The most important election this week has already taken place; we already know the winner. It isn’t the race between Sadiq and Zac to replace Boris as London Mayor. It isn’t the Scottish General Election, which will determine the size of Nicola Sturgeon’s majority as First Minister for the next four years. It isn’t the election in Wales, where Carwyn Jones has asked Jeremy Corbyn not to campaign because he’s so afraid he’ll need opposition support to form a new Welsh Government. And it certainly isn’t the local council elections or the police & crime commissioner elections.
No, the most important election this week was on Tuesday. It was the GOP Primary in Indiana. And it had lasting and potentially devastating results.
The Republican voters of Indiana did what no Primary has been able to do so far – they backed Donald J Trump by enough to knock Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich out of the race for the GOP nomination, leaving just Mr Trump as the presumptive nominee.
That’s right, the party of Abraham Lincoln, of Dwight D Eisenhower, of Ronald Reagan, just nominated a four times bankrupt, three times married, reality TV star, who turned an inherited fortune into a smaller one, as their candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America, the de facto leader of the free world.
The party formed out of opposition to slavery, named in homage to Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party, did all it could to persuade its supporters to back an establishment candidate. First there was Jeb!. It soon became clear that Jeb didn’t have the easy nature of his brother, President George W Bush, and was more like his father, President George H W Bush. Trump ferociously attacked him and he never got out of the starting blocks.
Then there was Marco Rubio. Little Marco, as he was ridiculously named by Trump, held in there until he lost his home state of Florida. The Tea Party hero of 2012 was seen as too Establishment by the angry, predominantly white, working class Republican voters who are backing Trump.
That left just Ted Cruz. Lyin’ Ted he was named by Trump. Sure, John Kasich stuck in it, in the hope of being named running mate, but Ted chose businesswoman (and former candidate) Carly Fiorina. Nothing Ted did could stop the Trump juggernaut by now. This was about preventing him from getting enough delegates to make it to the convention as the presumptive nominee. And on Tuesday, in Indiana, Senator Cruz realised he wasn’t going to manage even that.
The conventional wisdom is that none of this really matters. Hillary Clinton (who is yet to see off her own Primary challenge in Bernie Sanders) will storm to victory with a huge margin. Trump can’t beat her. So says conventional wisdom.
Why the hell is anyone listening to conventional wisdom? How has that worked out for Jeb! or for Marco or for Ted? Trump has turned conventional wisdom on his head so far and there is no reason why he can’t do that now.
Hillary Clinton has huge drawbacks as a candidate. Sure, she’s a great symbol. She’d be the first ever woman President. Donald Trump would be the first orange President, but people don’t vote for symbolism. They decide their vote based on self-interest.
Secretary Clinton is under investigation by the FBI for using insecure email servers to store confidential State Department emails while she was Secretary of State. She has consistently ducked questions about her $250,000 speeches to Wall Street. She’s a divisive figure who will enrage Republican voters as much as Trump enrages Democrats. And she is despised by millions of Bernie Sanders supporters, who would rather see Trump enact his radical right-wing agenda for four years than vote for the woman they consider corrupt, venal and immoral.
Secretary Clinton’s biggest asset in 2008 was a nostalgic memory of her husband’s Presidency, some eight years before. At a time of financial turmoil, the memory of a stable period of growth must have helped. But eight years on from that election, with her mis-steps as Secretary of State hung round her neck by the Republicans, Hillary’s asset has been out of the White House for 16 years. President Bill Clinton is suddenly underfire from women’s rights groups tied to Bernie Sanders supporters, who accuse him of repeatedly abusing his position to coerce women into sexual relations.
If Hillary manages to make it onto the ballot in November – and that IS a bigger if than she would want it to be – then all those negatives will be ruthlessly exploited by Trump. He will target her divisiveness and hope that Democratic supporters who have never really adored her stay home. He will target Sanders supporters and hope they sit on their hands. And he will target those Republicans for whom Hillary is an abomination – more so than Obama is in their minds – and motivate them to get out the vote.
So Tuesday’s election is potentially the most important election this week; it may well have seen Indiana choose the eventual next President of the USA.
Donald J Trump? God help us all.