STATESBORO, GEORGIA — In the past week, since the Trump coronation in Nevada, there have been two competing strategies emerging in the margins of the once-proud Grand Old Party.
On one end is a developing smear campaign wielded by Trump and carried out by fringe elements in the conspiracy world of Alex Jones and Breitbart, who have begun whispering and sharing grainy footage of Marco Rubio as a college student, all in an effort to quietly question his sexuality and destroy him before he can mount any substantive challenge.
Elsewhere, what’s left of the Republican establishment is attempting to coalesce around a multitude of hubs to derail Trump’s now inevitable victory. Some are calling for a drafting of Willard Mitt Romney, or rather He Who Was Born To Lose, while others have suggested the party should submarine Trump by either voting for Hillary Clinton or sitting this one out, thus ensuring Clinton will at least have four years in office.
Tonight, after Trump had practically swept the American Southeast and collected seven primaries, former senator and forever embarrassment Tom Delay stopped by the set of Chis Matthew’s Hardball to say the party should ignore the will of its base and sabotage Trump at the Republican Convention in July, a strategy that has been gaining steam, leading Cruz and Rubio to hire so-called parliamentarian experts, “Convention Fixers,” so to speak, who can fight a knockdown-drag out floor battle in Cleveland.
We’re at a juncture where, barring any unforeseen emotional or legal breakdown, Donald Trump will be the Republican Nominee For The Presidency of the United States of America. Ted Cruz has exhausted nearly every state he could possibly win with the exception of Missouri, Utah, and possibly Kansas. He held fast in Texas tonight, which was a huge victory for him, and even eked out Oklahoma, a bonus, but his candidacy now is effectively stalled and without much in the way of a path forward.
Marco Rubio finds himself in a different position as he was able to win Minnesota tonight and could win Florida next week before rattling off a run of states that could make him a spoiler. That, however, remains to be seen. There’s a very good chance Trump will take Florida and essentially neuter Rubio before he’s able to mount anything resembling momentum. And not to mention, Cruz isn’t leaving this race and neither is John Kasich, who’s simply waiting in the wings for Ohio and Michigan, a one-two punch that could cripple Trump but will more than likely injure Rubio.
And all of them are eying Cleveland. They can’t catch Trump in delegates and can only overtake him via backroom deals and floor maneuvering, neither of which would particularly endear them to the party, much less the nation.
The conversation on the Dem side this week had much more a morose tone as the pundit class predicted a swift death for Bernie Sanders campaign and the expected ascendancy of Secretary Hillary Clinton. The map tonight played out like many of them predicted, though Bernie carried Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Colorado in addition to his home state of Vermont. The haul was better than expected and punctuated the announcement this afternoon that the fundraising arm had raised forty million dollars in the abbreviated month of February.
Clinton’s speech was much more the penultimate address a candidate would give at the end of their primary battle. She congratulated Sanders on his “campaigning” and pivoted toward Trump, unveiling her response to his “Make American Great Again” slogan by proclaiming her intention to “Make America Whole Again.” This is the oldest of old tactics, the exact thing politicians of her generations have been doing since the Reagan campaign eviscerated Carter.
The problem is that Sanders isn’t going anywhere. Though he may not be able to catch her when it comes to delegates, particularly with her dominant haul of superdelegates, or the support of those figureheads and shot-callers of the party, but he will grind it out over the next four months and continue to collect delegates with each contest. If he amasses enough, he’ll march into the convention in July with a force strong enough to affect the party’s platform and potentially reform the nominating process.
There’s been a lot of talk that that’s where this is heading now, a quixotic quest that may not slay the dragon but lead to long and sustainable change that could set the table for a future revolution. It’s an idealistic goal that fits into the mold most associate with Sanders, and if he could pull it off the process would undoubtedly be better off, the question is whether the convention apparatus can be affected in the same way it has in the past. When this business began it was an actual meeting of the party and a time to do business. Now it’s a largely ceremonial role and there’s ample evidence the Clinton team wouldn’t allow any grandstanding, deal making, or influence peddling to take hold.
The simple and undeniable truth here is that Sanders didn’t get into this race to become president. He threw his hat in the ring to shock the system and nudge Clinton left. Somehow or another, through will and miracle, he’s pushed the system to the point of breaking and forced Clinton to reconsider her entire political spectrum. Whether that change holds or not is anybody’s guess, but at least there’s doubt now.
Next week Clinton will win Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio. It is every state that matters this side of California, and it will be effectively over. Sanders will continue to run and he’ll continue to win the hearts and minds of progressives around the country who aren’t ready or willing to give up.
A few minutes after Clinton’s victory address, Trump hosted what some called a “press conference” at the Mar-A-Lago club, a fifty-eight bedroom palatial estate that holds one of the gaudiest and hilarious ballrooms you will ever see. Chris Christie, now his whipped subservient, did the dirty work of introducing him and then standing in the background like a second grader who’d gone and shit his pants to oblivion.
There were no answers to be had. Trump trumpeted his victories, ridiculed Rubio to the delight of his supporters, and berated a reporter into silence. Never once did he approach anything resembling an intelligible thought or piece of policy. It was the type of performance you’d expect from a guest speaker who hadn’t bothered to prepare.
When he gave way Cruz took the stage at the Redneck Country Club, an establishment run by a racist radio DJ, and asked his rivals to “prayerfully consider uniting the party” and then lubricated his plea by quoting that conservative icon John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s call to action: “Ask not what your country can do for you…” When it was all over, he plucked his daughter from the stage and slung her about so wildly his wife had to step in to rescue her.
Put simply, this field is a loser. They’re all flawed and they’re all incapable. They’ve allowed one of the most unprofessional and unpolished candidates in recent history to flounce in and play the media like an instrument. Rubio spent more time this week insulting Trump’s hands and dick size than making the case for why anybody in their right mind should trust him with the keys to the country. Cruz has afforded himself like a low-rent televangelist who’s more than willing to dig under any rock and stab anybody in his way to get a vote. They’ve had all the time they should’ve needed and they’re not going to get the job done.
Now it’s a matter of whether or not the institution that is the Republican Party, a once-proud group that’s currently being run by its most ineffective chairman, to determine whether it wants to be die a natural death or euthanize itself. If Hillary Clinton isn’t indicted – and there’s still a chance she could be – and Trump can’t bring the new base he’s been promising this whole time, they’re going to lose not only the White House for the third consecutive term, but possibly the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court. If they sabotage his candidacy, and deny the will of the people, how can they lay any claim to those voters moving forward? And if they do it, if they pull the trigger on this interference, won’t Trump cry foul and run as an independent, thus dooming them anyway?
It is the proverbial snake eating its own tail, this cannibalization, this self-immolation they can’t afford and, at long last, they can’t avoid. There’s a poison pill the size of millions of angry, expectant Trump voters, and the taste is unbelievably bitter.
Caricature by DonkeyHotey: Donald Trump’s Southern Strategy