With Super Tuesday almost upon us, and the prospect of decisive and sweeping victories for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it might be a good moment to stop the Vegas malarkey and not mention that I’m writing this in a strip club that serves 25 flavours of daiquiri slushie, and turn our attention to what the hell is actually going on. This may not be as composed as such things should be, because reality currently is not.
To the raw politics first: in the 11 states in play for the Republicans on Super Tuesday — Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Minnesota, Vermont, Massachusetts and Alaska, Donald Trump is on track to win all but Texas, and possibly Arkansas. In Texas, Ted Cruz is leading by about 10 points, which may be enough to keep him safe. And he may challenge Trump in Arkansas. But that’s it. Barring upsets, Trump will sweep the rest of the board. The contests are still proportional (though it’s complicated in Texas), so others will amass delegates, but the psychological effect will be phenomenal.
Trump leads by sheer force of personality now; after tomorrow he will lead by the sort of margin that, in other times and with other candidates, he would simply be the candidate, and the only people still in the race would be the nuisances, like wacky Ben Carson. But this isn’t a normal year. Donald Trump may lose votes due to his ham-fisted attempt not to publicly denounce David Duke, the former KKK leader. Trump’s furious backpedal this morning was that he hadn’t heard the question when he was questioned about Duke, even though he replied, “Look I don’t know David Duke …”
Not denouncing a KKK leader is usually a big no-no for a candidate, but Trump has proved the reverse principle on everything else, and he may be able to portray this as yet another gotcha by the liberal media. His rallies are getting uglier — today, for the first time, his media baiting turn to violence, when a Secret Service agent put a Time magazine photographer in a choke-hold and slammed him to the floor, to the cheers of the audience (the photographer had moved outside of the media pen designated for the hated press).
Whatever the effect of this latest stuff on his voting turnout, it puts the Republican Party deeper into a crisis, which began at the end of last week following a Republican debate that descended into personal insult as a mode of debate. After it, Marco Rubio decided to go for broke and commit utterly to the struggle on those terms. Thus in the space of a day did the Tea Party-supported Cuban-American senator, custodian of the American Dream, turn into a nightclub comic, working blue. He has now questioned Trump’s honesty, business smarts, his looks, his fake skin tan, his urinary continence, and, with a riff on small hands, the size of his penis. You can’t help but admire Rubio’s commitment to this, or his willingness to cut a losing streak and change tactics.
The problem, of course, is that for genuine independents and for moderate Republicans, the spectacle is one disqualifying the party from serious consideration in any respect — and indeed immolating the whole Republican project. The party founded as an anti-slavery party (or opposed to slavery, in new territories) out of the Whigs in the late 1850s is now in a situation where it could come apart. Could? Has begun to. The real crisis of the Republican Party began last week, when Rubio signed on to #neverTrump (and Cruz did not). It occurred as numerous right-wing pundits said they would never vote for Trump. On Monday they were joined by Ben Sasse, a senator from Nebraska, spoken of as a potential presidential candidate down the road, who said he would never vote for Trump.
That’s the beginning of the crack-up right there. It will widen. It will create the conditions for a brokered convention, should Trump fail to gain a majority of delegates before the process ends in June. The Republican Party now faces the fact that a Trump candidacy would be disaster for them, whether he win or lose. There is ever indication that he would lose, and lose big, when he is not competing in the 25% of the population who call themselves Republican. But even if he won, his erraticism and ego would make any form of governance impossible, even venal right-wing governance. Right up to a week ago, the Republican establishment thought they might be able to deal with a Donald Trump. Then he announced that he would strengthen the libel laws so that newspapers couldn’t tell lies about him (he couldn’t, for about 16 different constitutional reasons), and the white supremacist stuff came up. The libel thing was interesting: there’s no voter upside to it, what do they care? It was Trump’s irritation with news reports about him that did it, and a measure of how he would conduct himself in power — sheer ignorance, whim and fancy. The Republicans, priding themselves on being heirs to, well, the Republic, are about to have as their leader a Third World-style strongman.
That this is happening is extraordinary. The immediate cause is the structure of the parties themselves — the primary system adopted in the 1910, which allows anyone to present themselves as “a Republican” and campaign for the candidacy (but not the leadership) of the party. Yet a look at the other side shows how little the structure is to blame. Bernie Sanders is an interloper too, but he cuts with the grain of the party he is working in. And anyone who didn’t wouldn’t get anywhere in the Democrats.
Progressivism still has a political identity. “Conservatism”/the right doesn’t.
It is collapsing across the world into atomised sub-movements of despite and fantasy. The right is simply an accumulated set of resentments at a changing world, and its “thought” leaders are simply a collection of ageing white hysterics, mostly but not wholly men, projecting their anxieties and hatreds outwards, as a way of stopping their minds from coming apart. The primary system (what a name!) has made it possible for a personification of that to emerge, in the form of Trump. Our system makes it more difficult, so they lurk in News Corp and the think tanks, protected from market forces, which would let them know that there is no real market for fantasies. Over here, Trump’s victory will bring the contradictions of this decades-long fantasy to a point where it can no longer be ignored. What this means for society as a whole can wait for a bit. Normal service will be resumed.
On another matter entirely, it’s Sadie Hawkins Day over here, the 29th of February, when marriage proposals from women are entertained. I will be shortlisting any with a 90K+ plus baseline salary, shared interests, such as me not working, and a flat screen and sofa (send picture of flat screen and sofa). Previous contestants need not apply. As in South Australia, a cash deposit is available for the return of the empty container. More daiquiri! Cookie dough flavour! Bad To the Bone has begun! Onwards!