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Donald Trump finds himself, in this season of marathons, where he never expected to be, running pell mell alongside the despised first black president, both quarries of the most relentless hunters in America: the Republican Party. Let's narrow that a bit: the Republican establishment, which is distinct from rank-and-file voters.
Trump is accustomed to being the hunter — no one has savaged Barack Obama more — but there are signs he may not be up to such a reversal of fortunes, being the chased instead of the chaser. He might take some lessons from Obama, who is in the climactic game of dodging the fearsome Republican pursuit. He is about to become the first president to be pre-emptively disallowed the constitutional prerogative to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. History must not record any successes or public good from his presidency.
More about that in a minute, but let's finish the quarry metaphor for the Republican race, for it is the scent of Trump that now excites the hunt. Not until Trump's Super Tuesday sweep across most of the South, where he bagged nearly the whole white-male vote, did the GOP elite realize that he would win the nomination even after the field narrowed to a couple of personally unlikable opponents. Except for Michigan's distressed blue-collar workers, Trump's appeal outside the South and New England is dicier, and the party's corporate, business or elite division swung into battle.
The lofty conservative journals and the commentariat, like The New York Times's grief-stricken David Brooks and Ross Douthat, lamented that it would mean the corruption, if not the end, of the Republican Party if Trump and the ignorant whom he mesmerizes took over. Senators, with the notable exception of Alabama's racist J. Beauregard Sessions, let it be known that anyone but Trump would be OK.
Mitt Romney, the last GOP nominee, made a celebrated speech calling on Republicans everywhere to repudiate this fake Republican. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 candidate, averred.
The once-Republican mayor of New York, super-rich Michael Bloomberg, said he might run as an independent to save the country from his neighbor Trump or Ted Cruz, before concluding this week that it would merely make one of them president by throwing the election into the Republican House of Representatives.
Trump can handle all that, but not the rage of the corporatists. That segment of the party is not going to be denied. By suggesting that he might tax the rich, punish corporations that open shops in Mexico or overseas or refuse to bring them back, impose heavy tariffs on foreign-made goods, start trade wars, deport 11 million immigrants and protect or maybe expand the big social-welfare programs, Trump convinced them that he was not a Republican, a conservative, or even a bona-fide businessman.
So by next Tuesday, when Republicans will vote in Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri — three of them winner-take-all states — they will have spent tens of millions of dollars on ominous ads that paint a much darker picture of the happy provocateur: a crooked and failed businessman, a draft dodger, a liar, a libertine and, yes, a liberal! Outside groups bought more than $10 million in ads to run this week in Florida to overcome Trump's big polling lead over Marco Rubio. The Club for Growth is sinking $2 million into Illinois commercials this week. The Koch Brothers and their corporate allies are swinging into action, having already denied him access to the forums of Americans for Prosperity and other groups.
Look, this stuff works. The same outfits spent fortunes in 2010 persuading the elderly that the formerly Republican health plan they called Obamacare was going to swipe their Medicare benefits and blue-collar workers that it was going to abolish their jobs and not let them see their favorite doctor. Nearly all of them still believe it today even though none of it ever happened. It will work on Donald, too.
How is it going, by the way, with the corporatists' other big pursuit, stymieing the Obama legacy and protecting their own? All 54 Republican senators have sworn not to consider any Obama nominee for the Supreme Court chair of Antonin Scalia on the premise that it would shift the balance on the burning social matters of the times, abortion and all the gender issues. But that wouldn't change. Scalia has been on the losing side of those questions, as from one to three of his Republican colleagues vote the other way. Rather it is on business matters, vital to corporate America, where Republicans have been unified and Scalia the voice, and where a Democratic justice could shift the balance.
Republican appellate Judge Richard Posner's identified 16 major corporate victories over workers, customers, clients, voters and government regulators, starting with the widely despised Citizens United, that could be in jeopardy with the right kind of successor to Scalia. Sen. Lindsey Graham said this week that, while he would make an excellent justice himself, he would vote against himself if he were Obama's nomination.
Graham hates Trump, too. That's the implacable enmity the old casino magnate faces.
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