It’s all over but the shouting – Super Tuesday is just about over. Here, a few feet from where Laurel Canyon Boulevard meets the Sunset Strip, a light fog is edging in off the distant Pacific, and on the television in the other room the cable news talking heads are talking about all the day’s primaries, mainly across the South. Let them talk. It’s all the same. We now know where the country is headed. In November the choice for who gets to run things comes down to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton – everything else is noise. A few minor primaries are still in play – we’ll find out about those in the morning, when the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard, like in the song – but things have been settled:
Donald J. Trump won sweeping victories across the South and in New England on Tuesday, a show of strength in the Republican primaries that underscored the breadth of his appeal and helped him begin to amass a wide delegate advantage despite growing resistance to his candidacy among party leaders.
But Senator Ted Cruz reasserted himself with victories in his home state of Texas and neighboring Oklahoma, earning a reprieve as he fends off questions about his viability and bolstering his case that he is the only alternative capable of overtaking Mr. Trump.
Yeah, but that’s not much of a case:
Mr. Trump’s political coalition – with lopsided victories in Massachusetts, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, and narrower ones in Arkansas and Virginia – appears to have transcended the regional and ideological divisions that have shaped the Republican Party in recent years. He dominated in moderate, secular-leaning Massachusetts just as easily as he did in the conservative and heavily evangelical Deep South.
Trump knows this:
Brandishing his Super Tuesday victories as proof of his political might, Mr. Trump said he expected to consolidate the Republican Party behind his campaign.
“I am a unifier,” he told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., after the winners of about half the evening’s contests had been declared. “Once we get all of this finished, I am going to go after one person: Hillary Clinton.”
And then there’s that other guy:
The early results pointed to a grievous setback for Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has insistently argued that among the Republican candidates, only he had the political standing to compete with Mr. Trump in a head-to-head race. Mr. Rubio’s backers have urged other candidates to stand down and allow him a clean shot at Mr. Trump, who is a polarizing figure even among Republican primary voters.
But Mr. Cruz outpolled Mr. Rubio in many of the states that voted on Tuesday, especially in the South, and he was the only candidate other than Mr. Trump to win multiple states outright. With his limp finish across the board, Mr. Rubio may have lost any leverage he had to demand that other candidates defer to him.
“Do not give in to the fear, do not give in to anger, do not give in to sham artists and con artists who try to take advantage of your suffering,” Mr. Rubio said. “I will campaign as long as it takes and wherever it takes to ensure that I am the next president of the United States.”
And Dox Quixote will find another windmill. Even Cruz knows better:
Mr. Cruz, appearing in Stafford, Tex., boasted of his victories but conceded that the splintered opposition to Mr. Trump would make him difficult to stop.
“So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely, and that would be a disaster for Republicans, for conservatives and for the nation,” he said, referring to Mr. Trump as “profane and vulgar.”
They both stay in of course – see Marco Rubio Claims Super Tuesday Win In Minnesota – Finally – which he’ll say is wonderful, but nothing really changes and Trump walks away with the nomination, as Josh Marshall sees it:
This is starting to look like about the worst possible night Marco Rubio could have had. Making it a race in Virginia is definitely something. But Donald Trump has had a night of crushing victories. Just as important, Cruz won his home state of Texas convincingly and Oklahoma. And there are still a few states out. Rubio still might win in Minnesota. But it looks like Cruz has two or possibly three wins and Rubio has none.
His line tonight: “We are seeing in state after state, his number’s coming down, our number’s going up.”
Good luck with that, dude.
I don’t think establishment Republicans have it in them to consolidate around Ted Cruz. He’s just too big a jerk, probably unelectable nationwide. And they hate him. There’s basically zero chance he wins the nomination.
That leaves Trump, and on the other side:
Hillary Clinton took full command of the Democratic presidential race on Tuesday as she rolled to major victories over Bernie Sanders in Texas, Virginia and across the South and proved for the first time that she could build a national coalition of racially diverse voters that would be crucial in the November election.
Based on early results from Democratic primaries and caucuses in 11 states, Mrs. Clinton succeeded in containing Mr. Sanders to states he was expected to win, like Vermont and Oklahoma, and overpowering him in predominantly black and Hispanic areas that were rich in delegates needed for the Democratic nomination.
Mrs. Clinton, who also showed notable strength among Southern white voters, came away with far more delegates than Mr. Sanders and was on track to build a larger lead than Barack Obama had over her at this point in the 2008 presidential race.
This one is all over too:
While even the poorest showing would not drive Mr. Sanders from the presidential race, his advisers said, Mrs. Clinton was already looking past her party rival on Tuesday to the leading Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump, saying she was “very disappointed” that Mr. Trump initially refused to disavow support from David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.
“We can’t let organizations and individuals that hold deplorable views about what it means to be an American be given any credence at all,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters while campaigning at a coffee shop in Minnesota. “I’m going to continue to speak out about bigotry wherever I see it or hear about it.”
Mr. Sanders, who has also criticized Mr. Trump over the Duke endorsement, cast his ballot in the Vermont primary on Tuesday and held a victory party shortly after he was declared the winner there at 7 p.m. Choosing not to wait and see the results in other states, Mr. Sanders sounded defiant at times and philosophical at others as he spoke to a hometown crowd of cheering admirers near Burlington.
“I know Secretary Clinton and many of the establishment people think I’m looking and thinking too big,” Mr. Sanders said of his proposals for free public college and Medicare for all. “I don’t think so!”
“By the end of tonight, we are going to win many hundreds of delegates,” he predicted. “We have come a very long way in 10 months.”
But not far enough, and not fast enough – see Hillary Clinton Wins Seven States, Sanders Takes Four – and Josh Marshall also comments on Clinton’s victory speech:
Listening to Clinton’s speech, I’m struck by one of most unexpected, surreal parts of this campaign: Trump has given Hillary Clinton the turnkey campaign message she simply never had until right now. It’s basically just the Trump message turned upside. And with Trump’s message so rancid and cartoonish it’s a message that’s fairly hard to quibble with.
Everything is in place now, and Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir sees an eight-month campaign between a vacuous, proto-fascist huckster with no accomplishments or principles and an unregenerate war hawk who represents the neoliberal global elite:
It’s true that the two parties brought this on themselves because they are corrupt and shortsighted and at least one of them is evil. If we’ve learned anything from the 2016 campaign so far, we have learned that a lot of people understand that. One could view that as an encouraging sign, even if the general response has not been entirely rational or constructive. In all honesty, I can sympathize: What have rational or constructive done for us lately?
Anyway, that broken system is about to inflict upon all of us a summer and fall of unlimited terror and unfunny farce, in which all non-nihilistic and approximately sane people will feel compelled to do everything possible to support the unregenerate war hawk over the freak-show barker. It’s a bad Hollywood remake of the disastrous French presidential election of 2002, when the electoral left imploded so thoroughly that center-right President Jacques Chirac’s last remaining opponent was the neo-fascist ultra-nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen (whose subtler and shrewder daughter, Marine Le Pen, has since inherited his mantle). That was pretty dreadful, but let’s say this for the French: People who basically hated Chirac’s guts showed up to pull the lever for him in droves, and he wound up with 82 percent of the vote. Anyone want to bet on a similar outcome in Stupidland?
Jean-Marie Le Pen has endorsed Donald Trump – no surprise there – but O’Hehir is more concerned with our mess:
Both major parties engineered their primary processes to avoid a drawn-out ideological battle and create a near-certain nominee by the middle of March, and in both cases the law of unintended consequences has come into play. That brilliant plan has blown up in the faces of the Republican Party leadership, to hilarious effect, although the time for laughter is pretty nearly over. On the Democratic side it is about to work to perfection and yield the long-expected outcome, but even Hillary Clinton supporters may find the aftertaste unpleasant.
This is unpleasant:
The most astonishing thing about Sanders in 2016 is that he has gotten as far as he did, which of course also speaks to the multiple weaknesses of his opponent, most notably the fact that most people don’t like her. … On the Republican side, any alternate-universe hypothesis involves either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio dropping out in the next week or two and endorsing the other one, in spite of their obvious and unfeigned mutual hatred. Then the Crubio survivor hounds Donald Trump all the way to the convention and engineers a last-minute delegate-count coup with Koch millions and backroom deals. Even if that works, how do you suppose that scenario would play out among the disgruntled Trumpian masses?
Ah, but we get what we deserve:
A nation built on bullshit and empty bluster deserves a bullshitter-in-chief, a megalomaniacal billionaire with a long record of business failures, bankruptcies and empty promises whose only proven expertise is not in deal-making but in branding.
Say what you like about the guy: He represents the moment when electoral politics became pro wrestling; he’s the political equivalent of one of those hyper-patriotic Screaming Eagle rear-window decals in an F-150 pickup, all attitude and no substance… [and] I won’t even pretend to adopt the cynical position that there is no difference between Trump and Clinton. When I heard Sen. Ben Sasse, a right-wing Republican from Nebraska, announce this week that he wouldn’t vote for either of them, it occurred to me that that might be the only time Sasse and I ever agree about anything. That thought was infantile and petulant and I hereby retract it, but it also speaks to a deeper truth about American politics that is not unrelated to our current predicament. Sasse and I both live in states where our presidential vote is virtually certain not to matter, so we might as well not bother.
And add this:
For those of you with long memories, she is pretty much Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a right-wing Democrat from Washington state who was affectionately dubbed “the senator from Boeing” for his love of military hardware and his Cold War hawkishness. Or she’s Richard Nixon without the progressive social policies – and if that sounds like an outrageous gag line, it’s really not.
O’Hehir is not a happy camper:
A blundering imperial power so narcissistic that it uses overseas military interventions as Viagra for its flaccid masculine ego, and that rains death on people in villages a world away for reasons it does not understand, quite likely deserves a first female president who lists nonagenarian war criminal Henry Kissinger among her closest friends and who has supported every misbegotten foreign-policy misadventure of the last thirty years. In allowing our politics to become so ruinous, we clearly deserve this killing joke of an election campaign where we must elect said widely disliked and distrusted first female president in order to fend off the reanimated corpse of Mussolini.
It was not a “super” Tuesday, but the New York Times’ Frank Bruni says this was Hillary Clinton’s Moment:
You can look at Hillary Clinton’s path to this juncture and marvel at how difficult she has often made things for herself, creating messes where there didn’t need to be any, frittering away advantages, misunderstanding the mood of voters, underestimating the mettle of opponents, and failing to cement an image – and a message – that seemed authentic and right.
That’s a legitimate perspective. She’s a deeply flawed politician.
But she’s also a preternaturally determined, resourceful and patient one. Her path illustrates that just as compellingly. For about a quarter of a century, she has been vilified as loudly as she has been lionized, told that her talents pale beside her husband’s, called “likable enough” but seldom lovable, and cast in supporting roles: the first lady, the secretary of state.
She never retreated. Never gave up.
And as the returns from Super Tuesday came in, nudging her closer to the Democratic nomination, I realized that we weren’t just seeing greater clarity in a messy race for the White House and the possible approach of history: a first-ever major-party female presidential nominee.
We were seeing the vindication of a fortitude and fierceness that warrant as much notice as her less savory qualities.
That’s what Willie Loman’s wife says at the end of the Arthur Miller play about her failure of a husband, the hapless salesman, but there may be something to that:
Let’s give her this moment, because she fought her way here. She tuned out the naysayers. She turned a blind eye to all her scars. Her ability to do that may reflect unrestrained ambition, a sturdy confidence in her mission or – more likely – an intricate cat’s cradle of both.
Fine, but she has been wrong on many things too. That should count for something – but it doesn’t matter. She’ll do. She’s not Trump, the Trump the New York Times’ editorial board finds problematic:
The Republicans seem to be reeling, unable or unwilling to comprehend that a shady, bombastic liar is hardening the image of their party as a symbol of intolerance and division.
Last summer, as Mr. Trump began to rise in the polls, party leaders took umbrage at the idea that they’d have to do something to keep the nomination from the likes of him. They stood aside and said, let voters decide. Now voters are deciding. They are leaning, in unbelievable numbers, toward a man whose quest for the presidency revolves around targeting religious and racial minorities and people with disabilities, who flirts with white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan, who ridicules and slanders those who disagree with him.
His opponents, meanwhile, have rushed to adopt his anger-filled message. It’s small wonder that Republican leaders don’t seem to know quite what to say.
They are in a pickle:
“If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday, after months of such games. He sounded naïvely unaware of the darker elements within the Republican Party, present for decades, and now holding sway: “This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln.”
The Republican Party is taking a big step toward becoming the party of Trump. Those who could challenge Mr. Trump – Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – are not only to the right of Mr. Trump on many issues, but are embracing the same game of exclusion, bigotry and character assassination.
Only Trump can fix that, and Kevin Drum sees an effort there:
I see that Donald Trump has officially started the great presidential pivot. In his victory speech he’s mostly saying the same things as always, but saying them a little less bombastically than usual. (He started to relapse into bluster a bit toward the end, but he’s got plenty of time to learn. Give him a few weeks and he’ll seem almost like a normal person.) And that stage! He’s got the whole American flag thing going, along with a setup designed to look like it’s straight out of the White House briefing room. He’s even taking questions like an ordinary politician.
And just to make it all perfect, he’s got his own personal flunky now. Chris Christie, having sold his soul four days ago, was required to stand dutifully behind Trump the entire time. It looked excruciating. But that’s life in Trumpland. If Christie didn’t know this before, he does now.
And we all know what’s coming next:
This is the stage of the race in which Trump starts to calm down a bit so that all the Republicans who loathe him can start telling themselves that maybe he’s not so bad after all. With any luck, by August they’ll have completely forgotten that they once thought he was a crypto-fascist demagogue and racist. You’ll know this transformation is happening when people start commenting that he’s “really grown” since those tumultuous early days of the primaries.
And so it goes, and Trump might beat Hillary Clinton in November, as Matthew Yglesias notes:
Trump isn’t winning because he’s a buffoon. If anything, he is winning despite being a buffoon. He is winning because he understands that nationalism is more important to real-world conservative politics than free market dogma, and he offers what conservatives care about: a populist nationalism that is inflected with conservative policy commitments but by no means limited to them.
Trump is winning because he understands that the 2016 race is about the very definition of America itself. For candidates like Rubio – following the pace set by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – it’s about embracing a new, more diverse, more tolerant country. For Trumpers, it’s precisely the opposite. They want to put the Obama genie back in the bottle and fight vigorously for the traditional notion of Americanness, at home and abroad, even if it means jettisoning some of the GOP donor class’s ideological bugaboos.
Trump is, of course, a joke when it comes to discussing policy details. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a real agenda. Indeed, in the United States it’s actually common for ideologically rigorous candidates – including mostly conservative Republicans but also Bernie Sanders – to speak in terms of grandiose and likely unachievable visions rather than in wonkish, nitty-gritty details.
That does appeal to many voters, as does this:
Wonks sneer, for example, that there is simply no way Trump is going to be able to force the Mexican government to pay for a wall across the border. The point of the promise, however, is not particularly that people believe Trump will make it happen or even necessarily care who pays for the wall. The point was revealed in the last debate, when a moderator asked Trump about former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s statement that “I’m not going to pay for that fucking wall” and Trump immediately quipped that the wall just got 10 feet higher.
The point, in other words, isn’t about wall construction. It’s about Trump signaling that he wants to take a punitive attitude toward Mexico and an unapologetic attitude toward cracking down on illegal immigration. The wall says that Trump’s thinking on the matter is untouched by humanitarian concern or high-mindedness.
Similarly, economists argue that Trump’s talk of winning or losing trade deals is nonsensical – the gains from international trade aren’t zero-sum. But that’s how economists and the global elite more broadly think about it, because they’re not nationalists. …
“My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I’ve grabbed all the money I could get,” Trump says in one of the best lines to appear in his stump speech. “I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States.”
That’s simple patriotism, perhaps framed oddly, but patriotism nonetheless. How does Hillary Clinton counter that? She can’t laugh at him. He’s completely sincere about that, and people get it – and now the stage is set for however this works out. Just don’t call it super.