Growing up in Indiana one gets used to never having an opportunity to have a meaningful say in the parties’ nominees for president of the United States. Our primary is held the first Tuesday in May, and by then the nominees are customarily already determined.
The 2016 presidential election cycle is different in a lot of ways, though. For those of us who call Indiana home, the media frenzy and candidate appearances everywhere are a new phenomenon. Right now, Indiana is a political circus with sideshows opening up all over the state and a passion for presidential politics that most of us here are unused to at this time of year. All of which seems especially odd since there is only one GOP candidate who can even mathematically win the nomination. And on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is all but eliminated, also.
So, what’s going on? Why is all this money being spent? Why are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz crisscrossing Indiana?
Last week John Podhoretz in the New York Post wrote a piece titled “Ted Cruz Is Crumbling Before Our Very Eyes.” Indeed. But why? Because Ted Cruz is no longer running to win. He is running as the “only one who can stop Donald Trump.” Not exactly an inspiring message. And, even then, his supporters practically need a slide rule to explain the backdoor deals, delegate subterfuge, rules shenanigans and other political ugliness that will allow Cruz to somehow seize the nomination at the Republican convention.
Over the weekend, some Cruz campaign workers visited our home. It was striking to me that the two women’s pitch was almost entirely about how Trump was a bad man. They carried Cruz literature, but had virtually nothing to say about Mr. Cruz. Their sole focus was stopping Trump – which, on a larger scale, is why Mr. Trump is pulling away. His astonishing 5-for-5 primary performance last week – by eye-popping margins – will be followed up this week with the coup de grace here in Indiana. Just a few weeks ago, Cruz was within 6-8 points of Trump here. But now, the only question is how dominating Trump’s victory will be.
While Trump supporters are passionate here, as they have been other places, the anti-Trump element is not similarly passionate about Cruz. While Indiana has not seen the kinds of violent protests like in California last week (rioting is not really our style here), there has been no shortage of more passive-aggressive protests such as Trump signs being stolen or vandalized. And, just as the anti-Trump violence has only emboldened and affirmed Trump voters elsewhere in America, Hoosiers are pushing back against the comparatively mild acts of minor criminal behavior.
A friend who has never been involved in politics took the bold step (for him) of displaying a Trump yard sign at his home. A retired military officer, he was disappointed to find his sign stolen. In response, he went to the local Trump campaign office to acquire a large number of yard signs and announced on social media that he would put them on anyone’s lawn who wanted one. He also volunteered to work for the campaign in the days leading up to Indiana’s primary. Suddenly, many of his friends wanted a Trump sign in their yard. He became a one-man version of the backlash against the media, the establishment and the chaotic elements that are opposing Trump.
Despite the fact that 40 states have now held their primaries, caucuses or conventions, the Trump opposition appear completely mystified by the dynamic that’s driving his wins. It is not a love for Trump, although he has undoubtedly connected on a personal level with many of his supporters. It is not that people are unaware that he might not be overly conservative. It is not a failure of the other GOP candidates to define themselves.
What drives Trump’s electoral victories is that the GOP base hates the party’s leadership. The establishment has stabbed their voters in the back so deeply so many times that there is nothing they can say to get those voters to believe them again.
Consider Jeb Bush. With a veritable mountain of cash and the eager support of the Republican establishment, his candidacy crashed and burned. After Jeb’s flameout, the establishment did their best Keystone Cops impression and desperately tried to find a replacement to back. The best they could do was to throw in with Marco Rubio. But once Rubio had the stench of establishment on him, he was forced to drop out of the race within days. Now that Cruz has accepted the establishment’s courtship offer as their last hope, he is faring no better than Bush or Rubio. Interestingly, even John Kasich was doing better before the establishment started touting him.
For voters who have been fooled repeatedly by establishment promises at election time only to see their leaders disappear back inside the beltway and govern exactly the opposite of how they campaigned, Trump is it. There’s nowhere else for the base to go now that Cruz has been corrupted.
The McCain-Bush-Romney-Ryan-Boehner “Democrat-Lite” wing of the party will not get the base back. And now the party big shots stand around like idiots desperately trying to hitch their wagon to anyone they think will get them back in the game, having no idea how out of touch they are with their voters in places like Indiana. This revolution has been brewing for years and is the unwitting creation of the establishment. Trump is now the only alternative for those voters. The GOP establishment is toxic to GOP voters. And now they show up to places like Indiana and promise that it will be different this time, that Hoosier Republicans should vote for Ted Cruz to help them get to a contested convention where they assure everyone that they will nominate a “serious” candidate. Their pleas are falling on deaf ears.
Trump may or may not be a good president. But voters know that he is a better alternative than voting for someone we all know from experience will meekly go along with the liberal status quo and spend his energy making excuses for why he cannot oppose anything on the Democrat agenda. It truly is that easy.
The GOP establishment needs to look in the mirror and realize what a dishonest, sleazy bunch of horrible human beings they have been to their own voters. Like a man soiling his pants and walking around not able to understand why it stinks everywhere he goes, the Republican Party leadership fails to see the common denominator in the decisive losses of every candidate they back.
Expect a resounding Donald Trump victory here in Indiana on May 3.