Donald Trump's victory is a triumph of the will to power

DONALD TRUMP says he isn’t interested in the endorsement of David ...

Maybe this isn’t America’s “fascist moment”. Maybe American citizens are just tired of stagnant wages, rising costs of living and the narrative of decline?

Donald Trump has done it. He’s got the golden number of delegates – 1,238 – to win the Republican nomination. What seemed a year ago like a dream/impossibility/joke is now real. The GOP has nominated a man with no experience of elected office, a political identity so contrary that he invited his Democratic rival to his wedding, and a record of statements that has offended the world from London to Mexico City. It is worth considering the scale of his success. 

In the history of popularly elected primaries, the outsider Republican candidate has never done quite this well. Ronald Reagan lost his nomination bid in 1976; his 1980 victory was made possible by rebranding as mainstream. Evangelical preacher Pat Robertson lost in 1988. Pat Buchanan took a dive in 1992 and 1996. Alan Keyes was almost invisible in 2000. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum both flopped in 2008 and 2012.

Historians might quibble that the exception to this rule is libertarian Barry Goldwater, who won the nomination in 1964 arguing that “extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice.” But while Trump’s nomination was secured through popular contests held across the country, Goldwater ran in far fewer primaries and had to rely on unelected delegates to win the convention. Goldwater’s triumph was a triumph of organisation. Trump was a triumph of popular will.

No one saw it coming. Not me. Not Trump’s rivals who believed that they would do better to attack each other than attack him – meaning that they coalesced around an anti-Trump candidate far too late.

The choice is between Trump and Clinton. If principled conservatives continue to oppose Trump they will, by default, be helping to elect Clinton. 

Not the political analysts. This has been a bad election for Nate Silver, who admitted that he relied too much on “educated guesses” rather than polls that screamed “Dude, this is actually happening!” Silver, like everyone else, assumed that the there was a ceiling to Trump’s support – the ceiling hit by Buchanan, Huckabee and all the rest in the past. This attitude also helped delay the fightback. Received wisdom was that as each opponent dropped out, the anti-Trump vote would concentrate and he would lose. On the contrary, he did even better. Donald Trump won Indiana, the last seriously contested primary, by 53-37 per cent.

Some say that the problem was the quality of his opposition. But Ted Cruz was surely right-wing enough to rally conservatives and John Kasich pragmatic enough to attract moderates. Trump supporters consistently said that they were voting for the person they thought could win. A plurality, perhaps even a majority of Republican voters seem to believe that Donald Trump is a strong candidate.

Trump helped himself, of course. He proved brilliant at dominating the media: he was, in many ways, an old fashioned TV candidate. He was also relentlessly positive: the living incarnation of one of those “think yourself thin” books. After every victory, even the odd defeat, he would assert that he was doing great, he was huge and he just loved whatever state was coming up next. And it worked. He willed his own victory. It was very Nietzschean. His H-bomb stump style was destined either to fail horribly or succeed miraculously. It did the latter. And we mustn't dismiss the possibility that it succeeded because people thought he was right about a lot of things he said. Maybe this isn’t America’s “fascist moment”. Maybe folks are just tired of stagnant wages, rising costs of living and the narrative of decline?

Can he win in November? Yes. If only because Hillary Clinton might be facing an indictment by the FBI over her email scandal. She is one of the weakest Democratic candidates in years, widely distrusted by the public. You might think Trump is bad. Millions of Americans think Hillary is worse. Or, to put it another way, that Trump can't be much worse than her.

Two things have to change from here on in. First: the pundits need to stop analysing what went wrong (as I’ve just spend 700 words doing). We need to stop talking about Trump in terms of “what the Hell is happening?” – because it’s happened and we need to move on. Donald Trump is now a candidate for the presidency. He has to be taken seriously. That means more analysis of his policy proposals, statements and general election tactics. Let's not repeat the mistake of the last few months of focusing on the man's twitter feed rather than his philosophy.

Second, the Republicans who oppose Trump have to test their consciences. The choice is no longer existential – there is no possibility now that an alternative might emerge. The choice is between Trump and Clinton. If principled conservatives continue to oppose Trump they will, by default, be helping to elect Clinton.


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