Could we be witnessing the wholesale dismantlement of the Republican Party and what may also be a historical realignment for the Democrats as well?
The ever-changing presidential campaign scorecard is getting most of our attention.
However there are other things to think about for the troubled and increasingly off-balance party apparatchiks in both camps which have transcendent implications for the nation far beyond this election cycle.
Ironically, the GOP’s indisputable frontrunner—Donald Trump–who claims to be the only candidate that can unify his party is doing a reasonably good job of destroying it.
This led Steven Forbes, several times a GOP presidential aspirant himself, to comment recently, “Parties don’t usually commit suicide.”
Californians will not have the chance to weigh in on their presidential preferences until the June 7th primaries. For the GOP it is a so-called “winner-take-most” with the majority of delegates allotted by Congressional District and the remainder to the highest vote getter statewide.
The Democrats use a more complicated proportional system with Congressional District, At Large, Pledged and Unpledged delegates.
With its giant bonanza of 172 delegates to the Republican convention (the Democrats have a whopping 548 delegates), California might actually matter this year if the races significantly tighten.
Trump has yet to make any campaign swing through California and it is not clear what kind of reception he will get, though his bigger-than-life name brand could make him attractive in a state that flaunts its celebrities.
If he takes the prize in Ohio and Florida on March 15th, both big winner-take-all states, and thereafter runs the table it could be game over by the time the Trump jetliner touches down on these shores.
The one candidate showing signs of being able to slow the Trump juggernaut appears to be Ted Cruz who has bested him in 7 states and finished second in 3 others given them a 35 percent to 29 percent voter split thus far.
In short, in what can only be characterized as extraordinary, one of the nation’s two great political parties has declared outright war on its own candidate. That may be a first!
If he wins a majority of the delegates prior to the July convention, a growing certainty, and opposing forces are able to deny him the nomination through manipulation of the party’s rules and a big dose of old-fashioned backdoor bargaining, Trump has threatened to start his own party.
Given the millions of voters who are rallying to his cause in a widening swatch of states across the nation, this threat must be taken seriously by the party elites who are in full flight from the menace of Manhattan.
We know from history that third parties do not fare well under our system and numerous ones have risen only to just as quickly disappear.
However, the conditions may by more favorable than at any time since Teddy Roosevelt tried and failed to win as the Bull Moose Party candidate in the early 1900s.
Beginning with Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon in the 60s and 70s with an assist from the defiant Alabama segregationist, George Wallace, and continuing with the uprising of the Tea Party, the seeds of belligerent nativism, resurgent racism, virulent nationalism and massive middle class revolt were planted.
They have now fully sprouted with the advent of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and to a lesser extent, Marco Rubio, who do not seem unwilling to promote bigotry, intolerance and outright fear-mongering as keystones of their appeal.
At the same time the so-called GOP and Democratic “establishments” have been soundly discredited and hold little moral sway in the current unforgiving political climate.
This has breathed new life into the candidacy of Socialist Democrat, Bernie Sanders, which has stunned Clinton and most of the political world. If he continues to rack up delegates in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and beyond—places considered Clinton territory—Democrats could also be in for an interesting convention.
What has been unacceptable even during the nastiest presidential races are now the norms where candidates are winning over millions of voters by sinking to ever lower depths with every tirade.
The worst thing we can remember arch-conservative Barry Goldwater, the GOP’s 1964 candidate intoning as he was getting routed by Lyndon Johnson was the infamous phrase, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”
That would hardly draw a peep today when words such as misogynist, liar, bully, and racist are routinely used to describe Trump. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s last standard bearer when he was seeking Trump’s endorsement has branded him a “fraud and a phony.”
Meg Whitman, the defeated GOP nominee for California governor in 2010, did not hold back in her condemnation:
“Donald Trump is unfit to be president. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears and would take America on a dangerous journey,” declared Whitman.
Trump seems to have few friends who count——except the voters.
The boastful billionaire is holding most of the cards and appears determined to prevail even if it means bringing down the house of Lincoln around him.
On the other side Clinton’s path forward has become more complicated by a savvy, gray-haired father figure who is captivating young people and independents alike unimpressed so far by her powerful family name and strong record of public service.
A third party bid by Trump would likely help her cause which the GOP leadership may fear even more than having him at the head of the ticket with adverse consequences almost certain for many Senate and House candidates.
Though Democrats (and some polls) see both Trump and Cruz as the weakest opponents especially in a one-on-one contest with Clinton, a Trump defeat cannot be seen as a foregone conclusion in year when the unpredictable is becoming the usual.
Right now, there is only one individual who holds the key to how this plot may unfold, and that’s Donald Trump.