Five Thoughts on Super Tuesday 2016
Do I have Super Tuesday thoughts? Sure I do.
* The real question I have after last night is: In the general election will the Democratic defections when enraged BernieBros decide to vote for Trump over Clinton be counteracted by the Republican defections when despairing neocons decide to vote for Clinton over Trump? Because, yes, I think that’s where we are right now.
More to the point, I think the general election is less likely to be purely about GOP vs. Democrats as it is likely to be anxious white people vs. everyone else. I mean, it was that before, right? But it used to better correlate with the political parties than it does this year. Trump’s natural constituency appears to be white folks, mostly but not only dudes, working class or below, with a varyingly-sized streak of bigotry in them — sexism, racism, what have you. Basically, those anxious about their jobs, or more existentially about losing their place in the social hierarchy. Which theoretically leaves everything else to Clinton.
Which is not a bad place for Clinton to be — if she can get them out in the general. I think she will, but it’s a long way to November, and remember, I have a healthy appreciation for my own personal political cluelessness.
* But Sanders won four states last night! Yes he did, and good for him, although generally speaking he won smaller states with fewer delegates, by smaller margins than Clinton won hers, particularly in the South. Which means that by the only metric that actually counts — delegates assigned — Clinton’s pulling ahead (her superdelegates are staying put, too). To be clear I’m happy for Sanders to stay in the race to keep Clinton’s feet to the fire. She does have a tendency to tack right when left to her own devices, and I don’t think that helps her any right now. But I really don’t see where Sanders gets to the nomination from here.
Which leaves open the question of where the BernieBros go when Clinton does clinch the nomination, which she is likely to do well before the convention. While (to be clear) I suspect most Sanders supporters would support Clinton over Trump (or Cruz or Rubio) in the general, I think there’s a small but noisy chunk who have declared Clinton the enemy and who will ragequit when their dude gets shut out, take their ball and bat and go play in the Fields of Trump. Because they’re anxious white people, you see! If or when they do, I think this will be an instructive moment for everyone about the contours of this particular election.
* On the Republican side: But Cruz won three states last night! And Rubio won one! First, that’s adorable for Rubio. He finally won a
primary caucus! Someone give him a participation star, or something. To be fair, the pundits tell me he has a better chance at states a bit down the line, including Florida in two weeks. Well, okay, fine. Cruz on the other hand is in slightly better position: Texas is not an insignificant win, and Oklahoma and Alaska are nice side dishes as well, and Cruz can make an argument that it is he, and not Rubio, who is the true bulwark against Trump within the GOP at this point.
At which the rest of us can be forgiven our barely repressed giggling, because if there’s one single GOP candidate that would allow the Democrats to run up a higher electoral vote total than Trump, it’s Cruz, the final obnoxious form of a college dorm “Devil’s Advocate.” Note to the GOP: Clinton cannot wait for you to settle on Cruz. She really, really hopes you do. I mean, she’ll take Trump. But she wants Cruz. She’ll be delighted if you oblige her.
But, I suspect it will be Trump. As I noted yesterday, neither Rubio nor Cruz is going to drop out any time soon, so they’ll keep splitting the not-Trump vote between them, and Kasich is in it at least through the Ohio primary, where his primary role will be to keep either Rubio or Cruz out of the number two position that night. Meanwhile Trump will vacuum up his now-standard 30+% of the primary voters, which will likely be enough as we move toward winner-take-all primaries.
* I continue not to envy Republican voters, since it’s likely Trump will be your nominee, and if he’s not Cruz likely will be, and, well. There’s a choice, isn’t there. I suspect this is when a number of GOP voters (neocons especially) will decide that Clinton is basically close enough to a Reagan Republican, and also they don’t really care if women get abortions if they want them, so what the hell, and pull the lever for her this one time.
Which brings me back to my first question: Will their number balance out the BernieBros who ragequit and vote for Trump? My feeling is that in the end it’s likely to be a wash and in fact it’s more likely that the real winner of both those constituencies might be Gary Johnson, who is running as the Libertarian candidate and is therefore a safe repository of third party votes that will ultimately neither help nor hinder the two parties’ efforts (it might nibble away slightly more at the GOP side, but not, I suspect, enough to cause an electoral vote swing). Or they might just stay home and gripe on Reddit! Well, that’s what Reddit’s for.
* And finally, the wild card: If Trump wins the nomination, will there be a third party run to his right? And if he doesn’t win the nomination, will he run a spoiler campaign against either Cruz or Rubio? I see a GOP splinter as an unlikely but real possibility, and more so if Trump is denied the candidacy in a convention fight. I should also note that if Trump leaves the GOP, he almost certainly will take his constituency of anxious white people with him, and then all Clinton will have to do to take the White House is not step in front of a bus.
Clinton would love if you did that splintering, too, GOP. Just so you know.