On Tuesday night one-time Democratic voter registrant and one time Reform Party voter registrant and presidential contender Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate developer, casino owner, and reality television show star celebrated his victory in the Indiana primary and his ascendency as the de facto nominee of the Republican Party in the atrium of the Manhattan skyscraper that is his primary residence.
As the above implies, to say we are living in an unconventional time in America would be a drastic understatement as the political party that epitomizes conventionalism has been turned upside down by Trump.
What happened on Tuesday night was the political equivalent of a hostile takeover as Trump spiked the ball and defeated the Republican establishment that he has humiliated throughout the nomination process.
In the kickoff debate in Cleveland last summer, Trump’s was the only hand raised when the question of whether any of the candidates on stage was willing to entertain bolting the GOP and running third party if not nominated.
The political class packed inside of the Quicken Loans Arena gasped and then booed at such a partisan heresy while the fed up hoi polloi not invited to the gathering of party leaders and elites cheered at his temerity and brazenness.
That was just the opening act.
Trump then went on a war path, driving Wisconsin governor Scott Walker out of the race, doxing South Carolina US Senator Lindsey Graham’s number to his flip phone at a rally in his home state, questioning the war hero credentials of Vietnam War POW and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, and rhetorically bullying presidential scion and sibling Jeb Bush every opportunity he had, delivering verbal wedgies about being low energy and his drift from the center of the dais to the fringes of the stage.
Trump would prove to be the political personification of George Thorogood’s signature song.
The billionaire continued to be a street fighter once ballots started being cast, refusing to accept any defeat as legitimate.
When Texas US Senator Ted Cruz snuck past him to win the Iowa caucuses, Trump effectively pushed the narrative that Cruz had somehow stole his victory by circulating minutes before the caucuses a news report that Dr. Ben Carson was effectively withdrawing from the race. Trump reasoned that had Cruz not “cheated” the neurosurgeon, whose campaign had been collapsing around him the past few weeks, that Carson would have drawn enough votes away from Cruz so that Trump’s total caucus vote would have been the largest. Amazingly enough, some people bought that, while most of the media reported it unchallenged.
As convoluted and absurd as that reasoning was, the media gave The Donald an open mic and helped Trump lay the foundation that Cruz was running a dirty campaign- a charge that would hinder his operation in the opening contests.
When Florida US Senator Marco Rubio appeared to be rising, Trump literally “belittled” him as Lil Marco, leading Rubio to jump in the gutter with Trump hurling the one insult that seemed to have gotten to Trump personally: mocking the size of his hands, and all that such a charge implies.
Rubio managed to hurt Trump’s feelings but also his own credibility for apparently only Trump and do Trump and get away with it. Rubio would end up getting crushed in his own home state, and possibly finished in elective politics.
Largely ignoring Ohio governor John Kasich, who provided Trump two favors- dividing the anti-Trump pot of votes and giving the billionaire cover by also refusing to participate in future debates, Cruz reemerged into Trump’s gunsight.
And Trump saved his worst for last for “Lyin’ Ted”.
The defender of New York values savaged Cruz’s wife directly threatening her while his confederates independently pushed stories implying she was manic depressive in the dark alleys of the internet. Trump personally mocked her physical appearance on social media, retweeting an unkind image of Heidi Cruz next to one of Trump’s wife (#3).
Trump’s friends in The National Enquirer then unloaded baseless charges that Cruz had affairs with multiple women, circulating them around the time of the Wisconsin primary. It should also be noted that supporters of the sanctimonious Kasich had been pushing the same filth. In a rare instance in the 2016 campaign, Trump’s crass smears backfired and was handily beaten in Wisconsin.
However Trump could survive the setback as the race shifted to the not-so-evangelical friendly northeast.
Haunted by his association with the New York values comment that was raised back in January, Cruz got skunked in the Empire State, not winning a single delegate. Things were not much rosier in the rest of Amtrakland for Cruz, losing to Trump and even trailing Kasich.
Indiana became critical to Cruz’s candidacy and the fight for the Republican presidential nomination. It was the ideal state for the Texas senator to turn things around but a combination of Trump’s compounded northeast victories, distrust over the clumsily arranged deal with Kasich, and the riot in southern California by anti-Trump protestors was too much to overcome.
Indiana voters were not just voting for Trump but against the Mexican flag waving hoodlums rampaging in suburban Los Angeles. Nobody on Trump’s payroll could have rendered a more valuable service to his candidacy than his haters.
Despite having polled competitive with Trump in the Hoosier State, the bottom fell out from under Cruz and Trump won in a landslide comparable with the margins he enjoyed in the northeast the week before.
Even with victory assured, Trump made a point of phoning into Fox News that he believed Cruz’s father was somehow involved with presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
Knowing that West Virginia was going to be a slaughter the next week and that Trump’s path to the nomination was all but certain, Cruz ended his candidacy with political asterisk Kasich rambling his way out of the race the next day.
And so Donald J. Trump- one time Democrat, one time Reform Party member, one time Hillary Clinton donor emerged from the demolition derby that was the 17 candidate presidential primaries and caucuses as the man who will go into the Cleveland convention in July with the most delegates while some Republican leaders begin to wonder if they even have a party anymore.