Beware the Ides of March, my friends.
That’s probably good advice all the way around. Today’s edition of Super Tuesday was, at one point, expected to either be the end of the road for the GOP nomination process or at least a moment when we would have some clarity as to where things are heading. We’ll still learn some things tonight and there’s a possibility that the field will thin slightly (though I’m no longer convinced that Rubio will drop out) but there’s an increasing chance we’ll still be in the same muddled mess. This traffic jam may well eventually prevent any of the remaining four candidates from reaching 1,237 delegates, particularly if John Kasich carries Ohio.
That spells great news for the #NeverTrump movement, at least from what I’m seeing on social media. Even if Ted Cruz can’t get over the finish line either, the final objective of denying The Donald a majority will be a reachable goal. So then what? I had previously felt (or at least hoped) that this season would be like so many before it and Republicans around the nation would largely settle in behind our eventual nominee and take a serious run at the White House. That may still happen, as much as many of my friends want to deny it. The truth is that people like me spend way too much of our time steeping in public and social media conversations with ourselves. We do tend to forget sometimes that there is a vast nation of voters out there who don’t spend their days following #tcot on Twitter, reading National Review or sitting glued to the screen watching Fox, MSNBC or CNN. They can and often do ignore us and our many pronouncements, and they may simply line up behind the two final, general election candidates as they always do.
Or so I might hope.
But as I’ve noted here previously, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something is just different this time. And one of the worst aspects of these winds of change is the way that conservatives and Republicans in the #NeverTrump movement have all too often given up on attacking Trump himself. Perhaps it’s just the sense of frustration that their hashtags and endless online diatribes have yet to shake The Donald off of his high perch. But whatever the reason, it’s now far more common for me to see them attacking the body of potential Republican voters who are supporting Trump, and the attacks are not persuasive policy arguments as much as they are just derogatory insults.
When Kevin D. Williamson declared that white, working class, Trump supporting communities deserved to die I thought we had reached a low point. Another fine writer at National Review, David French, has doubled down on that assault since then. But that’s hardly the worst of it. The daily, endless, highly personal insults against the #TrumpTrain folk are beyond troubling to observe. One good friend (and fellow Jets fan) who I engage with on Twitter daily, spends essentially all of his time talking about the “Alt Right” and the fact that so many GOP primary voters are now racists and antisemitic hate mongers, not to mention being citizens who are lacking in fundamental comprehension skills or intelligence. And those are just some of the nicer comments. To be sure, he’s answering a lot of trolls who are at least as nasty in their own right. It’s a toxic brew out there. Yet frequently the folks engaging in this Trump supporter bashing are just letting the insults fly at nobody in particular.
But let’s swing back to that idea I mentioned a moment ago about everyone “coming together” after the dust settles. Sure, I’m seeing a nearly uniform level of agreement that all of the Cruz, Rubio and Kasich supporters are ready to hold hands together and march forward toward November once the monster has been vanquished. That’s a lovely, unifying sentiment. But what about the Trump supporters?
Here’s an interesting factoid which popped up from YouGov polling just before today’s showdown. Trump has hit 53% nationally among potential Republican primary voters for the first time. Let that sink in for a moment.
Sure, it’s one poll, and these things always shift, but the size of the Trump Army is not some fringe, readily discounted sliver of the party. And in fact it may wind up being a majority once the rest of the field is trimmed down to a single, non-Trump hopeful.
Now let’s just say that someone – even my preferred candidate, Ted Cruz – manages to not only keep Trump from getting to 1,237 delegates but wrests the nomination away from him at the convention. After months on end of being called every name in the book by the #NeverTrump crew, how willing do you think those “losers” will be to sigh, shake hands and go line up behind Ted? Thus far the GOP turnout at the primary polls has been through the roof. Part of that is certainly folks hoping to stop Trump, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Much of that groundswell is comprised of Trump’s supporters. And they’ve been spit on for months on end. Will they come back?
Are we going to win in November if even a plurality of them tell us to go whistle for our dinner and stay home? Don’t act surprised if that’s the point when the #NeverNotTrump hashtag springs up and the same people you denigrated for so long tell you to take a long walk off a short pier. Perhaps you can assuage your hurt feelings by saying that you stood on your principles while John Roberts swears in a woman who is inches away from a federal indictment as the next president. You can proudly pick up your #NeverTrump ballcap from the dry cleaner while she appoints one Supreme Court justice after another. But just maybe we’ll regret not trying to at least pretend a big slug of the people in our own party were members of our team who just favored a different candidate.
Just the other day Trump said “Americans are angry and I’m just the messenger.”
It goes against the conventional wisdom, but perhaps sometimes you should just stick to attacking the messenger.