What a bizarre spectacle the US presidential primary campaigns are unfolding into! There is a lovefest among Democrats who cannot decide who they love more - Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. On the Republican side, like three eight-year old schoolyard bullies, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio spewed so much hate at the Republican candidates' debate on March 3 that it must have caused a shortage of hate in the rest of the country! It was nauseating to watch Rubio and Cruz hurl incessant imprecations at Trump, and Trump not only return the favour in kind but also boast about the size of his genital!
The final outcome is fairly certain, especially on the Democratic side. After the completion of the 18th primaries/caucuses on March 5 (Hillary: 11; Sanders: 7), Hillary Clinton has 1,121 of the 2,383 pledged delegates necessary to win the nomination; Bernie Sanders has 481. Clinton has a lopsided lead in the Super Delegates (roughly 500 for Clinton, 20 for Sanders), who are elected officials and party honchos. This trajectory is unlikely to change for the remaining 32 states, territories and Washington DC. Sanders is winning the predominantly white, caucus states, while Clinton is raking in delegates from diverse primary states. Hillary needs to win only 40 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination while Sanders needs 60 percent.
In the 19 Republican primaries/caucuses held through March 5 (Trump has won 12, Cruz 6, and Rubio 1), Donald Trump has accumulated 382 delegates, Ted Cruz 300, Marco Rubio 128 and John Kasich 35. To win the 1,237 delegates necessary for nomination, Trump needs to win 53 percent of the remaining delegates; Cruz 58 percent, Rubio 69 percent, and Kasich 75 percent. Unfortunately for Cruz, the upcoming delegate-rich northern and western states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California are Trump-friendly states.
Since Bangladesh has recently been in the grip of the T20 mania, a cricket analogy best explains how difficult it will be for Cruz, Rubio or Kasich to overtake Trump. (I should like to congratulate the Bangladesh Tigers for their runners-up finish in the Asia Cup. Some of us watched and cheered their valiant effort on Sunday morning, local time, at a friend's house.) Assume that the team batting second is chasing a target of 200 runs. The required run rate (RRR) is 10 runs per over. If after five overs, the chasing team scores only 25 runs, the RRR increases to 11.7/over. If they score 50 runs in 10 overs, the RRR jumps to 15 runs per over. Even if they score 100 in 15 overs, the RRR shoots up to an impossible 20 runs/over for the last 5 overs. The required delegate rate for the Trump-chasers is increasing state by state.
Assuming that the current trajectory continues, Trump will win the necessary 1,237 delegates, especially if he wins winner-takes-all states like Florida and Ohio. (Thus far, candidates received delegates proportional to the vote received, with a cut-off threshold of 20 percent minimum). Trump is leading in every primary state. His weakness is in the caucus states. Caucuses are less democratic and more difficult to poll. If Trump were to lose Rubio's home state, Florida (Trump is currently ahead by 20 points), or John Kasich's home state, Ohio, (Trump is ahead by 5 points currently) on March 15, Trump may not reach 1,237 delegates. But, he will still likely win most delegates.
Under that scenario, the Republican establishment hopes for a “brokered convention” with the aim of coalescing around a non-Trump candidate, thus denying Trump the nomination. That is why establishment stalwarts like the 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, has come out guns blazing, calling Trump a “phony,” a “fraud” and a “con man.”
Not that it matters to Trump supporters, who are anti-establishment anyway. If Trump wins a plurality of delegates, which he most likely will, and the party coalesces around someone who had won fewer delegates than Trump, Trump and his supporters will bolt the Republican party, which will then splinter. That will spell doom for the party's electoral aspirations in November.
The Republicans know that turmoil at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago gifted the presidency to Richard Nixon. They would do anything to avoid intra-party strife at this year's convention in Cleveland, Ohio. They also know that nominating an extremist as the party's presidential candidate (like ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964) will cost them electoral annihilation.
But, what to make of Donald Trump's ideology? He certainly is not an ultra-conservative. In fact, he is all over the place. All that can be said about Donald Trump is that he is an obnoxious demagogue, an anti-immigrant bully, an Islamophobe, and an anti-black misogynist. That is fine with the base of his supporters who are predominantly less educated, ageing whites. That is why Trump's hesitation to denounce the Ku Klux Klan and its one time Grand Wizard David Duke, the manhandling of Black Lives Matter protesters at all of his rallies, his call for more severe water boarding and killing of the children and families of terrorists (which are war crimes under international laws) finds support among his base.
It will also find support among the Republican establishment eventually. After all, the mouth piece of the Republican Party –rightwing radio talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, and the Fox News television channel - have been advocating such extreme and hateful measures for the last 20-30 years. It is just that President George W. Bush, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain and the 2012 nominee Governor Mitt Romney had kept such open bigotry at arm's length. The potential 2016 Republican nominee, Donald Trump has embraced such intolerant bigotry with open arms.
The Republican establishment finds itself in a dilemma similar to that of a family whose daughter had been kidnapped and forcibly married by a bully. With all options closed, the family is finally forced to reconcile with the scandal by inventing “redeeming qualities” in the bully. Donald Trump is the answer to the Republican base's prayer for a candidate who embodies their intolerant “values.” Now, the party establishment has to own Trump. Soon they will extol his “virtues.” For the Republican Party, the chickens have finally come home to roost.
The writer is a Rhodes Scholar.