And then there was one.
As most of you know, in the wake of Donald Trump’s recent convincing and decisive victory in the Indiana primary both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have suspended their campaigns, acknowledging that Trump is the “presumed nominee.” Even the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Rance Priebus, has anointed Trump as such. Yesterday, Priebus tweeted party leaders pleading for unity, acknowledging that the race for the nomination is effectively over. He tweeted “we need to unite and focus on defeating Hillary Clinton, #NeverClinton.”
Cruz’s and Kasich’s supporters are upset, but, in reality , they had no choice. After Tuesday’s results their withdrawal became a matter of when, not if. Their departure signals the end of the party insiders’ futile struggle to prevent Trump from gaining the nomination as symbolized by the “Never Trump” rallying cry. There will not be a “brokered” convention with all the attendant drama and controversy. Bad for the media, but good for the GOP. Now that Trump’s nomination has become inevitable, it is time for the GOP to unite behind him.
Republicans who dislike, or even despise Trump, and there are many, must decide if they would rather have Trump in the Oval Office or suffer through four, or even eight, more years of progressive politics under the leadership of Hillary Clinton. (Incidentally, when did the designation “liberal” morph into “progressive?”)
History buffs will see a parallel between the current situation and that of the Democrats in the 1960 election. That year, the Dems were sharply divided. In particular, southern Dems were bitterly opposed to JFK, who had won the nomination after a hard-fought battle against Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and others. JFK and Johnson hated each other. Yet, their mutual enmity paled beside their hatred of Richard Nixon. As most of you know, for the good of the party and to give the Dems the best chance of winning, JFK and Johnson “buried the hatchet” and Johnson joined the ticket as VP. Johnson delivered Texas, and JFK won an extremely close election. Similarly, the Cruz and Kasich supporters and the “Never Trumps”must decide whether to support Trump, jump to Clinton, or sit it out.
Concurrently, Trump must work to unite the party and expand the base. It’s simple math. There are many more registered Democrats in this country than Republicans, so he is starting with a big deficit. For example:
- He must soften his hard line on issues such as immigration to reassure Hispanics that he will not be deporting them by the millions.
- He must convince African Americans that he is sensitive to their plight, especially unemployment. He will not get a large percentage of their vote no matter what he does or says, but he needs to get some.
- He has to continue toning down the nasty rhetoric; no more name calling. In his acceptance speech he signaled his intent to do just that. He heaped lavish raise on Cruz for suspending his campaign for the good of the party. Furthermore, he called him a “tough, strong competitor, with an “amazing future.” He needs to do more of that.
- He has to act more “presidential” than he has. Rightly or wrongly, many perceive him as “dangerous,” “out of control,” or even a “maniac,” and they shudder at the thought of him in control of our nuclear arsenal.
- Perhaps, leaking the names of a few persons he is considering for VP, cabinet posts and/or Supreme Court nominations might assuage some people’s fears.
The Dems will face a similar dilemma. Bernie Sanders won Indiana, and he shows no signs of giving up. His campaign is on “life support,” but as long as he continues to fight he is a distraction to Clinton. Most of the Sanders supporters hate Clinton. Once Clinton clinches the nomination, which has always been inevitable, what will they do? They will have the same three choices as the “Never Trumps.”
Both parties have endured acrimonious and divisive campaigns. Now, the two nominees have been virtually decided. The general election campaign will be commencing unofficially. Both candidates have historically high unfavorables – according to the latest CBS poll, 57% for Trump and 52% for Clinton. Furthermore, both will have to work to unite their respective parties so as to prevent defections to the other side. Now, it will really get interesting. The latest CNN/ORC poll shows Clinton ahead 54% to 41%, but history demonstrates that it is still very early in the campaign and the situation is likely to change. Stay tuned.