The GOP Started the Fire With Which Trump Is Burning Down Their House

His resounding Nevada win highlights the N.Y. billionaire’s hypnotic, hate-filled spell over angry white people, and his disturbing promises to make the nation great again.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus party in Las Vegas, Nevada, February 23, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus party in Las Vegas, Nevada, February 23, 2016.Credit: AFP
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

In the seven and a half years since they lost the White House in 2008, Republican leaders have been wary of their voters’ rage and have thus tried to stoke it in their favor. With the assistance of the all-powerful broadcasters of right-wing media, they have savaged the evil administration, stirred resentment, incited against minorities and immigrants and portrayed an enfeebled America that has been brought to its knees. They poured more and more fuel on the fire, until Donald Trump came in to spread the flames, in their direction as well. Dumbstruck, they are now helpless as he burns down their house.

“He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation,” as the Book of Psalms puts it, and these played a crucial role in Donald Trump’s crushing victory in the GOP’s Nevada caucuses on Tuesday. According to entrance polls, 58 percent of the voters feel anger towards the federal government, and another 36 percent are dissatisfied; 94 percent, all told, are disgruntled. Their fury is the reason that Republicans have broken previous voter participation records in all four contests that have been held until now.

But the voters’ wrath isn’t directed only at President Barack Obama and the Democrats, but at their own party leaders as well. They want fresh blood, someone new, an “outsider,” as the polls phrase it. Trump promises them to stick it to one and all, with no holds barred, and they, like the children of Hamelin, follow his tune in ever increasing numbers.

Trump handily broke the 35 percent ceiling that experts had imposed on him, based on his previous performances, and reached 45 percent instead. He beat Marco Rubio by a whopping twenty points, in the fourth consecutive state that the so-called savior Florida senator has now lost. Republican bigwigs who had been pressing Ohio Governor John Kasich to suspend his campaign in order to join forces with Rubio against Trump could have saved their breath: based on Tuesday’s results, it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference.

Cruz, who was once again losing his fight with Rubio over second place, was in an even greater bind in advance of next week’s Super Tuesday battle royale. Cruz, whose position as the GOP’s angry prophet has been usurped by Trump’s all-out tirades, had hoped to win at least a few of Southern Evangelical states that are participating in next week’s face-off. Now Trump’s momentum is threatening to erase Cruz’s lead in his home state of Texas as well. That’s a blow from which he would not recover.

This is the greatest concern right now for establishment Republicans: that Trump will next week overwhelm Rubio and Cruz and Kasich and Ben Carson, who’s still around, from Minnesota in the north to Massachusetts in the east, to Alabama in the south to Colorado in the west. By the time the GOP will get its bearings, convince Rubio and Cruz to stop attacking each other and direct their fire at Trump instead, and finally persuade a candidate or two to resign for the common good, the New York billionaire will have sealed the deal with the voters and emerged as king of the mountain, whom no one dares challenge.

If the Nevada trends continue, Trump’s victory is almost assured: with the exception of younger voters, who preferred Rubio, Trump won more votes all across the board. He annihilated Cruz and Rubio among moderates, but bested them among conservatives and ultra-conservatives as well. He beat them by a small margin among Evangelicals, and wiped the floor with them among those with high school diplomas or less. Even Hispanics - though they comprised less than 10 percent of the vote - preferred Trump, who labeled Mexican immigrants as murderers and rapists, to Cruz or Rubio who are of Cuban descent.

The only sliver of light for Trump opponents was that, among voters who had made up their minds in the days before the elections, Rubio received more votes than the frontrunner. This continues the trend already seen in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, that Trump preforms less well among late deciders and, theoretically, gives Rubio an opening. The problem is that in Nevada, at least, most voters had made up their minds well in advance to support Trump and found no reason to change their minds.

The conventional wisdom that held not too long ago that Trump couldn’t win, now firmly holds that Trump can’t be stopped. As a result, the GOP seems to be in a state of shock, its donors in a state of panic and its politicians in a state of denial. Rubio received an endless stream of endorsements in recent days, but these didn’t seem to make much difference. Rubio’s back, meanwhile, is also being pushed to the wall: if he fails to win a state or two on Super Tuesday, Trump could very well deliver the coup de grace on March 15 by defeating Rubio, like Cruz, on his home turf in Florida, where he continues to hold a considerable lead.

Some people in the party have begun to float the idea of a “doomsday weapon,” which is, no kidding, Mitt Romney. The 2012 presidential contender and elections loser was supposed to have endorsed Rubio, but for some reason hasn’t. He could still register for some of the big primaries, in California for example, and deny Trump the majority he needs in order to be assured of election in the Republican Convention this summer. In a brokered setting, so the theory goes, perhaps delegates can be persuaded to dump Trump and give Romney another chance instead.

More and more Americans who are not Republicans, however, are beginning to suspect that the GOP won’t be able to get its act together to stop Trump in time. Both the Boston Globe and the Washington Post published extraordinary editorials this week, urging the party to mobilize for an epic battle with Trump over the soul of the party and, theoretically at least, the soul of the country as well. The combination of frustrated and angry whites who are convinced that the world is exploiting them and minorities are sucking them dry and liberals are imposing their values and the system is throwing them in the gutter, together with a charismatic leader who is hypnotizing them with hate-filled rhetoric and promises of making their nation great again has started to scare people, even if the relevant historical precedents haven’t made it into the mainstream media yet. Some American Jews, especially older ones, are feeling some shivers.

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