No one likes the inevitable – something could change, you never know – but it never does. You’re not going to end up an artist in Paris, or pitch a no-hitter in the seventh game of the World Series, in Yankee Stadium. You’re going to lead a quiet little life in Altoona or wherever, married to your high-school sweetheart, and that may be pleasant enough, but damn it – that was so depressingly inevitable. Ah well, things just fall in place. What are you gonna do? Some things are inevitable, like Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination this year, and maybe winning the presidency. Few want this to happen – maybe a third of those who call themselves Republicans – but somehow that seems inevitable now.
At Talking Points Memo, that’s what Josh Marshall says:
What’s the number of times one Republican has scored dominating victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina and then gone on to lose the nomination? Exactly. Never. And this isn’t some kind of special magic to one state or even group of states. Though it was disappointing against expectations, even the second place showing in Iowa confirms the general narrative. Yes, things could change. Nothing is certain in politics. But it’s time to dispense with any faith-based logic that disputes the fact that Donald Trump is now the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican nomination. Overwhelming.
The only mild caveat is that with a [George] Bush or a McCain or a Romney, by the time these gents had established a clear string of wins they had substantial buy-in from party leaders, elected officials and donors – something Trump still clearly lacks. But that only gets you so far. He’s the clear favorite among GOP primary voters. And in case you’re thinking, well, not the majority, just about a third of GOP primary voters – well, no one ever gets 50% or 60% while you’re still in a contested race. It doesn’t work that way.
If he doesn’t secure the nomination, it is difficult – barring some big changes – that another candidate does secure a majority.
It’s time to face facts:
There are many people in and out of the GOP who still believe Trump’s odds need to be significantly discounted because of his campaign’s weirdness, clownishness or bigotry. They’re wrong. He’s the overwhelming favorite to head the Republican ticket this fall.
Deal with it, or check out Slate’s William Saletan arguing that Donald Trump has clinched nothing. He cites ABC’s George Stephanopoulos – “No Republican who’s won both New Hampshire and South Carolina has ever lost the nomination” – and calls bullshit on that:
That statement about second and third states on the GOP nominating calendar is true. In the last two days, it has permeated the Internet, spooking reporters into talk of a Trump coronation. But the magical power of these two states is a myth. It’s one of those patterns that looks decisive but turns out to be dubious. If you look more comprehensively at history and at current polling, it’s still way too early to call a Trump nomination inevitable.
Saletan then sets things straight:
The GOP didn’t hold a presidential primary in South Carolina until 1980. In 1984 and 2004, with Republican presidents in office and seeking re-election, both states were uncontested. They were won by the sitting vice president in 1988 and by the incumbent president in 1992. In 1996, 2000, and 2012, the candidate who prevailed in New Hampshire didn’t win South Carolina. So in the last 35 years, there’s been only one open nomination contest in which the same Republican won both states. That was 2008.
The winner that year, Sen. John McCain, went on to capture the nomination. But McCain’s position in surveys taken before and after the 2008 South Carolina primary was nothing like Trump’s current one. In a CNN poll conducted between Jan. 14 and 17, 2008, just before that year’s South Carolina primary, 66 percent of Republicans said McCain had “the personality and leadership qualities a president should have.” Only 33 percent said he lacked those qualities.
In short, McCain would do, but it seems Trump won’t do at all:
In December 2015, a Monmouth University survey asked Republicans whether Trump had “the temperament needed to carry out the role of president.” At that point, 35 percent disagreed with that statement – not much worse than the 33 percent who had said in 2008 that McCain lacked “the personality and leadership qualities a president should have.” But the more people saw of Trump, the more they turned against him. By January 2016, 45 percent of Republicans interviewed by CBS News and the New York Times rejected the proposition that Trump “has the right kind of temperament and personality to be a good president.” And by February, in a Fox News poll taken just before the South Carolina primary, 48 percent of Republicans disagreed with the statement that Trump “has the temperament to serve effectively as president.”
Trump has now managed to convince almost half of all Republicans that’s he’s a danger to the country and that has implications:
The political effects of Trump’s unattractiveness, compared with McCain’s broad appeal, can be measured in two ways. The first is that Republican voters in 2016 are far less likely to embrace Trump as their second choice than Republican voters in 2008 were to embrace McCain. In the January 2008 ABC/Post survey, McCain didn’t just lead the horse race. He was also, among seven candidates listed as options, the most popular second choice of Republican voters.
In the field of Republicans running in 2016, however, Trump is the least popular. … But Trump’s bigger problem is that, unlike McCain, he has already lost the votes of too many Republicans, not just in the primaries but in the general election.
His numbers have been dismal in poll after poll:
In the Suffolk poll, 17 percent of Republicans said that if Trump became the nominee, they would be “scared.” In a CBS/Times survey, 20 percent of Republicans said they wouldn’t support Trump as the nominee. In the Quinnipiac poll, 28 percent said they “would definitely not support [Trump] for the Republican nomination.” (By comparison, 17 percent ruled out Cruz, and 13 percent ruled out Rubio.) And in the NBC/Journal poll, 42 percent said they couldn’t imagine themselves “supporting [Trump] for the Republican nomination.” Only Jeb Bush was more broadly rejected.
And Jeb Bush just gave up. Trump won’t, but he isn’t John McCain:
The only other Republican who has won those two primaries back to back in the last 35 years, without already being president or vice president, went on to capture the nomination, not because he was just like Trump, but because he wasn’t.
So, Trump doesn’t have the nomination sewed up. Nothing is inevitable, but his nomination still seems likely. Who else is there, Ted Cruz, as nasty as they come and hated by everyone in his own party, or Marco Rubio, the perpetually bewildered man-child? Saletan strolls through recent political history convincingly, and documents how Trump continues to widen the array of those who are appalled by him, but Trump still leads in all the polls. His numbers never drop, and Zach Carter and Ryan Grim assume Trump will get the nomination, and see how Donald Trump could become president:
If he makes it to the White House, he’ll get there by taking the Upper Midwest back from the Democratic Party.
When President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, he ran up the score in the Electoral College, winning 25 states – good for 332 total electoral votes. His victory was thorough. He only needed 270 electoral votes to win, and President George W. Bush had taken just 286 in his 2004 re-election.
To secure the presidency, Democrats only have to win the Northeast, the West Coast, and the Upper Midwest, including Iowa. Obama did far better, carrying every swing state in the country, including Florida and Virginia in the South, and Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada in the West.
But even with that massive margin, Obama could have been undone by victories for Republican rival Mitt Romney in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Together, those four Rust Belt states account for 64 electoral votes. Even if Floridians, Iowans, Coloradans and all of the other swing states had gone to Obama, his failure to capture the Upper Midwest would have been enough to hand the White House over to Romney.
But Obama got lucky:
Beyond demographics, Obama was able to capitalize on his rescue of the auto industry, a major issue in the 2012 race, as well as his opponent’s weakness: The Bain Capital 47-percenter made the worst possible candidate for that region.
But this year is different:
Trump is no Romney. He is running an unsubtle, racist campaign that has particularly targeted Latinos. His chances of winning swing states with significant Latino populations – Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico – are extremely low.
But he doesn’t need them to win. All he has to do is carry the Rust Belt – a region perfectly attuned to Trump’s fiery denunciations of American trade policy and his angry condemnation of Washington corruption. While Romney hailed free trade, globalization and “creative destruction,” Trump rails against the North American Free Trade Agreement and promises to bring jobs back home.
Who signed NAFTA into law? That would be former President Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton can’t be held responsible for everything her husband did in office. But don’t think you won’t hear it on repeat this fall anyway.
And then there’s this:
The Rust Belt is disproportionately white. While there are pockets of color – in Philadelphia, Flint, Detroit, Milwaukee – the states are much whiter than the national average. America is 62 percent white, according to census data. Michigan, by contrast, is over 75 percent white, and Pennsylvania’s population is more than 77 percent white. More than 80 percent of Ohio is white, as is over 82 percent of Wisconsin.
This doesn’t mean that white people in these states will all flock to Trump. Many of them are die-hard Democrats and appalled by his bigoted campaign. But it does mean there are relatively fewer people of color in the Upper Midwest who will feel personally targeted by his message of intolerance, and plenty of white people who feel personally targeted by the last 30 years of U.S. economic policy. Visit a Trump rally or check out the photos and videos of Trump gatherings, and you’ll get the idea.
And there’s the power balance there:
The current governors of Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan are all Republicans, and Pennsylvania had a GOP governor until last year. It won’t be easy for Trump to run that table, but it’s not insane to think that he could do so.
That’s cheery, and as this item appeared at the Huffington Post, it also came with the site’s automatic disclaimer at the end of all items about Donald Trump:
Editor’s Note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims – 1.6 billion members of an entire religion – from entering the U.S.
Everyone knows this, but his nomination seems inevitable and his winning the presidency quite possible. What do we have coming that cannot be stopped? Oliver Laughland, in the Guardian, digs up an old story that hints at that:
Yusef Salaam was 15 years old when Donald Trump demanded his execution for a crime he did not commit.
Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted.
The miscarriage of justice is widely remembered as a definitive moment in New York’s fractured race relations. But Trump’s intervention – he signed full-page newspaper advertisements implicitly calling for the boys to die – has been gradually overlooked as the businessman’s chances of winning the Republican nomination have rapidly increased. Now those involved in the case of the so-called Central Park Five and its aftermath say Trump’s rhetoric served as an unlikely precursor to a unique brand of divisive populism that has powered his rise to political prominence in 2016.
“He was the fire starter,” Salaam said of Trump, in his first extended interview since Trump announced his run for the White House. “Common citizens were being manipulated and swayed into believing that we were guilty.”
Here’s the refresher for those who would like to forget the whole thing:
It was 1989. The crack epidemic had torn through New York as poverty soared to 25% and the city’s elites reaped the rewards of a booming Wall Street. The murder rate had risen to 1,896 killings a year; 3,254 rapes would be reported in the five boroughs, but only one captured the city’s extended attention and later exposed bias in its criminal justice system and media establishment.
On the evening of 19 April, as 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili, who was white, jogged across the northern, dilapidated section of Central Park, she was brutally attacked – bludgeoned with a rock, gagged, tied and raped. She was left for dead but discovered hours later, unconscious and suffering from hypothermia and severe brain damage.
The New York police department believed they already had the culprits in custody.
That same night, a group of more than 30 youths had entered the park from East Harlem. Some engaged in a rampage of random criminality, hurling rocks at cars, assaulting and mugging passersby. Among the group was Salaam, along with 14-year-olds Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson, 15-year-old Antron McCray and 16-year-old Korey Wise. The teenagers – four African American and one Hispanic – would become known collectively as the Central Park Five.
They would all later deny any involvement in criminality that night, but as they were rounded up and interrogated by the police at length, they said, they were forced into confessing to the rape.
Then the inevitable happened:
The city erupted. The case came to embody not only fears that accompanied the dramatic rise of violent crime in New York, but also its perceived racial dynamics. The case of a black woman, raped the same day in Brooklyn by two men who threw her from the roof of a four-story building, received little media attention.
Enter Donald Trump:
Just two weeks after the Central Park attack, before any of the boys had faced trial and while Meili remained critically ill in a coma, Donald Trump, whose office on Fifth Avenue commanded an exquisite view of the park’s opulent southern frontier, intervened.
He paid a reported $85,000 to take out advertising space in four of the city’s newspapers, including the New York Times. Under the headline “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back the Police!” and above his signature, Trump wrote: “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”
Salaam, now 41, cannot remember exactly where he was when he first saw the ads. He had no idea who Trump was. “I knew that this famous person calling for us to die was very serious,” he recalled.
“We were all afraid. Our families were afraid. Our loved ones were afraid. For us to walk around as if we had a target on our backs, that’s how things were.”
All five minors had already been paraded in front of the cameras and had their names and addresses published, but Salaam said he and his family received more death threats after the papers ran Trump’s full-page screed. On a daytime TV show two days later, a female audience member called for the boys to be castrated and echoed the calls for the death penalty if Meili died. Pat Buchanan, the former Republican White House aide, called for the oldest of the group, Wise, to be “tried, convicted and hanged in Central Park by June 1”.
But the main mover here was Donald Trump:
The jury found all five boys guilty. The court condemned them to prison to serve sentences ranging from five to 10 years and five to 15 years. Wise, who had remained in the city’s notorious Rikers Island jail, was sentenced as an adult.
Michael Warren, the veteran New York civil rights lawyer who would later come to represent the Central Park Five, is certain that Trump’s advertisements played a role in securing conviction.
“He poisoned the minds of many people who lived in New York and who, rightfully, had a natural affinity for the victim,” said Warren. “Notwithstanding the jurors’ assertions that they could be fair and impartial, some of them or their families, who naturally have influence, had to be affected by the inflammatory rhetoric in the ads.”
A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign declined to comment.
Of course she did, but this was inevitable:
For many who have studied Trump’s rise to prominence, the Central Park case provided an early glimpse into how his racially charged views entered his political and tactical mindset.
“He has this penchant for what you might call otherizing,” said Michael D’Antonio, the author of Never Enough, a recently published Trump biography.
“I think he knew what he was doing by taking a side, and I think he knew he was aligning himself with law and order, especially white law and order. I don’t think that he was consciously saying ‘I’d like to whip up racial animosity’, but his impulse is to run into conflict and controversy rather than try to help people understand what might be going on in a reasoned way.”
He’s just that kind of guy:
In February 2000, when Trump was again flirting with a run for the White House, he took out anonymous ads in local upstate New York newspapers, in an effort to shut down a rival casino backed by a group of Native Americans. Beneath a picture of needles and drug paraphernalia, the ad stated: “Are these the new neighbors we want?” It added: “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.”
Trump later apologized, but his biographer argued the incident underlined a “willingness to use rhetoric that other people won’t use under the guise of talking straight” that is now a fixture on the campaign trail.
Well, he is who he is:
One year after the Central Park Five were convicted, John O’Donnell, a former executive who ran Trump Plaza hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, published a tell-all alluding to his former boss’s casual racism behind closed doors.
He quoted Trump as saying: “I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”
In a later interview with Playboy magazine, Trump labelled his former employee a “fucking loser” but added: “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
Yes, it’s true:
In 2002, after Salaam had served seven years in prison, Matias Reyes, a violent serial rapist and murderer already serving life inside, came forward and confessed to the Central Park rape. He stated that he had acted by himself. A re-examination of DNA evidence proved it was his semen alone found on Meili’s body, and just before Christmas that year, the convictions against each member of the Central Park Five were vacated by New York’s Supreme Court.
By this point, Trump had gotten his wish: the death penalty had been reinstated in New York since 1995, at great cost to the state. It was subsequently abolished in 2007, without a single execution carried out.
Following a 14-year court battle, the Central Park Five settled a civil case with the city for $41 million in 2014. But far from offering an apology for his conduct in 1989, Trump was furious.
In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, he described the case as the “heist of the century”.
He wouldn’t let it go. That was inevitable. He cannot be wrong. And this is the man who will be the Republican nominee. There’s this story of the Central Park Five, just more of the same, and almost half of all Republicans think that’s he’s a danger to the country, and that number keeps growing, but his poll numbers never drop. They have no credible alternative to him. And is Hillary Clinton a credible alternative to him in November? All she offers is shrill and unpleasant total competence. That may have to do, but that doesn’t seem inevitable either. It’s Donald Trump’s year.
No one likes the inevitable, for a reason.