Trump: the art of the nomination

Like most people, my first thought when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency was that I should really stock up on popcorn. I thought it would be a short-lived, yet incredibly entertaining, break from the relative normalcy of the political election process. It turns out I was half-right.

Trump’s foray into politics has been anything but short. In fact, he is going to be in this race right until the very end; the only question is whether or not he will claim the GOP nomination. That is increasingly looking inevitable. He has outlasted some of the most prominent Republican politicians today and has won three out of the four GOP Primaries, with certain Super Tuesday victories still to come at the time of this writing.

Like many outsiders looking into the GOP (I am technically an independent but certainly fall on the left of the political spectrum), I spent a lot of time wondering when the Trump Show is going to end. I recently realized that it probably won’t. Trump’s popularity is a reflection of the current mindset of many conservative voters – many, but by no means all. He is winning because they are pissed: pissed at John McCain and Mitt Romney for not beating Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Pissed at Republicans in Congress for not stopping the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Pissed that the current White House Administration played a major role in a multinational nuclear deal with Iran. The list goes on.

This frustration first truly manifested itself with the American voters in the 2010 midterm elections. Tea Party-backed Republicans won several Congressional and gubernatorial seats, beating out several established incumbents, both Democrat and Republican. Even after these victories, and continued success in the 2012 Congressional elections, the Republican voters were still not happy with the performance of their representatives. Despite majorities in both Houses, the Republican caucus in Congress has been unable to prevent several of the Obama Administration’s key victories. That is why Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, initial beneficiaries of this frustration, are sinking like stones in the presidential race.

Many voters feel as though their way of life is being threatened. And in this time of crisis, they are turning to the man who they believe will fight for their interests. Someone who doesn’t play by the political rules and isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect. A real outsider, an anti-establishment candidate. The previous crop of anti-establishment conservatives, the Ted Cruz’s and Marco Rubio’s of the world, are now not enough. They are tainted because of their involvement in government over the last few years.

These voters clearly don’t want a typical politician to be their nominee, and if all goes according to plan, they’re not going to get one. Trump has no substance, no political expertise, and talks in circles without laying out a realistic path forward. His first speech after declaring his candidacy was just a bunch of rambling about how we need to win again and why his business expertise qualifies him to hold arguably the most important political office in the world (explain that one to me again?). His debate performance is of the schoolyard-bully variety, and his hateful and abrasive rhetoric is not limited to his political opposition. And yet, he is still winning.

Republican politicians, the insiders many of the voters can’t stand, are starting to recognize that The Donald is here to stay. He’s received a slew of endorsements in the past week. Clearly the most surprising of those is Governor Chris Christie, who endorsed Trump last week to the surprise of pundits everywhere. This is the same Governor Christie who, while still in the race in January, said to voters in New Hampshire that nominating Trump would hand the White House to Hillary Clinton. Governor Christie has jumped off the sinking USS GOP Establishment. As the Republican governor of a state with a legislature firmly in the hands of the Democrats, he often touted his ability to work across the aisle. He was a prominent example of a conservative that has the ability to win the swing vote, and he is now being vilified by his fellow establishment conservatives for throwing his lot in with Trump. He is putting all of his eggs into one basket, likely with the hope of getting the VP nod or a high-profile Cabinet position if Trump takes it home. If he loses, though, Christie’s tenure as Governor of New Jersey is likely come to an end in his next election. Clearly, Christie wouldn’t have put his career or reputation on the line if he didn’t think that Trump had a real shot of winning this race.

Paraphrasing the insight of one of my professors, people who work hard inevitably end up getting what they deserve. And the GOP has been working incredibly hard over the past 20 years to deserve what they are getting.

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