If you know me, you'd think I'd be wanting to talk about the Democratic side of the race as usual. But I'm actually more fascinated by the Republican side--I'll get around to it in a minute.
First, it was a great night for Hillary and she has essentially put the race for the nomination out of reach for Bernie Sanders. So there is lots to talk about...the shift in tone for both of their speeches, when she'll clinch, whether Sanders may drop out eventually, etc.. Lots of phrases being thrown around the politics-geek world like "no path forward" and "insurmountable lead." For the record, by my best guess Hillary will have the race clinched in late April. Probably the 26th. Maybe early May. It depends on how big she wins March 15 states. Also for the record, I don't think Sanders should drop out nor do I think he will. He'll tone it down and shift to become a conscience more than pretending to be a viable candidate. But he'll stick around until all the votes are counted in June to formally nod towards Hillary. I suspect the speeches will get increasingly resigned in mood. Sanders has some rabid supporters though and perhaps he can ease them into support for Hillary with an eventual endorsement? There are still a few surprises to find out. The drama of "who will win" is mostly gone, however, as one estimate by NBC says Sanders would need 59% of the remaining delegates to win.
On the other side, watching the slow-motion train wreck is spectacular and cringe-inducing at the same time. Trump is the result of a long line of polarization that we've been talking about for years. (And, yes, Democrats have moved to the left, too, but not nearly as much and Hillary just successfully fought off an attack from her left...unlike the GOP establishment that can't seem to control their fringe.) While Trump pulls Republicans into crazy town, it leaves open a huge chunk of the electorate that the two parties aren't capturing.
A couple of preliminary thoughts to keep in mind before my main theme...1) Clinton captured more Super Tuesday votes last night than any other candidate in the race. 2) Trump did not capture the majority vote within the GOP. 3) If you added up all the other GOP vote totals, Trump would be losing. Is Trump wildly popular? Yes. But much like Bernie Sanders, that popularity is limited demographically.
So my main point is this--if I were a Republican looking at my choices, they're not pretty. Everybody could try to rally behind Cruz now as the logical next-most-popular. But Kasich and Rubio probably don't like that idea so much. And even if you rally behind Cruz, his chances in November against Hillary are difficult, at best. Another option is to have a nasty, ugly, nightmare of a convention where the party tries to dump Trump. Not great for the brand either. You can let Trump go forward, GOP image damaged, to probably lose to Hillary in the General Election. She leads by 8 currently. Of the current selection of GOP candidates, Marco Rubio probably has the best shot at beating Hillary. But he's also third in line at this point.
Or...there's what I half-seriously propose. Which is that some imaginary moderate run as a third party candidate in the vast territory to Hillary Clinton's right and Marco Rubio's left. A socially liberal, fiscally conservative non-polarizing figure that, frankly, doesn't exist. That's the basic problem for Republicans. Everybody has lined up to be the farthest right, but the person who could actually win doesn't exist because of the empty space.
Thinking about it in my head, I've variously called this imaginary candidate a Republican Bill Clinton. Or, if you will, perhaps a Democratic Mitt Romney. Somebody with a good personality, probably, to make up for their absolutely boring, middle of the road policy positions. Where oh where is the pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-immigration fiscal conservative who wants universal healthcare and education and infrastructure investment coupled with less debt? That candidate would probably beat Hillary Clinton in November.
Unless that magical opponent comes forward, we are probably looking at a Clinton White House and a double-digit defeat of Donald Trump. She'll rally minorities and women and fairly broad coalition of moderate liberals and the built-in Electoral College advantages will win the day. Great for Democrats! Right?
Well, as we've seen with the Supreme Court nominee fight, a far right Republican party hasn't worked out so well for Democrats who can't govern downstream after winning the White House. The Oval Office doesn't mean much without willing legislators to back up policy proposals. And without some ability to cooperate, the government both bogs down and continues on. It's a kind of stalemated trench warfare. And an unhealthy, fringe GOP doesn't offer a real counter to governance. I've said for a number of years that what makes the two-party system work is robust (yet sane) debate in the middle. It's where most voters are, for sure. As we've seen from Democrats, most of the party is not socialist, anti-corporate radicals...we kept ours in check. But the same can't be said for Republicans. They're struggling and may not survive as a party--at least not as we know it.
If I were a Republican, barring some imaginary heroic figure entering this race I suppose I take my chances on a nasty convention? I say that not as a delighted Democrat...it simply may be the only way a November-viable candidate like Rubio or Kasich gets a chance.