blowout win, Trump seems poised to claim the mantle of GOP presumptive nominee despite the rearguard action pressed by Kasich (who took second place last night) and Cruz, neither of whom have been able to inspire comparable levels of enthusiasm to that garnered by the crude talking king of glitz and showman par excellence. So what’s next?
His path to the nomination isn’t perfectly clear yet but it’s been significantly enhanced by Republican voters in New York with primaries in upcoming states in the northeast, sharing New York’s demographics, looming large on the horizon. Amazingly my fellow New York Republicans fell for this guy just like others in the GOP base have in other states. We’ll soon learn if it’s contagious in places like Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania. But, with Trump looking more and more likely to carry the GOP banner in November, it may well be worth looking at the other side’s situation as well.
Under normal circumstances, given the latest polling, Trump would likely lose in a head to head match-up with Hillary Clinton. But that could change if she gets indicted because of the e-mail scandals. A damaged Clinton facing off against him would immeasurably enhance his chances in the general election. Good for his angst-ridden backers like my friend and a great many others who call themselves Republicans or just vote that way. But not necessarily good for the country.
Of course, the Democrats could still replace Hillary with the affable Joe Biden, the nation’s current Vice President and Obama loyalist — or Hillary’s current nemesis, Bernie Sanders, might yet claim the Democratic mantle and make this a very different race. But, with Hillary now poised to claim the Democratic crown, it looks like only emailgate stands in the way of her moving on to the White House. Yet, with a brutish candidate like Trump leading the Republican charge (given all the red flags his record and reckless, incendiary verbiage on the campaign trail must surely raise) what impact would his candidacy in November have on the impending decision of career officials at the FBI and Justice over whether to press forward on an indictment over the emails, if one is warranted, against the only person still standing in Trump’s way?
For all her “unfavorables” with voters, they are still less than his. And career lawyers now have it in their power to decide whether to smooth the way for a Trumpian triumph and so place this erratic man’s finger on the nuclear trigger or let the presumptive Democratic nominee do for the country what angry GOP base voters have clearly failed to do. Are we ready for Hillary?