When the bent roadshow that is this 2016 presidential election season kicked off months ago — comprised of 17 gremlins, a Republican Democrat and a democratic socialist from the woods all running for the prize like the ingredients for the worst fruitcake you’ve ever heard of — I said to myself, “Yeah, OK, get ready, because this one is going to be really, really weird.” I bought a helmet, a mouth guard, and installed four-point NASCAR-approved restraints in my office chair. I thought I was ready. Just another campaign season, right? Stomp the gas, let’s do this.
My safety precautions served me well through those ridiculous GOP debates, through primary and caucus and absurdity after absurdity, but none of it helped after I crashed into the Indiana primary. When Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Ted Cruz’s father of involvement in the John F. Kennedy assassination based on a “report” by the National Enquirer, my finely tuned race car hit the wall at speed, rolled over twelve times and burst into flames. I was thankfully thrown free and landed softly in a hedgerow, but a part of me will always be in that burning car wondering how in the blue hell I got there.
Here’s the funny part: Trump won Indiana by 17 points, and Ted Cruz dropped out. On planet Earth, where I thought I was until yesterday, accusing someone’s father of helping to assassinate a president would be grounds for immediate disqualification, not fodder for double-digit domination that all but seals the Republican nomination. Unless Godzilla rises from the sea and devours the North American continent, Donald fa-chrissakes Trump is going to win this thing in a rout. John Kasich got 8 percent of the vote in Indiana and literally went to bed. No statement, nothing. If Kasich kept up this anti-frenetic pace, you’d start seeing his face on milk cartons at the supermarket. “Have you seen me?” No. It’s over. He just dropped out.
In a season as bizarre as this has been, the fact that I found myself having a grudging respect for Ted Cruz is certainly the strangest part of all. Make no mistake: I consider Cruz dropping out of the presidential race to be the equivalent of an extinction-level-event meteor narrowly missing the planet. Trump is genuinely dangerous, but he is at the end of the day a carnival barker with a flat head. He is a certain menace, but Cruz means what he says, and his gift for rhetoric could have delivered us into a new Dark Age. Trump is ridiculous, but Cruz is a truly frightening Dominionist demagogue who has no business even looking at the White House, much less residing in it. He is not a monster, but he would become one if given the chance.
All that being said, Cruz left everything on the field in Indiana — his confrontation with those Trump supporters when he effectively shut them down, his pure rage against Trump after the Kennedy assassination thing hit the wires — and it tells me he’s not done seeking the presidency. That spooks me, but you have to give credit where it is due. The man went down swinging. I’m reminded of the line by Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the film Full Metal Jacket: “He’s silly and he’s ignorant but he’s got guts, and guts is enough.” The 2020 election season is a scant four years away. Cruz is silly and he’s ignorant, and he’ll be back. Take appropriate precautions.
While the mayhem of the GOP nomination race ratcheted up to a whole new level of farce, a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Her chariot hit a Bernie-shaped speed bump south of Gary and cracked an axle. Bernie Sanders, who can’t win according to the television people, won Indiana, and in fairly decisive fashion.
Sanders gave a muted, calm victory statement as he prepared to move on to next week’s contests in Nebraska and West Virginia. Clinton, on the other hand, went dark and silent like a deep-diving submarine. No statement to her supporters, just like Kasich. It’s almost as if she was never there. What’s that phrase submariners use? Make like a hole in the water. Indeed.
Conventional wisdom and the delegate math has Hillary Clinton winning the nomination, but Bernie Sanders hasn’t gotten that particular memo. After Nebraska and West Virginia comes Kentucky and Oregon, followed by Washington State, followed after that by delegate-rich California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota all on the 7th of June. Indiana proved that anything is possible. The media wants a Trump v. Clinton contest for obvious reasons. Sanders has other ideas.
This is truly the Let’s All Drop Acid And Have A Presidential Race campaign season. Kasich is gone with a whimper. Carly Fiorina was a vice presidential candidate for six days while Donald Trump accused Ted Cruz’s father of having a hand in the murder of John F. Kennedy before declaring on national television that he was going to win “bigly.” That’s right, “bigly.” My new favorite word to describe this race; it means nothing, and everything. Bernie Sanders still has some fight in him, but the Trump v. Clinton contest is taking shape, and it is gruesomely likely that we’re all going to lose bigly when the deal goes down.
Thanks, Indiana. I can see the music.