Based on the results of this week’s Super Tuesday primaries, Donald Trump is virtually unstoppable on the path to the Republican presidential nomination. Trump won seven of the 11 states up for grabs, often by double-digit margins. When he announced his campaign last summer, political opinion (including Queerty’s) was that Trump was the perfect punchline for years of Republican lunacy.
As it turns out the joke is on us.
Trump has tapped into a deep vein of insecurity among a core group of voters, largely white, blue-collar, less educated voters. They have good reasons to feel insecure, most notably that the economy has not been kind to them. They also have bad reasons: being white isn’t all it used to be, which to them feels like a loss.
Emboldened by Trump’s unvarnished hate speech, his supporters have happily shared beliefs that most of us would have liked to think disappeared years ago. It’s not just the build-the-wall, ban-the-Muslims beliefs, which are bad enough. It’s beliefs that are so extremist as to defy credibility.
Chief among them is that a third of Trump supports would ban gay and lesbian immigrants from entering the U.S. Not even Ted Cruz’s supporters could hit that number (only 17% of them would build a lavender wall).
It’s always impossible to predict what fear Trump will exploit or what group he will choose to belittle. Maybe he will steer clear of bashing gays the way he’s bashed Mexicans. But it’s not a good sign that Trump is willing to lean on some of America’s premier homophobes.
The scariest quality (if you can call it that) of Trump voters is that they have authoritarian tendencies. They want someone who is going to take charge, implement extreme policies, and act like a strongman, all under the guise of “telling it like it is,” This is not a good sign for anyone deemed an outsider.
Having been fed a steady diet of apocalyptic rhetoric from the Republican party and Fox News, the GOP base can’t entirely be blamed for being where they are. The party, on the other hand, can be. It is now gobsmacked that voters actually believe that stuff and, worse still, are holding it against them.
What are the options? As delusional as ever, the Republican establishment still thinks that it can somehow stop Trump without confronting his supporters. There’s a lot of talk about a brokered convention, which assumes that Trump gets close to winning the nomination but doesn’t quite clinch it. That’s possible, of course, but increasingly unlikely. In any case, Trump’s delegates will hardly sit still for the party stealing the nomination from their candidate at the last minute.
Besides, the alternatives are pretty unappealing. Ted Cruz is universally despised by other Republicans, but he has the most number of delegates after Trump and he at least has the veneer of credentials acceptable for a presidential candidate.
Marco Rubio, the repository of the Republican elites’ hopes, is turning out to be the little robot that couldn’t. So far, Rubio has won one state–Minnesota. About the best that can be said of that victory is that it ranks above America Samoa in terms of importance in the primary season. Barely. He’s 20 points behind Trump in the polls in his home state of Florida.
The fact is, in the absence of some earth-shattering blunder, Trump will be the GOP nominee. If failing to disavow the KKK doesn’t count as earth-shattering–and it hasn’t–nothing ever will.
And if you think a Trump nomination means Hillary Clinton has the White House all sewn up, think again. This year has been so unpredictable that conventional wisdom simply doesn’t apply. Trump might hit on the exact message he needs to win. In fact, he may already have done so.
Even if Trump does eventually lose, he will have left a trail of ruin behind him, including the demise of the Republican party.