William Rivers Pitt | Endgame: Setting the Table for Tuesday’s Primary Showdown

There are no jokes. The truth is the funniest joke of all.—Muhammad Ali

David French has officially announced he will not mount an independent challenge to Donald Trump. Virtually every sentient being on the planet responded to this epochal announcement with, “Who the hell is David French?” Bill Kristol, the always-wrong fool king of right-wing pundits who has been pushing the idea of an insurgent French candidacy tweeted in response to the announcement, “Surrender? NUTS” — a reference to the Battle of the Bulge. His use of the word NUTS is appropriate given the doings of the last few days.

The weirdest presidential election year in the history of modern US politics came down to one of the weirdest five-day news runs I’ve ever seen. Secretary Hillary Clinton gave a rousing speech on Thursday in stalwart defense of empire while cutting Donald Trump off at the knees. Trump, in response, spent the next several days spraying copious amounts of folly into the air as if he were the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, “Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016.”

It began with that Clinton speech on Thursday night. A great many people have been justifiably concerned about the Clinton campaign’s ability to, you know, campaign successfully. Those concerns grew by orders of magnitude after Trump emerged victorious from the fever swamp of the GOP nomination process. Clinton put paid to all those furrowed brows simply by making fun of the man with his own absurd words. She found the chink in his armor and stabbed him under the fifth rib with mockery, disdain and total disrespect, using a dry-wit delivery worthy of President Obama. She had the crowd laughing at “The Donald,” and that is gall and wormwood to The Ego.

Later that night, Trump held a rally and went screaming around the room like an angry orange bat. I SAW THE SPEECH HILLARY IS PATHETIC BUILD A WALL SHE BELONGS IN JAIL LOOK HOW BIG MY HANDS ARE I’M RICH WHAAARGARBL. It was a bull-throated roar of pure nonsense that confirmed everything Clinton said about him — unbalanced, unfit, incoherent. I was reminded of the scene in the film Inherit the Wind when Matthew Harrison Brady, after being humiliated in court earlier that day, raged around his hotel room before collapsing pathetically into his wife’s arms. “They laughed at me,” he whimpers. “I hate it when they laugh at me.”

The next three days were a brass band parade of racism and self-destruction on the part of Trump. He tripled down on his attacks against US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the man presiding over the Trump University fraud case, saying Curiel couldn’t be impartial because “He’s Mexican.” The man was born in Indiana … and for the record, can anyone recall the last time a major party candidate ran for president while being sued for fraud? Judge Curiel hasn’t said a word, obeying the old political maxim: Never interfere with a perfectly good train wreck.

Trump later went on to say that no Muslim judge could be impartial with him because of their religious faith. Apparently, the only judge Trump believes can give him a fair shake is some Anglo-Saxon trust fund baby with a spray-on tan and a roadkill-flattened rabbit on his head.

The best part was the reaction. Every Republican luminary who had cravenly hitched their wagon to Trump’s blinkered star came boiling out of the woodwork to put daylight between themselves and his comments. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich and all the others who decided laying their chips down on orange was a wise move probably haven’t slept since Thursday night. The stampede away from Trump was astonishing, and entirely unsurprising.

And it’s not even Tuesday.

New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and big kahuna California go down tomorrow night. Clinton is 22 delegates shy of the brass ring, and unless the Earth crashes into the sun, New Jersey will deliver those to her before the stars come out on the East Coast. MSNBC’s human weathervane and certified Clinton lackey Chris Matthews let it drop this weekend that the major networks were going to officially declare Clinton the Democratic nominee hours before the polls close in California if she crossed the threshold on the Jersey shore. Sorry, California. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that divisions have erupted within the Bernie Sanders camp over the merits of soldiering on in what has essentially become a doomed campaign. If Sanders loses California — he was down five points in the last poll — the calls against going forward will get a whole lot louder. Better to get what you can get goes the argument — a strong hand in crafting the party platform, a prime-time speaking slot at the convention, maybe even a cabinet spot in the outside chance — rather than keep running a race that will have all but ended before the poll-closings cross the Mississippi River tomorrow night.

Muhammad Ali lost his last fight on Friday. He once said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road.” The Sanders campaign and its supporters would do well to take the champ’s words to heart. Ali got knocked down, was pilloried by the press, was attacked by the government for being right and risked prison for his integrity. He was beaten in the ring five times in humiliating fashion … and ultimately prevailed.

Nothing can take away from what Sanders has accomplished, and will accomplish going forward no matter what happens tomorrow. We may be stuck with the grim reality of Clinton vs. Trump after tomorrow, but Dr. Seuss had the right of it: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

Sanders happened, and it has truly been a sight to see. The greatest shame will not be if he loses the nomination and stands aside for Clinton. The greatest shame will be if the energy, truth and hope he brought to his campaign and the nation entire is left to wither like an untended garden. He has proven the country is ready for truly progressive leadership.

How to achieve actual progressive change going forward? Behind the lines, said The Champ, in the gym, and out there on the road.

Damn straight.