It is Trump.
It is base democracy-stupid.
The will of the grass-root Republicans. Washington-hate.
Joy and shock for many in a divided USA.
Even many important Republicans, including the two former Bush ex-presidents grumble.
Several GOP officials would rather vote for a Democrat in November.
How did HE make it against all odds?
Technically he is still only the ‘presumptive presidential nominee’ of the Republican party. He still has to win the formal nomination which will likely be in June. is now certain Trump will have the 1,237 delegates needed to become the nominee before the July convention in Cleveland, Ohio. No one left to block him any more.
Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee confirmed on May 3 that the race was, for all practical purposes, over:
Effectively, Trump is now one step away from the White House. Let that sink in for a moment.
Against the odds
In February, President Obama said he did not believe Trump would succeed him. Obama claimed he had more faith in the American People.
Trump, true to his character, took to Twitter.
Nevertheless, Obama’s comment echoed a steady stream of Trump deniers since his campaign launch in June 2015.
Political commentators have continued to downplay Trump’s chances. Take for example Tom McCarthy’s argument in the Guardian in August last year:
“Knowledgable people think he might. But more-knowledgable people think he won’t… The smart money is stacked against Trump”.
And let’s not forget that Sabato’s Crystal Ball stated in August last year that Trump ‘almost certainly cannot win’.
The conclusion read: “Current frontrunner? No question. The Republican nominee for president? Doubtful in the extreme.”
May 3, the tune was somewhat different. Sabato writes:
“Probably our only real chance to understand today’s bizarre quest for the White House died with Hunter Thompson… months ago we couldn’t fathom that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee.”
Meanwhile the media has been having a field day ever since Trump announced he was running.
As Time magazine noted:
“Naturally, the jokes began flowing on Twitter shortly after Trump’s announcement, from political commentators, comedians and just about everyone else you can think of.”
At the time, most people took it with humor because it was simply too implausible, it had to be laughed at.
Even cult show The Simpsons had made a joke about it years earlier.
Episode writer Dan Greaneye later explained that “it was pitched because it was consistent with the vision of America going insane.”
And the joking has continued.
But, as BBC noted on May 4, even though Trump was considered ‘a long shot’ he nevertheless managed to win a large number of states across the US and from far more experienced rivals.
Partly this is due to the nature of Trump’s Campaign. Xenophobia, ethnic prejudice, enticement of violence, personal attacks on opponents and endless rants. You name it. All of it so outrageous for a presidential campaign that it was still funny. Because few believed he would actually make it past the ballots.
Nobody was calling Trump a joke as he made his victory speech on May 4.
The million dollar question is of course if Trump can make it all the way. Only the polls in November will tell. In the meantime, an even more poignant question is how he got this far.
And why the predictions were so off.
How did Trump get here?
As Rutenberg puts it in the New York Times May 5:
“Wrong, wrong, wrong — to the very end, we got it wrong.”
In similar resignation, Chris Cillizza threw his hands up in the Washington Post on May 4 saying:
“Based on everything I knew about politics to that point, I was CERTAIN that I was right about Trump. I had never, ever seen a candidate with numbers like Trump’s do anything but flame out.”
BBC’s Katty Kay speculated on May 4 why no one saw this coming:
“For years, working class Americans have suffered from low employment and stagnant wages. The US economy appeared to boom, but their lives didn’t reflect that triumph. They had got a bad deal… and Donald Trump was a gift.”
She adds, dryly:
“From the billionaire’s New York penthouse, he somehow understood the concerns of less educated Americans, particularly less educated American men.”
Sure. Few are surprised that Trump managed to appeal to the populist current that has been brooding during Obama’s presidency. But, is it really as simple as that?
It may be true that there is a growing mass of poor populists in the US. But they are not alone.
Appropriately enough, there is an entire Wikipedia page listing all the prominent individuals and organizations in the US, and abroad, that have publicly endorsed Trump. One quick glance will underscore that Trump is not an underdog. Nor is he a champion for the poor, if anyone was ever in doubt.
Trump is backed by people with significant degrees of political, capital and cultural creed. Their credentials are a different story and arguably irrelevant. Trump has powerful support. And those are only the people willing to announce public support.
One dimension is obviously the blatant trend of similar political interests among Trump’s followers. For instance, it should come as a surprise to no one that Trump is backed by political figures such as Nigel Farage and Jean-Marie Le Pen. To top that off, Trump received a qualified endorsement by none less than Rupert Murdoch in March.
There is also the issue of Clinton.
It is no secret that she is is fiercely opposed by many Republicans. This quote by Ari Fleischer, press secretary for former President Bush sums it up nicely:
“There’s a lot about Donald Trump that I don’t like, but I’ll vote for Trump over Hillary any day.”
Clinton may well be viewed as the real enemy, as hinted at by Murdoch earlier in February:
Ultimately, let’s not call this a case of madness or populism. For some of Trump’s working class voters it is probably about poverty and a sense of recognition in his furious persona. But there are plenty of well-off opportunists involved. Blaming ignorance will only hide the fact that Trump represents powerful interests, albeit politically dubious.
In the end, perhaps the one that hits closest to the target in this debate is Senator Elisabeth Warren. When it was clear that Trump would be the candidate, she took to Facebook and Twitter, claiming that:
“Trump has built his campaign on racism, sexism, and xenophobia.”
She referred to his political agenda as a ‘toxic stew of hatred and insecurity’ and called on Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to unite against Trump.
Some hope that Senator Warren is on to something. In any case, it is clear that the Republicans are divided over Trump.
The New York Times reported on May 4 that many Republican leaders were hesitant on Wednesday to fall in line behind Mr. Trump, with dozens avoiding inquiries about where they stood or saying they wanted Mr. Trump to detail his policies or tone down his language first.
Is it possible that some may even vote for Clinton?
At least some Republicans have taken to social media to display their outrage at having Trump as their candidate.
For example, Republican Senator John McCain’s top aid, Mark Salter posted:
Similarly, Philip Klein, the managing editor of the conservative newspaper the Washington Examiner posted this:
Some even burned their party registration cards.
Is it possible?
As appealing as it sounds with a rally of forces uniting against a Trump Presidency, it ultimately is a kind of naive wishful thinking.
First of all, it is going to take a lot for Republicans to give up the opportunity to see a shift in the White House. A disliked Republican President is still better than a Democrat President.
For example, Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi told the New York Times:
“There will be some that will take days and weeks to realize that there are two choices and that it’s between Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee, which most of us believe will be Hillary Clinton. Realistically, and I think Republicans are realists, this is an opportunity to have a Republican president sitting in the Oval Office.”
The New York Times concluded that most donors and Republican leaders have already become resigned to the probability that Mr. Trump would be their nominee.
Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Washington Post that he stood with Trump.
“As the presumptive nominee, he now has the opportunity and the obligation to unite our party around our goals,” McConnell said in a statement.
Second of all, hoping that everyone will stand with Hillary implies that Trump is somehow a freak accident and that no one really wants him in the White House.
If only this was true.
As Cillizza argues in the Washington Post May 4, Trump has gathered significant support by being exactly that which also makes him controversial to some.
“Trump seized on immigration…Trump’s willingness not just to say “no” but to say “hell no” to the idea of allowing undocumented workers to stay in the country led to a reassessment of who he was and what he could be by a deeply disaffected (and large) portion of the Republican base. Sprinkle in his celebrity, some tough talk about foreign policy and national security and just a pinch of unrepentant nationalism, and suddenly Trump wasn’t a punch line anymore.”
He must have done something right.
The Washington Post reports that so far Trump accepted $12 million in donations. The paper also cited super PAC senior adviser Ed Rollins as saying “There are big donors who have said to me in the last couple of days, ‘Listen, we don’t want to waste our money. We want to help Trump.’”
At the same time Politico reports that the chances of a well-funded assault to block him from the Republican presidential nomination are dramatically dwindling, according to interviews with about a dozen donors and operatives.
Trump did not get this far by accident, nor on the shoulders of the poor. Trump is where he is because he represents the interest of the same people who America’s poor and disadvantaged should really be rallying against. That makes him a wolf in sheep’s clothing and probably the most poorly disguised Trojan horse there ever was.
Which would also be funny. If he wasn’t about to waltz straight into the White House.
Right now it seams that the most plausible alternative to Trump is that a Democrat wins the election. The Washington Post concludes that at this point it will probably be a marquee matchup between Trump and Clinton. Meanwhile political analysts from all the major papers have already shifted gears to predict who holds the strongest chance of winning.
Cillizza concludes in the Washington Post:
“Trump starts as an underdog in the race against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. But, anyone who has borne witness to the last 323 days in politics — and I am one — can’t simply write off his chances just yet. This is someone who has already performed the politically impossible once. Who’s to say he can’t do it again?”
However, as BBC’s Kay points out:
“If we have learned one thing in this crazy campaign, it is that predictions are foolish.”