America Letter: Republican elite turning to Trump as nominee

Turning tide indicates how politicians are slowly catching up with grassroots voters

About 20 people were arrested after dozens of protesters brought traffic to a halt in Costa Mesa, California, just outside a venue where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave a speech. Video: Reuters

 

Deal-maker Donald Trump, the self-declared presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is negotiating his way to the election in November on a simple premise: giving (most) Republican voters what they want.

Trump’s victories in five northeastern states on Tuesday, coming on top of his landslide win in his home state of New York a week earlier, brings his popular votes in this head-spinning primary to more than 10 million as the election juggernaut heads west.

Trump’s tally compares with 6.8 million votes for Texas senator Ted Cruz and 3.7 million for Ohio governor John Kasich, the two other remaining candidates. Trump has surpassed the votes received by Mitt Romney in 2012, and is on course to beat the record set by George W Bush in 2000.

Translated into party delegates, this makes it ever more likely that the billionaire will scoop the nomination before the Republican convention in Cleveland in July, based on his poll numbers in upcoming state contests in Indiana (which votes on Tuesday), West Virginia and California.

Trump has distilled his protectionist (on the economy) and isolationist (on foreign policy) pledges down to baseball cap-size slogans: Make America Great Again and America First.

He elaborated on the latter in a strange foreign policy speech on in a Washington hotel on Wednesday. Attempting to appear more presidential, he did not shout or insult. He even used a teleprompter, though had trouble pronouncing “Tanzania” and mixed up “aboard” and “abroad”.

Trump’s foreign policy vision, like his economic proposals, are firmly rooted in a promise to return the US to a period of military and economic strength last seen in the mid- 20th century. He ignored the complex reality of the blurred enemy lines and shifting 21st-century global threats.

Still, like most of Trump’s promises, this doesn’t matter. It’s the uncomplicated, black- and-white choices that (certain) American voters who are angry with the government, infuriated by more than a decade of falling wages and frustrated with never-ending foreign conflicts want.

Invading countries

Philadelphia

At a rally in Albany, New York two weeks ago, Tracy Loucks (46), an Iraq war veteran, is voting for one Trump proposal that appeals to many of his supporters: the billionaire’s plan “to make our military strong again”

However, the Donald Trump at the podium at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel on Wednesday was more straw man than strongman. He talked proudly how the United States “saved the world” twice – defeating the German Nazis and Japanese imperialists, and then totalitarian communism – and promised “a coherent foreign policy based upon American interests”. But the speech was confusing and contradictory.

Trump spoke about working “very closely with our allies in the Muslim world”, yet one of his proposals so popular with Republicans is his ban on Muslims entering the US. He said he would seek a foreign policy that “our friends and allies will respect and welcome”, yet he plans to pick a fight with Nato allies over how much they pay for the alliance.

Again, the contradictions do not seem to matter. It was the response to the speech rather than the speech itself that counted and the Republican establishment appears to be slowly and reluctantly embracing a man who once left them in cold night sweats as their likely presidential nominee.

“If you look at the broadness, the vision, I thought it was a major step forward,” said Bob Corker, who is hardly a Republican backbencher, being chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee.

Unpopular candidate

Wall Street Journal

Recognising this, some high- ranking Republicans, such as senator Lindsey Graham, have set aside their dislike of Cruz to back the Texan as the only man who can stop Trump.

Still, the businessman is growing on others. This week Trump received his first support from chairmen of House of Representatives committees. Even former House speaker John Boehner, while attacking Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh”, said that he would back his “golfing and texting buddy” if Trump ended up as the nominee.

The turning tide towards Trump shows how politicians are slowly catching up with the people, who have been voting for him in such large numbers over the past three months.

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