In June, the state has another chance to put its stamp on history by halting the progress of someone who in the minds of many could be destined to become the first despot elected to the U.S. Presidency.
A despot is defined as “somebody who behaves in a tyrannical way toward other people,” or “a ruler with absolute powers.”
On the June 7th primary ballot the word despot will not appear next to Donald Trump’s name, but it might as well. He displays many of the characteristics akin to those with that title.
His listed occupation is real estate developer. His true calling is people divider and Party wrecker.
The reactions to his now familiar hate filled rants—which have become standard campaign fare for the would-be leader of the free world—are so intense that California’s Democrats and Independents are reportedly re-registering as Republicans to enable them to cast votes for one of his opponents in June in hopes of defeating him.
They have until May 23rd to sign up for the otherwise closed primary.
Not since Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin in the 1950s was hunting down mythical Communist subversives in the highest levels of the government during the so-called Army-McCarthy hearings have we seen an individual trample all boundaries of civility with such enthusiasm and passion as has Trump.
At the time, the Army’s Chief Counsel, Joseph Welch, exasperated with McCarthy’s wild accusations finally asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
That question could and should have been put to Trump months ago while the Trump train was still gathering steam.
Yet not a single one of his opponents chose to do so in their numerous debates.
However the Manhattan marvel keeps racking up more victories impervious to the storm swirling around his candidacy which has turned all his rivals into cowering marshmallows lest they might offend him. Most are long since driven from the race.
In fact, the two remaining survivors of this non-stop GOP road kill expedition have declared they would endorse Trump were he the nominee! Not only should that have supporters of Ted Cruz and John Kasich rethinking their choices, but it begs another question: At what price party unity?
David Brooks, the prominent New York Times columnist who does not disguise his conservative leanings and can be praised for his usually dispassionate analysis, did not mince words recently when he wrote:
“Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation that most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.”
California Republicans who agree may be in a position to change the course of history by giving enough votes to Cruz or Kasich there by denying Trump a victory on the first ballot when the increasingly dispirited party gathers in Cleveland this summer to pick a leader.
But it will force the bigger issue which looms darkly in the background—namely to find an alternative to a candidate who is willing to take his party over the cliff for self-gratification even if it means the likelihood of a GOP rout in the general election.
There are precedents for races in which candidates with extreme views have been vanquished.
In 1964, it was only arch-conservative, Barry Goldwater’s last ditch successful effort in claiming California’s massive cache of 88 GOP delegates (now there are a total of 172) that put him over the top when he arrived for a tumultuous convention at San Francisco’s Cow Palace.
Goldwater’s forces were able to overcome a rules change by backers of Gov. William Scranton of Pennsylvania—his leading opponent—designed to unseat the Arizonan’s delegates. There was acrimonious debate, but the front-running conservative prevailed only to be defeated in November by Lyndon Johnson in the worst drubbing ever administered a presidential candidate.
That landslide defeat was topped by an almost equally lop-sided loss which the Democrats suffered in 1972 when George McGovern, the anti-(Vietnam) war nominee, considered by many a left-wing extremist, was trounced by Richard Nixon.
However Trump does not fit neatly into these ideological slots with appeal to those on both Right and Left, making the final outcome more unpredictable in the slugfest ahead, more than likely a one-on-one duel between him and Hillary Clinton.
This picture would become that much bleaker for the GOP if Trump goes ahead with his threat to launch his own party if rejected, thereby making a Clinton victory almost inevitable.
The best parallel to what might lie ahead is the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago when thousands of anti-war protesters clashed with police in bloody street rioting.
Incredibly, Trump himself is ominously forecasting riots if efforts succeed to deny him the nomination which he believes is rightfully his should he come close to but still fail to muster the required majority of 1,237 delegates prior to the convention.
At that point the decision is likely to be taken out of his hands with the Republican high command already plotting ways to subvert his nomination.
While history is replete in both parties with bitter convention floor fights erupting over the favored candidates of opposing forces, never has a front-runner been attacked with such ferocity and disapproval with about half the delegates still to be counted!
California could be the make-or-break-state that would put him over the top.
That will depend upon how many begin fleeing the Trump bandwagon which shows few signs of losing momentum as it rolls west. Yet, with only one exception, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), not a single prominent California Republican has offered his or her endorsement.
For those who may be wondering who holds the record for the longest and perhaps most unruly-ever presidential convention, you have to go back to 1924 Democratic free-for-all at Madison Square Garden when supporters of William G. McAdoo who had the proud endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan (the convention is whimsically known as the ‘Klanbake)”squared off against the anti-Klan, Catholic favorite, New York Governor, Al Smith.
The exciting spectacle featuring fist fights in the aisles, cross burnings, obscenity-laden speeches and numerous lawsuits, went on for 16 days with a dark horse compromise candidate, John W. Davis, ultimately getting the brass ring on the 103rd ballot.
Davis went on to lose to Calvin Coolidge, the Republican incumbent, receiving the lowest percentage of votes of any Democratic presidential candidate.
H.L. Mencken covering that convention for the Baltimore Evening Sun commented,
“It (a convention) is vulgar, it is ugly, it is stupid, it is tedious, it is hard upon both the higher cerebral centers and the gluteus maximus, and yet it is somehow charming. One sits through long sessions wishing heartily that all the delegates and alternates were dead and in hell—and then suddenly there comes a show so gaudy and hilarious, so melodramatic and obscene, unimaginably exhilarating and preposterous that one lives a gorgeous year in an hour.”
Trump, the master TV showman, should be able to top that easily.