Donald Trump on Tuesday became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, winning the Indiana primary and knocking rivals Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio out of the contest. He promised to unify Republicans even as many senior party members vowed never to support him.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton. And while she continues to hold what appears to be an insurmountable lead in delegates, he promised to continue campaigning against her.
What does this all mean? What lessons are to be learned? What’s next in this seemingly unprecedented presidential election? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, consider the issue.
Republicans are in disarray. It would be tempting to take pleasure in their distress, except for one thing: Donald Trump now stands a step away from the presidency. That is good for no one, not even Democrats who think (possibly wrongly) the presidential campaign will now be a cakewalk for their nominee.
There is no arguing with Trump’s die-hard supporters, who possess an unshakeable faith that their candidate will change things in need of changing. Perhaps, but bulls “change” things in china shops — and Trump appears likely to have similarly destructive affects on American politics and culture.
Outside of the die-hards, though, are Republican Party loyalists who find themselves split. Some are going along with Trump rather than allow Hillary Clinton to be elected. Some are refusing to back his campaign. And some, I imagine, are still trying to decide the best way forward.
To them I say this:
On the day he won the Indiana primary, Trump accused Ted Cruz’s father of having involvement in the JFK assassination — and did so based on an uncorroborated story from the National Enquirer tabloid. Do you want such a man to have access to the nation’s nuclear codes?
Trump came to prominence in Republican politics by peddling discredited theories that President Barack Obama was born outside the country and thus is an usurper in the White House. Do you want such a man to have access to the nation’s nuclear codes?
Trump has spoken admiringly of the Chinese government’s massacre of democracy activists at Tiananmen Square, and offered a kind appraisal of Vladimir Putin’s strength of leadership. Do you want such a man to have access to the nation’s nuclear codes?
The examples go on and on.
We don’t talk about this much — except in euphemism, mostly — but the president of the United States is uniquely and singularly empowered to end all life on the planet if he chooses. Temperament matters. Character matters. Any reasonable assessment of Trump will conclude he is deficient on both fronts. He does not deserve your vote.
Here’s a prediction: Donald Trump is going to win the general election in November.
Ridiculous, you say? You may be right. Then again, the election so far has been ridiculous. All signs point to a resounding Trump defeat, but all of the signs so far have been wrong.
If the election was held today, and if the United States was a pure democracy that elected presidents through a national plebiscite instead of a constitutional republic with an Electoral College, Trump would probably lose.
After all, the RealClearPolitics national polling average has the erstwhile reality TV star trailing Hillary Clinton by just over 6 points — which is a meaningless number this far out, but it fills newspaper columns and helps pundits sound marginally more knowledgeable about the intricacies of presidential politics.
Trouble is, all of the predictions so far about Trump have been wrong. Not just wrong, but laughably wrong. And since I made many of those predictions, I’m happy to make this one about Trump’s prospects on Nov. 8 with the expectation that my record of failed prognostication will remain unbroken.
Do Trump’s negatives outweigh his positives? Yes. In “historically unprecedented” ways, the pollsters tell us. People really don’t like him. Except for all the people who voted for him.
And those people aren’t all bigoted idiots. The exit polls tell us a lot about who is voting for Trump and why. Yes, he draws white men without college degrees. But he’s also drawing voters from across all incomes and education levels. Those voters are worried about the economy, which has limped along since 2008. They detest the Republican Party and its leaders. They want somebody — anybody — who can “make real change.”
But the main reason Trump wins? Clinton is a drag. She looks old and sounds tired. She is the Bob Dole of the Democratic Party — the presumptive nominee because it’s “her turn.” She couldn’t even put away a crank socialist. Why does anyone suppose she could saunter past Trump into the White House?
I wouldn’t vote for Trump for all the bourbon in Kentucky. I prefer my candidates to be conservatives who pay more than just lip service to the Constitution, rather than rabble-rousing populists. But the country clearly wants something else. Well, by God, they’re going to get it.
Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine.