There’s one thing that America now doesn’t have to worry about:
Don’t expect to see Donald Trump give a humble concession speech if he loses the Republican presidential nomination.
During a Sunday rally in Maryland, the Republican presidential frontrunner mocked candidates who praise their opponents during concession speeches, saying that if he loses the contest, Americans will probably not hear much from him again.
“They fight like hell for six months, and they’re saying horrible things, the worst things you can imagine,” Trump said. “And then one of them loses, one of them wins. And the one who loses says, ‘I just want to congratulate my opponent. He is a brilliant man, he’ll be a great governor or president or whatever.'”
He continued: “I’m not sure you’re ever going to see me there. I don’t think I’m going to lose, but if I do, I don’t think you’re ever going to see me again, folks. I think I’ll go to Turnberry and play golf or something.”
He’s saying that he’s the one honest man in all this. He’ll congratulate no one who wins, if he ever loses to them, as unlikely as that seems (to him) – the winner will still be a joke, an “awful person” – and he’ll just go play golf – and we’ll all be sorry to see him go. That will be America’s loss. We’ll soon beg for him to come back. America knows that. America has to admit that.
That’s a curious notion, but now the matter is moot:
Donald J. Trump crushed his Republican opponents in Pennsylvania, Maryland and three other states on Tuesday, a sweep that put him considerably closer to capturing the party’s presidential nomination outright, while Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware and was battling to amass enough delegates to claim the Democratic nomination as early as mid-May.
Though Mr. Trump was widely expected to dominate the primaries, his margins of victory represented a breakthrough: He received 55 percent to 60 percent of the vote in some states, after months of winning many primaries with less than a majority.
Mr. Trump’s success intensified the aura of inevitability around his bid to lead the Republicans, and created urgent new challenges for his rivals. More significant, it increased his chances of avoiding a fight on the floor of the party’s convention in July and of claiming the nomination on the delegates’ first ballot.
“When the boxer knocks out the other boxer, you don’t have to wait around for a decision,” he said boastfully at an election-night appearance before supporters at Trump Tower in New York.
This is all but over:
The other Republican candidates, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, fared so poorly on Tuesday that they were likely to lose most of the 118 bound delegates up for grabs across the Northeast. Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware also went for Mr. Trump. Mr. Cruz is now under growing pressure to beat Mr. Trump in Indiana’s primary next week, perhaps the last real chance the stop-Trump forces have to halt his march to the nomination.
This New York Times article, like all the others, then goes into the arcane math and the even more arcane rules that govern how convention delegates are chosen, and the freedom they have or don’t have to vote for whoever tickles their fancy on each ballot, but it all comes down to the same thing. Cruz will have to do the impossible in the remaining primaries. Kasich will need divine intervention, and despite what all the angry white evangelicals say, there’s no real evidence that God is a Republican. But that’s not to say things will go well for him now:
The broad support for Mr. Trump spanned some of the dividing lines that have characterized the Republican race until now: He won among the affluent and college-educated as well as with blue-collar voters and those with no more than a high school education, according to exit polls.
But the unease about Mr. Trump’s candidacy in some quarters of the party persisted, a potential warning sign if he emerges as the nominee. About a quarter of Republican primary voters in Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania said they would not support him if he were the party’s nominee. The resistance to Mr. Trump was greatest among Mr. Kasich’s supporters, who are more moderate-leaning: Six in 10 said they would not vote for Mr. Trump in November.
Well, no Democrat is going to vote for him, and not many Republican women, and no Hispanics and no Muslims and no blacks. The party’s nomination may be pretty well settled, but nothing else is. Still, in this matter, Josh Marshall says this is the beginning of the end:
Tonight’s Trump wins are so crushing that I suspect Republicans are going to take a look at these results, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow and say, “Who are we kidding?”
Trump won by big margins in the South. He’s winning by massive margins in the Northeast and states like Pennsylvania which geographically and politically span into the Midwest. Each state tonight looks like it has Trump at or near 60%. How big does his margin need to be? Are we going to start talking about his 75% ceiling?
I’ve been saying for weeks or months that Trump is going to be far, far harder to deny than Republican insiders want to admit. These wins make the denial much harder. It’s not just that Kasich and Cruz have no conceivable path to a delegate win. These results tonight make Cruz and Kasich look, frankly, small and ridiculous.
Didn’t they already look small and ridiculous? No matter – Marshall also notes that Trump is pretty good at that himself:
Trump said it himself: “It’s over.” And he’s right. It is. He’s the nominee. But his victory speech and Q&A was deeply revealing – both in its power and its self-destructiveness.
Hillary Clinton set him off:
I cannot remember a presidential campaign in my lifetime and perhaps in more than a century where the two nominees not only differed so much on policy (we’ve had plenty of that) but tonally in the most basic way they exist as candidates and public people.
Listening to Trump he was brimming with confidence (even for him) and totally coherent. His emphasis was very different. Trade. Stagnating wages. Clinton “destroyed this country economically” with NAFTA. The wall came up but it was an afterthought. This is a powerful message, even if he may have no clear or plausible way to fix these problems. From anyone else, anyone without his mammoth negatives, this could be a potent center-right message.
But then at the end there it was. “I think the only card she has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card and the beautiful thing is women don’t like her, okay?”
You hear the first part and you think… well, maybe. And then… WOMP! No. The indiscipline and aggression is deep in the DNA.
Trump is a strange man, and Marshall says that’s kind of too bad:
It’s a bummer for Dems that they won’t get a shot at presidential nominee Ted Cruz. Don’t get me wrong: I think Trump will be a historically weak general election candidate. But Cruz would be the choice you’d want if you’re running the general election for the Democrats. Cruz is a conventional right wing candidate who would almost certainly go down to a crushing general election defeat. He is conventional and predictable. He’s a new version of Barry Goldwater, only Goldwater had some personal appeal.
Trump is not at all conventional. That introduces a lot of unpredictability into the equation.
I think there’s a good chance that Trump would lose even worse than Cruz. But he could also do substantially better. Do I think Trump will win the presidency? No. Let’s be clear: nominating Trump is an epic disaster for the GOP. I think he’s too unpopular with too many key segments of the electorate. But he has more upside potential than Cruz.
Trump could be dangerous, if only a little bit, but on the other side, we now know what we get:
Hillary Clinton all but secured the Democratic nomination Tuesday after a long and bruising primary fight against rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, scoring decisive victories in four of five East Coast states to cast ballots.
In the last big day of multiple contests before Democrats conclude their primary voting in June, Clinton won Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware, and Sanders won in tiny Rhode Island, the only state where independents could vote in the Democratic contest.
Overall, Sanders picked up a fraction of the delegates awarded to Clinton.
While not mathematically eliminated, the liberal senator from Vermont, whose outsider campaign captured a current of Democratic discontent, remains far behind and now faces nearly impossible odds as the nominating contest draws to a close.
Clinton all but declared victory over Sanders on Tuesday…
This Washington Post item, like the one in the New York Times, then goes into the arcane state-by-state delegate math to prove their point – the sort of thing that makes your eyes glaze over – but the more important point is this:
Speaking to Sanders supporters, Clinton said she intends to unify the party. She appealed to their shared values, including reducing income inequality, college affordability and universal health coverage.
“Our campaign is about restoring people’s confidence in our ability to solve problems together,” Clinton said. “That’s why we’re setting bold progressive goals backed up by real plans.”
“After all, that is how progress is made,” she said. “We have to be both dreamers and doers,” Clinton said.
Yes, that would be just fine, but the New York Times’ Frank Bruni suggests a bit more situational awareness:
Bernie Sanders isn’t losing. Just ask many of his backers or listen to some of his own complaints. He’s being robbed, a victim of antiquated rules, voter suppression, shady arithmetic and a corrupt Democratic establishment. The swindle includes the South’s getting inordinate sway and the poor none at all. If Americans really had a voice, they would shout “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” until too hoarse to shout anymore.
Donald Trump isn’t winning. Just ask Ted Cruz, by whose strange and self-serving logic it is “the will of the people” (his actual words) that he and John Kasich collude to prevent Trump from amassing a majority of delegates so that some runner-up with less demonstrable support can leapfrog past him to become the Republican presidential nominee. Democracy in action!
I agree that Trump’s nomination would be frightening. I disagree that Cruz’s would be better. It certainly wouldn’t be more justified, but such rational thinking has gone missing in this year of losing gracelessly.
And in this era of irresolution all too often contests don’t yield accepted conclusions and a grudging acquiescence by those who didn’t get their way. They prompt accusations of thievery, cries of illegitimacy and a determination to neuter the victor, nullify the results or reverse them as soon as possible.
That’s our political world now, for better or worse, and mostly worse:
The Sanders camp is right to raise questions about voting irregularities in a few places, including New York, where there’s an investigation underway, and about the odd patchwork of closed and open primaries across the country.
But all of the candidates knew about that patchwork going in, and Clinton’s successful navigation of it – she has a multi-million-vote lead over Sanders – is more persuasive than any dark claims of dastardly tricks.
On the Republican side, Trump and Cruz have each bellowed about the other’s supposedly unfair advantages at a volume that’s hardly constructive. It’s self-promotion with a side of cynicism.
The graceless losing of 2016 owes something to this election’s particular characters. When you’re not just a man but a revolution (Sanders), you can never quit the fight or flee the front.
When you’re the Don Quixote of extreme conservatism (Cruz), you can never ditch your armor. And it’s easy to tell yourself – because it’s easy for all of us to tell ourselves – that surrendering to Trump is surrendering your patriotism.
But we asked for this:
The refusal to grant victors legitimacy bundles together so much about America today: the coarseness of our discourse; the blind tribalism coloring our debates; the elevation of individualism far above common purpose; the ethos that everybody should and can feel like a winner on every day.
Our culture is what it is, but Dana Milbank argues that Bernie Sanders is no fool:
Eight years ago, I spent an election night in a basement gymnasium in Manhattan, watching Hillary Clinton and her campaign advisers create an alternate reality.
It was June 3, 2008, and Barack Obama had just clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, making official a victory that had seemed inevitable for months. But Terry McAuliffe, then the campaign chairman and emcee of this Clinton “victory” party, recited a list of Clinton’s primary wins and introduced her as “the next president of the United States.”
Clinton, too, made no mention of her defeat, boasting that she had won “more votes than any primary candidate in history.”
Yet four days later, Clinton graciously bowed out of the race. In a concession speech at the National Building Museum in Washington, she said she and her supporters would “do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.” Some in the hall booed but Clinton delivered her supporters to Obama in November.
Recalling this serene end to the bitter 2008 Democratic primary battle, I’m not inclined to join in all the hand-wringing about the damage Bernie Sanders is doing to Clinton’s chances in November by remaining in the race.
In fact, let him stay in and do the right thing:
It doesn’t matter if Sanders continues his candidacy until the last votes are cast in June. What matters is that he quits gracefully, and there should be every expectation he will, for a simple reason: Sanders is not a fool.
Sanders sounded like an extortionist Monday night when he answered a college student’s question about whether he would encourage his supporters to back Clinton if she secured the nomination. He said Clinton would have to earn their support by embracing single-payer health care, free college tuition and a carbon tax – all things Clinton rejected in her (successful) campaign against Sanders. “If Secretary Clinton wins it is incumbent upon her to [convince] millions of people who right now do not believe in establishment politics or establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street,” he said.
But seconds later, the forum’s moderator, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, rephrased the question: “If it’s incumbent on her, what role do you have?” And Sanders gave a very different answer. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that no Republican gets into the White House in this election cycle,” he said.
But that may not have been a contradiction:
Sanders wants to exert maximum leverage to the very end to move Clinton toward his populist policies. But he is a practical man, and he certainly doesn’t wish to see a President Trump or President Cruz.
He is no fool, and even if he has suggested that Clinton was unqualified and in “Wall Street’s pocket” and so on, that hardly matters:
This just doesn’t qualify as ugly campaigning – particularly compared with a Republican race in which candidates have called each other liars and argued about genital size. Or compare it with the Obama-Clinton standoff of 2008 – a much closer contest than this one. At a May 31, 2008, meeting of the Democratic National Committee, the two campaigns clashed with accusations of cheating. There were hecklers, howls and foul language, and extra security had to be called in to keep order. At the time, Clinton aides, sounding much like this year’s Sanders aides, were threatening that Obama “has work to do” to convince Clinton backers to go his way.
But a week later, Clinton was out, and the party was on its way to unity.
And so it will happen this time. Sanders, when he quits the race, can justifiably declare victory in moving the debate – and Clinton – in his direction on trade, Wall Street, income inequality, campaign finance and energy. His campaign has exceeded all expectations, and he isn’t about to jeopardize his movement by handing the presidency to Trump.
Slate’s Jamelle Bouie extends that argument:
Team Sanders needs to give up on winning the nomination. That battle is over. But Sanders still has an unprecedented opportunity to leave a stamp on the Democratic Party. By fighting in remaining primaries and caucuses – by raising huge sums and drawing massive crowds – Sanders can show the extent to which his message resonates with millions of Democrats, including the young voters and activists poised to lead the party in the future. He shows, in other words, the extent to which the party belongs to his ideas, even if it doesn’t belong to him – a fact he can underscore with new polls showing a large leftward swing among millennial voters, and a similar swing among Democrats writ large.
He can now leave a legacy, if he tones things down:
Sanders can shape the Democratic Party platform and win real concessions from the Clinton campaign, on everything from the shape and design of future primaries to actual policies.
But if Sanders wants to maximize that leverage, he needs to retool his message away from Hillary Clinton. As it stands, she’s still in his crosshairs. “This campaign is about taking on the entire establishment. The Democratic establishment, the financial establishment, and in Clinton’s campaign, the most powerful political organization in the United States of America,” said Sanders during a town hall interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. Yes, Sanders plans to work against the Republican nominee for president, whoever he is. But in terms of his relationship with the Democratic Party, direct attacks on the standard-bearer – already bruised by a lengthy primary, and persistent questions of trustworthiness – don’t help. Indeed, for rank-and-file Democrats, they’re ammunition for the eventual Republican assault.
It may seem like useless theater to massage the feelings of the winning side, but it’s not. There’s strategy at work.
But it’s just a matter of being careful:
Any negotiations between Team Clinton and Team Sanders will be hard work, as the former tries to protect its turf and the latter tries to press its advantage. Sanders will come to the convention with strength, but as the loser, he’ll still be working from a position of weakness, not strength. Continued attacks on Clinton won’t change that. Instead, they’ll create enmity, and enmity is bad for negotiations. People dig in when they dislike each other. They don’t want to concede. Beyond that, Sanders’ leverage doesn’t come from his ability to criticize Hillary Clinton – anyone can do that – it comes from his ability to raise money and build enthusiasm. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, he has a big stick in the form of his primary success. Now he needs to speak a little softly.
To win the most possible leverage, Sanders will have to return to his old rhetoric of ideas. And after years of official distance from the party, he will have to act like a loyal Democrat. This will be an uneasy posture for a lifelong gadfly. But the payoff – a Democratic Party bearing the Mark of the Bernie, with a full-on Sanders faction exerting pressure from the left – would be worth the price.
That’s how you create a lasting legacy in American politics.
In contrast, Salon’s Matthew Rozsa explains Trump’s legacy, with the seminal event that started all this:
It began almost exactly five years ago, at a moment when the most powerful people in the world literally laughed at him. Being humiliated on international television tends to become a defining moment, and for Trump it led to a personal quest that he prove himself not to be a joke. In his effort to do so, he has managed to drag much of the country down to his level.
The day was May 1, 2011. Halfway across the world, United States Navy SEALs were in the process of assassinating Osama bin Laden, but only a handful of the attendees at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner knew that. The politicians and celebrities had gathered at the so-called Nerd Prom to poke good-natured fun at the nation’s most powerful men and women – and, in particular, Donald Trump. Best known at that time as a self-promoting real estate mogul and reality TV star, Trump had briefly emerged as a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination by peddling a bizarre conspiracy theory that President Obama hadn’t been born in Hawaii. That night Obama responded to these claims by publicizing certified copies of his certificate of live birth (ironically accompanied by Rick Derringer’s “Real American”), then poked fun at Trump for everything from being a conspiracy theorist and his tacky tastes to hosting “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Trump smiled gamely at first, but by the time comedian Seth Meyers took over, his grin turned into a scowl. Meyers’ lobbed one grenade after another at Trump – his hair, his accent, his racism, his reputation as a vapid celebrity, nothing was spared. One particularly cruel line summed up the spirit of the evening: “Donald Trump has been saying he’ll run for president as a Republican, which is surprising, because I just thought he was running as a joke.”
That hurt, so Donald Trump methodically turned himself into a victim-hero, and sold that to a public that he told should feel victimized but were really heroes underneath it all:
Whereas the scandalized politicians of the past acted only on their own behalf, the derision to which Trump is subjected by its very nature extends to his supporters as well. That’s why they didn’t care that Meyers and Obama humiliated Trump five years ago, and why they won’t care what arrows the likes of John Oliver and Stephen Colbert can sling at him today.
The problem isn’t that the Americans who share Trump’s racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other prejudices don’t know that they are viewed as comical, but rather that they’ve responded by doubling-down on the qualities that cause them to be mocked. Thus the ease with which they’ve adopted Trump’s quest to be taken seriously as their own.
That worked like a charm, in the Hogwarts sense, where those “charmed” are suddenly befuddled, but that may have been a bad choice:
When Trump found himself a laughingstock in front of the world five years ago, he had a rare opportunity to reflect on his public persona and try, if he wanted, to become a better man. Instead he focused solely on his desire to be taken seriously. Certainly we should be able to agree that it’s dangerous to elect as president someone who can stoop to such depths in his thirst for validation. People get hurt when our culture deems it acceptable to promote racist conspiracy theories… or make generalizations about groups of people based on their gender, race, or religion. Just because every individual has a right to express these views, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held socially accountable for doing so. When we laugh at those who peddle asininity and hate, we recognize that doing these things is a sign of poor character. Once the laughter stops – or, at least in this case, stops mattering – it will mean that we’ve become a dumber and more hateful society.
That too is a legacy – but things seem to be pretty much settled now. Hillary has this all but locked up. Bernie lost – but he will leave a legacy that will make things better for everyone. Trump has this all but locked up, and he has already left us a dumber and more hateful society, and then he will lose in November. Then he’ll go play golf at Turnberry – his fancy golf resort in Scotland – and wait for a desperate nation to beg him to return. He may wait a long time.