Back in August, I wrote a post accusing the political media of covering Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy more, and more seriously, than it deserved. “Stop Pretending Donald Trump Is Running For President,” I titled the post. D’oh.
But actually, I stand by the argument! He wasn’t running for president at that point; he was running for a profitable exit from the campaign. Then Jeb Bush imploded, and it turned out a healthy plurality of Republican voters really do want Donald Trump to be president, and here we are. In any case, he definitely is running for president now, which is wise, because he almost certainly will be the Republican presidential nominee. He murdered the field yesterday.
If the tenor of coverage is to be believed, he also murdered the Republican Party and now has a knife to America’s throat. The one thing pretty much everybody but his voters seems to agree on today is that Trump’s clear and unambiguous Super Tuesday victory—he took seven of the 11 available states, a wipeout meaningfully marred only by Ted Cruz’s victory in his home state of Texas—is, or certifies, some Big Frightening New Thing, a shit-just-got-real moment for American culture. “Republicans are falling apart,” says the New York Times; the Washington Post has them “figuring out how to grieve”; the New York Daily News has a tongue-in-cheek guide to leaving the United States altogether. Both the right-wing National Review and Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat—reliable mouthpieces for the Republican establishment—see a Trump nomination as repugnant enough to float the idea of a contested convention, in which that same establishment would openly challenge the overwhelming and plainly expressed will of its own electorate. Countless bitter joke tweets (this one cracked me up, somehow) imagined astronaut Scott Kelly regretting last night’s return to the planet from a year in space.
It’s funny how this shit goes. The end is nigh, we’re told, because Republican voters selected, have selected, are selecting a presidential candidate who embodies literally every animating force in American conservatism—every Great Man myth it has spun around some rich, domineering bully; every mean bigotry and resentment to which it has pandered; every hard-on it has sprung for big-talking political outsiders; all its professed contempt for “political correctness”; its core insistence that the unfettered self-interest of the white male is the light of the world; its opportunistic embrace and exaltation of ignorance and stupidity and hate—but spurns the thin, patronizing sobriety of its traditional and fraudulent packaging. The voters have chosen exactly what each slickly packaged general-election Republican candidate has winked and dog-whistled and hinted he secretly was in my whole entire goddamn lifetime. They’ve chosen what apparatchiks like William Kristol have spent the past 25 years pretending Ronald Reagan wasn’t.
They chose a vicious bully who panders to their resentments, despises them, and asks for their vote. They chose a Republican! Good for them.