Let’s face it, we live in a weird, incredibly unpredictable world. Just when you think you’ve got it nailed, you turn around and are astonished to learn that Donald Trump is the “presumptive Republican nominee.”
Some months ago, we went to dinner with a large group of friends, and someone suggested that we each predict the Republican and Democratic nominees who would emerge this year. Even though the dinner occurred during the early days of Trumpmania, I’d guess that nobody picked Trump as the eventual carrier of the GOP banner. His behavior and comments were uniformly viewed as so inflammatory that the notion that he could somehow navigate through the primary process without spontaneously combusting seemed wildly, impossibly implausible. And since that dinner party I’ve been regularly expecting and predicting that, with each grossly improper, know-nothing comment, Trump was bound to fall.
And yet . . . here he is. To be sure, he’s continued to say outlandish things that would have been immediately, irreversibly fatal for every other candidate who has ever vied for the presidency, and yet . . . here he is. The Governors and Senators, the seasoned pols, who made up the large field of initial Republican candidates have all fallen by the wayside, leaving an egomaniacal reality TV show star as one of the two major party candidates for the most powerful office in the world. Last night Ted Cruz “suspended his campaign,” and today John Kasich threw in the towel. Amazingly, Trump has actually triumphed over his Republican opponents while Hillary Clinton is still struggling to drive a stake into the heart of Bernie Sanders’ rebel campaign.
Last night Kish and I were watching CNN’s coverage of the Indiana primary and Trump’s by-now-familiar stream of consciousness victory speech. CNN has not one, but two panels of pundits to cover such events, and one of them is activist Van Jones. Most of the pundits seemed to focus on the typical things that pundits do — that the early Republican candidates made this mistake or that that allowed Trump to survive and ultimately prevail. Not Jones. He cautioned that the political elites may be oblivious to something brooding in the country, something big but still under the radar, a kind of broad and deep, visceral dissatisfaction with the state of things that the inside-the-Beltway types are just missing but that finds its outlet in the insurgent, unconventional candidacies of Trump and Sanders. Perhaps he’s right. It’s as good an explanation as any for a “presumptive GOP nominee” that leaves me slack-jawed in wonderment.