The surrealist painting that is this election season came into grim focus last night as the two big-money front-runners blew the doors off their respective rivals and came many steps closer to giving the “news” media the general election race they’ve been craving. Donald Trump won everything by margins so wide you could sail an aircraft carrier through them. Hillary Clinton took four out of five contests, with Bernie Sanders picking up Rhode Island. It was near-comprehensive domination, and unless Trump bursts into flames or Clinton starts eating live wombats during a press conference, we’re all staring the general election contest dead in the face.
Last night for Donald Trump: 58 percent in Connecticut, 61 percent in Delaware, 54 percent in Maryland, 56 percent in Pennsylvania and a whopping 64 percent in Rhode Island. Last night for Clinton: 52 percent in Connecticut, 60 percent in Delaware, 63 percent in Maryland and 56 percent in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t close.
This endgame is not surprising if you take the long view. The two parties have been devolving into one fixed entity for a long while now, and the two leading candidates are perfect avatars of that phenomenon. Add to that the fact that the media lust after this match-up. You have the rich braggart with an inferiority complex so large it dwarfs Saturn using racism, sexism, nationalism and a generalized fear of The Other to elbow his way toward the nomination. You have the rich political aristocrat who votes for war, total surveillance and thinks fracking is the greatest thing since glazed donuts trying to pass herself off as some sort of transformative populist while cashing Wall Street checks by the fistful.
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It is madness, but it is madness by design. The Republican Party and its media allies have spent several decades fomenting a sense of terror within their voting ranks — fear of the immigrant, fear of the Black man, fear of a woman’s power to choose, fear of the terrorist hiding under the bed. They have diligently trashed the basic functions of government so they can go on the Sunday talk shows and blather about how government doesn’t work. The Democrats, for their part, have been in full moral retreat over those same decades, fleeing the legacy of FDR and their own alleged principles to such a vast degree that a candidate who voted like a conservative every time the chips were down is about to grab the brass ring.
It was a hard night for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and for Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Supporters of all three are likely staring at the wall right now, wondering what in the world went wrong. It’s not over, of course — suggesting it is to their supporters will elicit howls of rage — but really, yeah, it’s over. Marco Rubio has been out of the race for weeks and still has more delegates than John Kasich. While Cruz is faring better, name-dropping Carly Fiorina is not going to save his campaign.
As far as I am concerned, Bernie Sanders has done the nation a huge service. It is, in a way, as if the distilled essence of the Occupy movement took corporeal form in Vermont and ran for president. He put economic injustice and climate change on the dashboard of his campaign bus and stomped on the gas. He showed us what we can be instead of what we are, but unless the aforementioned wombat massacre happens, he will not be the Democratic nominee. Tuesday all but nailed that door shut.
Indiana is next, followed by Nebraska, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Washington State, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and the District of Colombia. Put another way, we’re in the home stretch and this strange thing is almost over. As a political writer, I find the thought of reaching the finish line refreshing: no more sleepless Tuesdays and exhausted Wednesdays until November.
As a human being and a father, however, I find the whole exercise appalling and terrifying. This is the best we can do, really? This is what we have become. The only reason people will vote for Trump in the general election is because they have been trained to be afraid. The only reason people will vote for Clinton in the general election is to thwart Comb-Over Mussolini and his dreams of glory; once again, people will be voting against instead of voting for, because “she can win,” allegedly.
The whole thing has been bizarre and gruesome from the jump, and the only good I can see coming out of it is the slim possibility that the nation looks long and hard in the mirror once the smoke has cleared and decides that enough is enough.
What a pluperfect mess.