So, it’s goodbye Super Tuesday and if we want to hang any name on your it would have to be ‘The Donald’. Indeed, as the Great Disruptor sits in his gold bath filled with asses’ milk, this morning, he probably has a huge smirk on his face. You’d think he might be pinching himself (though he’d probably pay someone to do that for him). But no, soon-to-be-GOP-nominee Trump wouldn’t go for a pinch. It might imply he couldn’t quite believe how easy this whole Primary race has been. And the Donald has never doubted himself for a moment.
Super Tuesday, when eleven states host primaries and caucuses in the race to find the Republican and Democrat nominees went pretty much to form, with the respective party front runners winning seven states apiece. That will have calmed the fears among the Democrat hierarchy, as Hillary Clinton cemented her lead, and now has three times the delegates of her rival Bernie Sanders. Finally, the Democrat race is running to form. Bernie the feisty socialist has awakened Hillary from her torpor, and her campaign, lazy and vapid at the start, has finally begun to fly. She’s the consummate professional: the Washington insider from the right of the Democrat tent. But Bernie’s popularism has played particularly well with the young, forcing Hillary into a number of policy changes to try and win some of the ground back from her opponent. There is a truism that says America doesn’t do socialism. Indeed, it’s nigh on impossible to see Bernie the popular pensioner carrying the day at national level. That looks less likely now, despite his four state wins last night, and the momentum is with the Clinton camp.
But what about the man of pensionable age on the other side? Donald Trump goes marching on. He hasn’t just lacerated the Republican tent, his outsider stance has ripped it to shreds. Okay, so ‘Little Marco’ landed Minnesota, and Ted Cruz will be mightily relieved to have held his home state of Texas and picked up wins in Alaska and Oklahoma. But as every day passes they look ever-more the also rans.
Trump, the narcissistic demagogue, may have holed the GOP ship below the waterline and the Republican hierarchy has only itself to blame. The wise ol’ heads of the GOP have allowed his policy-free, media-friendly, ranting to completely starve every other candidate of the oxygen of publicity. Even when the others have had a chance to speak, they have either been attacking Trump or responding to his attacks. For hundreds of millions of Americans, Donald Trump has been the story of the election, and the identikit challengers from inside the tent have been repeatedly buried by his bullying scorn.
Cruz will fight on, Rubio will limp into Florida and Kasich into Ohio in a fortnight. Ben Carson (remember him?) may well quit in the next few days. The Donald will preen, will pose, will peacock strut over weaker men, both in the race and in the party.
Is he assured the nomination? Not assured, but pretty close. Can the GOP fight him? Seemingly not with his rival candidates. Maybe only through the wild speculation that would see House Speaker Paul Ryan acclaimed from the floor at the Republican Convention in July. A brokered Convention? We haven’t had that kind of floor fight since 1948, but The Donald with a plurality versus Ryan the favoured son of the party would be contest of the century.
Perhaps, of course, they’ll all unite behind The Donald – that’s what he called for in his speech last night. But that would demand compromise and courtesy, shared decision making and shared authority. The authoritarian Trump doesn’t do that. Within days he’ll be back on Twitter bitching and bombastic as ever. He is the disruptor. He does politics differently. And those who don’t do Washington – and there are huge numbers in the US estranged from the political system love him for it.
Cruz is worried. Rubio is terrified. The GOP is side-lined. But if anyone should be worried it’s Hillary Clinton. Trump is making up the rules as he goes along. And if the fight for the White House is played to his tune, who’s to say he won’t win.
* Dr Mark Shanahan is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading