Donald Trump prevailed by an impressive margin over his remaining opponents in the Nevada caucuses last night. Although only a few delegates have been chosen so far, Trump’s substantial win in advance of the Super Tuesday primaries next week gives his campaign the appearance of a juggernaut in the making. RealClearPolitics gives Trump the lead in 9 of 13 Super Tuesday states.
Trump’s candidacy is a byproduct of the Obama era every bit as much as Jimmy Carter’s was of the end of the Nixon & Ford administrations. He draws on the anger at Obama and the ineffectual Republican resistance to him. He expressly responds to the yearning among us to restore American greatness. Although I don’t know anyone who anticipated the strength of Trump’s candidacy or the weakness of the many other GOP candidates, it’s not hard to understand in retrospect.
Yet Trump is an embarrassment to the issues he purports to advance. He subtracts from the sum total of human knowledge. He is not a conservative. He is a devout vulgarian. To the extent it can be measured by polls, his negative image exceeds the wildly high negative image achieved by Hillary Clinton.
Putting to one side the merits of what would be an utterly dispiriting contest, does anyone in his right mind seriously think that Donald Trump stands a reasonable chance of beating the Democratic nominee in a general election? I don’t, and I think Trump will take the Republican majorities in Congress down with him, not to mention the Supreme Court, of course. Trump seems to me the worst and most destructive candidate remaining in what has turned into a weak field.
In Nixon Agonistes, Garry Wills summarizes H.L. Mencken’s assessment of Calvin Coolidge’s career. In Wills’s summary of Mencken, Coolidge’s career represents “the juggernaut of snooze.” Wills quotes Mencken’s observation that Coolidge “went through life clothed in immunities that defied and made a mock of all the accepted laws of nature.” That rings a bell, and I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that Trump’s campaign represents the juggernaut of lose.