Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 28, 2016
Do Trump and Clinton Matter
Here is a rough recent accounting of the relationship between Donald Trump and the Republican Party. The last G.O.P. nominee for President, Mitt Romney, delivered a speech calling Trump “a phony, a fraud,” and warned that his economic policies would lead the country into a “prolonged recession.” The previous nominee, John McCain, called Trump “uninformed and indeed dangerous.” The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, took the extraordinary step of announcing that he was “not ready” to support Trump, though no other candidate remained in the race. The President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public-policy arm said that Trump has built his life on a “swindle that oppresses the poorest and the most desperate,” and socially conservative radio hosts have amplified that line and made it constant. One of the highest-profile anti-Trump ads, from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, is simply a montage of Republicans attacking him. “A con artist,” Marco Rubio says. “A race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” Lindsey Graham says. “A pathological liar,” Ted Cruz says.
These are not minor figures within the Party; for most of the current Presidential campaign, their cumulative support was larger than Trump’s. But now we have a crude, early tally of their relative strength. Last Thursday, a New York Times/CBS poll had Hillary Clinton running just six points ahead of her likely opponent. Trump had the support of eighty-five per cent of Republican voters; only six per cent said they would not support him. (On Sunday, an ABC News/Washington Post poll, which had Trump leading Clinton by two points, showed similar results among Republican voters: eighty-five per cent of Republicans were for Trump, eight per cent for Clinton.) As pointed and sustained as the condemnations of Trump by leading conservatives have been, they have not mattered to Republican voters. Lately, even some of Trump’s loudest Republican opponents—such as McCain, who faces a difficult Senate race—have come around.
These are just a couple of polls, taken at one moment in time, and so there are plenty of caveats. Perhaps Clinton’s numbers have been temporarily suppressed by the continued (and increasingly hostile) opposition of Bernie Sanders; according to the ABC/Post poll, Trump has eleven-per-cent support among registered Democrats, which seems unlikely to stick. Perhaps there are many Republican voters who remain blissfully unaware of Trump’s offenses and transgressions, who will be swayed by the wave of negative advertising to come. But Trump did not exactly sneak in under the radar. This is probably the end of the #NeverTrump movement, which looks likely to go down as a deeply felt reaction from conservative influentials that voters did not hear. But these latest numbers also seem to signal something else: that this historically weird race may be turning into an ordinary one, in which the parties matter more than the candidates. (Continued: The New Yorker)