Laura Ingraham’s radio show this May 4th morning began, as it does almost invariably, with a song, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme singing “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.” Later in the show Laura informed her audience that she was wearing red, white, and blue.
The reason is obvious enough: Trump won not only Indiana but, as only a political ignoramus (John Kasich, for example) could fail to see, the nomination.
The convention may not convene until July 18th, but the numbers say it all. A few delegates here, a few there—perhaps in West Virginia, almost assuredly in California—and the Trumpomaniacs will see their man primed for his rendezvous with either destiny or disaster, aka the bloated Hillary Clinton.
Speaking of Clinton femme, the queen of Washington insiders had a somewhat less successful innings, losing yet again to Bernie Sanders, the man National Review’s Kevin Williamson has happily styled “Comrade Muppet.” Oh, well, whether or not the California voters drag her across the finish line first, the super delegates will. If Trump’s nomination is a sure thing, Hillary’s is ironically surer, Indiana notwithstanding.
But the real story of the night was Trump, his victory complete (here are the GOP exit polls). The New York developer and would-be leader of the free world won among males 57% to 34%; females 46% to 42%; in every age group from 18 to over 65; every education level except post-graduate (which Cruz won 46 to 38). Among “very conservative” Indianans, Cruz won 54 to 41 but lost to Trump in the “conservative,” “somewhat conservative,” and “moderate” groups. “Liberal” voters were too minuscule to track, but one suspects some of those moderates might have been open-minded enough to support Obama in, say, 2008; moderates can be that way. As with the very conservative voters, Cruz counted heavily on the born-again or evangelicals; but here the strategy proved faulty: Trump 49, Cruz 44.
One curious statistic: those who voted for a candidate because he “Shares my values” (33 % of the voters) went Cruz over Trump 66 to 17. However, those who voted because the candidate will “bring needed change” (also 33%) voted for Trump over Cruz 63 to 26. Evidently, values (principles perhaps?) and needed change have little to do with one another.
However one slices it, this victory was as yuuuge as anything even Trump could have imagined. And I have every reason to believe he has an imagination as great as his ego, as big as his bank account (whether its millions or billions), and as expansive as Laura Ingraham’s, Sean Hannity’s, and Ann Coulter’s tolerance for his contradictory stances on major issues.
Trump’s rise and current triumph cannot be overestimated. The percentage of the voters from all the primaries (41%) who have pulled the lever or touched the screen for Trump is not as large as that for past nominees at this point in the season, but there’s no avoiding the fact that it’s more than enough. And in spite of the #NeverTrump movement (of which I am a proud member), the majority erstwhile naysayers will fall in line next November and dutifully vote for the Donald.
However, his success or failure later this election cycle is not the really significant matter the day after Indiana. The Laura Ingrahams of the world would like us to believe Trump’s march to the White House—if he makes it that far—is the start of something big, something, red, white and blue, the Reagan revolution redivivus.
The notion boils down to a belief that Reagan was a populist, a man who, like all populists, tapped into what the people wanted, which was a return to national sovereignty and economic sanity. It’s manifest that Reagan did those things, but my recollection of the Reagan revolution is that it had a solid foundation of conservative principle, something that Trump’s biggest talk-show-media mouthpieces are convinced (sincerely, I’m sure) is the same drum to which Trump and his followers march.
But when he bothers to tone down the blather and talk about policy, Trump sounds, mutatis mutandis, like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush in that, as one conservative pundit argued, he “speaks conservatism as if it were a second language”—or maybe in his case a third or fourth language.
The convictions are not there: liberty, limited government, a virtuous electorate, checks and balances, reserved powers—has Trump ever considered the existence of such things? I’m not alone in thinking he hasn’t, and if that’s true, then how could he be an American conservative in any true sense?
To Trumpomaniacs that hardly matters: populism means conservatism with a nationalistic tendency realized largely in two issues: immigration and protectionism. That may be enough for some, but for a sadly diminishing number of conservatives who voted for Ronald Reagan twice and saw Reagan’s legacy of de-centralization properly understood in the Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio campaigns, Trump is not just a poor substitute; he’s on the other side.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater was soundly defeated by Lyndon Johnson, and the conservative movement, then a new phenomenon in national presidential politics, was pronounced dead at birth. But the country barely knew what conservatism was at the time and went with a known quantity, the assassinated John F. Kennedy’s vice president. Two years later Ronald Reagan was elected for the first of two terms as governor of California, and although the media was still locating Republicanism in George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, and Richard Nixon, the real hope was out west.
Today, twenty-eight years after Reagan’s leaving office, the country again is clueless about conservatism. The Bushes’ “compassionate conservatism” and Washington Republican power brokers of the Boehner and McConnell stripe are largely responsible for obscuring the meaning and potency of the political philosophy most clearly aligned with our nation’s founding. Win or lose, Donald Trump, an ignorant, self-absorbed demagogue, is not going to restore that philosophy or its influence. The question is, who will and when?