US election: No finessing the Trump
Things are looking bleak for Republican America
No matter how lowly in the pack, whether titled, royal or plebeian, the trump beats all comers in other suits. The eponymous Donald, it seems, is just that card: his brand, or suit, is all that matters to the alienated Republican faithful – not establishment, not a politician, anti-politics, not Washington, not minority – and the substance, however deranged, barely matters. Indeed, polls suggest his support base is largely indifferent to his many heresies from the conservative canon. Trump’s otherness is what makes his appalling, racist and xenophobic candidature so powerful, mesmerising and trump-like.
This week the dread prospect was sinking in to the collective consciousness of the Republican establishment that, yes, he may well be undefeatable and may end up as the candidate to face Hillary Clinton. Party democracy is an unwieldy, uncontrollable runaway train. And the “surprise” of the Republican hierarchy at Trump’s continued defiance of the laws of political gravity is an interesting testimony, as Paul Krugman points out in the New York Times, to a fatal lack of self-awareness in the ranks of the party’s bosses. One that suggests the party’s challenge is not just for this election, but is existential. “They still imagine that ‘But he’s not a true conservative!’ is an effective attack,” Krugman muses.
In Thursday night’s TV debate – pre-next week’s Super Tuesday when 595 delegates are awarded in voting across 11 states –Trump’s rivals at last seemed to discover he was running and turned their fire on him rather than each other.
Texan Ted Cruz dismissed Trump as someone who’d discovered conservatism only when he became a candidate. Florida’s Marco Rubio attacked him much more personally and successfully, exposing both the reality star’s use of illegal migrants in construction work and scant detail in major policy issues like healthcare.
We will see whether such attacks work but the debate had a feel of desperation to it, and the unseemly scrapping may have hurt Rubio as much as Trump. He is pitching himself as the one who can beat Trump, yet can he win any of the states up next week, let alone his home state?
What is to be done? Some Republican funders have belatedly turned their guns on Trump. To little effect. Some are suggesting a reluctant Senate Speaker Paul Ryan, a reliable conservative, be drafted in at the Convention as a “compromise” “anybody-but-Trump” candidate. But if Trump has a majority of delegates, as now appears increasingly likely, it could just tear the party apart.
Or there is former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, toying with a run as an independent. But although likely to win over many Republicans from Trump, he is unlikely to beat Hillary Clinton. The result: a split vote and a clear Clinton path to the White House. Things are looking bleak for Republican America.