Thursday June 08, 2023

Trump gains, Republicans lose

March 07, 2016

Donald Trump is on a roll and has now established himself as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. After the coveted primaries of New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, Trump swept seven states on Super Tuesday last week, blowing the challengers and the traditional Republican leaders clear out of the water.

Since the beginning of the primaries, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and John Kasich have been licking their wounds, reduced to fighting amongst themselves for second place. Trump’s marginal three percent loss to Ted Cruz in the first primary in Iowa has now been reduced to a footnote in the presidential race. He now also has the endorsement of New Jersey governor and Republican heavyweight Chris Christie.

Trump has become a lightning rod for right-wing Republican voters. His controversial views on the Muslim community, immigrants and gun control have given him significant influence among Republican voters; he has even harnessed their disdain for Washington insiders. Trump’s TV flair has also given him an edge over his opponents; audiences relish how he tears them down with witty one-liners and comebacks, loving the schoolyard bully who uses aggression and a brash attitude to counter his critics.

Donald Trump’s dominance is bolstered by the inability of his challengers to consolidate moderate Republican votes. As Trump delivers win after win, no Republican candidate has consistently held the second place spot or given him a close fight. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio’s numbers continue to fluctuate, but they are miles behind Trump. Till the very end, more than two Republican candidates may stay in the race to counter Trump, and so the moderate Republican votes will continue to be divided to his advantage. Super Tuesday’s results show that Trump is immune to controversy. He clearly survived the firestorm sparked when he failed to actively disavow the endorsement from David Duke, the leader of the supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan.

The race for the Republican nomination is no longer a regionally divisive issue. Trump has swept primaries with different voter demographics, local issues and shifting political loyalties. His wins in New Hampshire and Massachusetts show that Trump enjoys the support of white, working-class voters. Victories in South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia show that he has the backing of evangelicals. Moreover, a record voter turnout in Virginia shows that Trump’s presence has expanded the Republican voter base in some states.

Trump’s rise has posed serious questions for the Republican Party’s leadership. His ascent exposes the dearth of national leaders in the party, because an outsider has entered the arena and usurped their support. After eight years of the Obama administration, Donald Trump’s emergence as the best possible Republican candidate is a stunning indictment of the Grand Old Party (GOP). Trump is redefining and damaging the Republican Party’s image, moving its centre-right persona to the extreme-right.

This is the same party that gained control of Congress in 2014, sweeping the midterm elections with a diverse candidate list appealing to all socio-political demographics across America and gaining a support base that rivalled and in many cases surpassed the Democrats. The 2014 surge was an indicator that the Republicans would be a force to be reckoned with in the 2016 election. However, Trump’s politics and narratives have squandered that hard-earned gain. This sentiment is echoed by former Republican presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney, who have called Trump unfit for office and a danger to the United States and the GOP.

Trump is clearly good news for Democrats. In a political battle in which both Democrat and Republican voters will choose their next commander-in-chief, Trump will fail to match the acumen and track records of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This fact will become painfully clear to the Republican Party and voters, if Trump ever faces off against Clinton or Sanders in the presidential debates.

Trump’s strategy is suitable for him to clinch the Republican nomination. However, in a face-off with the Democrats, he will fail to gain the necessary traction, as his own party’s machinery won’t fully endorse him. While the Republicans may be forced to hand Trump the nomination, they will do so with the understanding that the White House will be out of their grasp for another four years.

The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-IBN in India.


Twitter: @Jamwalthefirst