So, OK, maybe the crowd at the NYC GOP gala was deliberately cold-shouldering Ted Cruz like a passel of ill-raised kindergartners. Hey, I gave them the best shot I could.
You’ll all know by now that Donald Trump ran away with New York, and John Kasich has been given unnecessary encouragement with a second-place finish. Cruz lagged badly with about 14% of the vote. And that’s even after Garry Kasparov, Russian chess master and democracy activist, came out just before the primary and ripped Trump for the sorry nature of his “New York values.”
With 60% of the Republican vote, Trump has nailed a rare majority win in the Empire State. Does this mean Roger Kimball was wrong in saying the New York primary, yet again, didn’t really matter?
I actually agreed with Kimball: in spite of the hype about New York’s primary vote finally mattering this year, I went in thinking it didn’t, especially. We all knew Trump and Hillary were going to win. Kimball said several times that he didn’t know how it would come out. But I was certain Trump would win, and by a big margin. I wasn’t sure how big Hillary’s margin would be, but it would have surprised me considerably for Bernie to win.
So I figured Kimball was basically right about the New York primary not mattering that much, partly because it could have been mailed in. The only real surprise was that Cruz was so far behind Kasich. Someone will no doubt write a dissertation on the folly of doubling down with abstract arguments on an ill-conceived snark-soundbite like “New York values,” instead of courting voters with, like, positive vibes about who they are as people, which is more usual. I don’t know if Cruz will take lessons from this or not. He’s a fighter at heart, and as a number of pundits have said, he basically wrote New York off anyway.
The reason that’s not actively stupid (although it comes off as more coldly calculated than strictly necessary) is the same reason the primary didn’t matter. All three of the Republicans added together got nearly 300,000 fewer votes than Hillary got.
Hillary. The old, tired, corrupt, boring usual-suspect Democrat. A Republican is not going to win New York in the general election. Trump is not going to win New York, and neither is Kasich. Trump would come closer (if it’s between Kasich and Hillary, why vote for Hillary-lite?), but he’s still not going to win the state. The more people leave, the bluer New York gets.
The usual charts to gladden your hearts.
And a bonus note on the late Republican kerfuffle in the Virgin Islands, which reportedly involved a smackdown, a weeping, shaken party functionary, and a firearm. Republicans haven’t had this much election-season drama in I don’t know how long. This stuff has been the province of the Democrats throughout my lifetime.
Politico is trying to turn it into a “thing,” and there’s an incipient push to run with it as a preview of Cleveland. Republicans caught on audio yelling at each other in closed rooms! Women crying! Men running around with “semiautomatic weapons”! The humanity!
But I’m not convinced there’s a systematic pattern of freak-out going on here. The Virgin Islands drama sounds like a particular case of circumstances that produced some understandable discontent.
Basically, what happened was that an activist named John Yob recently moved from Michigan to the Virgin Islands, seemingly in order to insert himself into GOP internal politics there. Yob was a former advisor to Rand Paul, and wrote the political book Chaos about the process behind a contested convention. Clearly, it’s something that’s on his mind. Yob, his wife, and four other delegates got chosen in the USVI primary in March to represent the Islands in Cleveland — without being committed to specific candidates.
This wasn’t what the existing party hierarchy in the USVI wanted, so the GOP chairman, John Canegata, used a party rule to disqualify all six delegates. Six alternates are replacing them, with one supporting Trump, one Cruz, two Marco Rubio, and two uncommitted.
But that outcome is as unsatisfactory to some in the Islands party as the original outcome was to the old guard. In one of those delightful slice-of-Americana twists, Mr. Canegata owns a gun range, and that’s where the most recent party conclave was held, at which the unseemly near-brawl broke out. Tailor-made for sensational reporting, no question.
Both sides in the conflict apparently feel like the process was hijacked, because they didn’t get what they wanted. Now, we’ve heard a similar story in Colorado, and maybe we’ll hear it again before the primaries are over. There really is a fight going on for the soul of the GOP.
But we’re talking about Republicans here, not Occupy Democrats being paid by George Soros to show up stoned on public streets and do back-flips. The actual drama of the Republican fight this year will not culminate in fisticuffs in Cleveland. That’s cheap melodrama, and I don’t think there will be much of it. There’s more likely to be some tedious suspense in Cleveland, with a lot of time ticking by and network talking heads trying to fill empty spaces as Republicans wait for the white smoke to start puffing upward.
The real drama will be what happens afterward. We already know that, because we know that no matter what the outcome in Cleveland, a sizable segment of the party is going to be disaffected. There is no other possible outcome. If Ronald Reagan comes back to life, be sure to let me know; short of that, there is no resolution that will make everyone happy enough to unite around a generally popular candidate.
What the voters do about that is the important political drama of this year. Quite honestly, I think those who are certain that our salvation lies in rallying behind one of the candidates are living in the past. I hope Cruz will be the nominee and that the people will vote for him, but I don’t mistake that option for America’s salvation. Certainly, America’s salvation doesn’t lie in voting for Trump or Kasich.
We’re beyond that now. America must move forward; there is no option of going back, or even of staying here, with the tide going out under our feet. The reason I favor Cruz is that I think he can see that, and I’m certain of the character of his intentions. If anyone running this year can lay a bridge that actually goes somewhere, it’s Cruz.
But it’s true that he’s not a politician who reassures voters about their complacent assumptions. He just keeps hammering away at policy substance and the philosophy of limited, constitutional, federal government. People want to be comforted that the old-consensus ways of thinking still work. But the biggest problem is reality: they don’t. We can’t just keep the apparatus we have, where we’re all off orating about who gets to pee where while the world falls apart, and expect anything to change for the better. Most people naturally want to cling with all their might to the present — but it’s slipping away, and we cannot keep it. Republican voters’ choice is to face that squarely this year, or not. (Democrats are already on course for the ash-heap of history.)
That drama is monumental, far overshadowing any name-calling or backroom skulduggery there may be in Cleveland in July. Being Westerners, we naturally will have this drama in five acts, as Aristotle prescribed. Perhaps we’re nearing the end of Act 1 at this point.