Tuesday’s primary results, where Trump won in Hawaii, Michigan and Mississippi, Cruz won in Idaho and Bernie Sanders pulled off a huge upset in Michigan while getting blown out in Mississippi (NYT), gave us more insight into the battle for the two party’s nominations. On the Republican side, Trump now has a 99 delegate lead over Cruz (458 to 359), with Rubio (151) and Kasich (54) far behind and essentially out of the race. Trump is thus closing in on the nomination, with many of Rubio’s money men now wondering if he should drop out before the March 15th Florida primary to save himself further embarrassment. On the Democratic side, Sanders upset in Michigan is one of the biggest in the history of their primary season but doesn’t necessarily make his struggle toward the nomination much easier (Clinton currently leads 760 to 546, with most of the super delegates currently pledged to her).
What the results means in a broader sense is that much of America is still angry with politics as usual in the country and willing to support any populist movement, though clearly more on the Republican than Democratic side (Real Clear Politics). It appears they are angry about everything from continued Wall Street greed and malfeasance to the growing diversity in the country and the no-nothing Congress. Some are clearly upset with Obama as well, even as his approval rating hovers around 50 percent. And it appears that Democrats have switched sides with the Republicans, going the more pragmatic route even as they continue to have real doubts about Hillary and her ability to enact real progressive reforms (Salon). The press also seems to again be doing its best to derail the prospects of a more progressive candidate, as they have done with Dean and others successfully and Obama less successfully. Whether the self-proclaimed Vermont socialist can overcome his disadvantage in the polls, with African-Americans and with the media is still to be seen, but Hillary does look the likelier candidate.
On the Republican side, Trump is currently trailing Clinton in most national polls, but a matchup of the two could turn on the insider-outsider narrative that seems to be driving both Trump and Sanders campaigns. The difference between the two, of course, is that they stand on almost polar opposite ends of the ideological spectrum and Sanders has a net positive favorability rating while Trump has the worst of any candidate who is running, or has already dropped out. The most troubling aspect of the current incarnation of Trump is the pseudo-Fascist tendencies that are becoming more amplified with each passing day.
There was already the bullying of opponents, the anti-immigrant rhetoric, the macho misogyny, the fear mongering and a tagline that sounded rather alarmingly like that of Herr Hitler. Now he has added anti-Semitism to his arsenal while leading a crowd yesterday in what looked a lot like a Heil Hitler salute. Trump seems immune to criticism, feeds of on the pathos and hatred of the audience, has an endless array of scapegoats he intermittently calls out, is a bully and now appears to be building a movement that seems to find democracy a troubling political force that can be overcome. Lest us forget the Republicans have been attacking democracy for years, from the push for Presidential power in the Bush administration and the Tea Party movement to the obstructionist Congress over the past two decades whenever a Democrat has the White House. Trump seems to believe these past efforts don’t go far enough, threatening anyone who might stand in his path if he were to win the election.
One could take hope from the populist uprising, particularly that of Sanders, but the Fascist undertones of Trump and the sense that establishment figure Clinton might just be able to beat him in a general election seems to indicate that the growing cynicism that has punctuated American politics for much of the past 35 years is only growing, assisted by a media that can be summed up by the words of the CBS CEO, “Trump might be bad for America, but he is great for CBS. More Trump!”