Last night, May 3rd, after a resounding defeat in Indiana Senator Ted Cruz ended his bid for president. Shortly after that the Republican Party Chairman, Reince Priebus, announced on Twitter that Donald Trump will be the presumptive nominee for the Republican party, and aside from the official word of the head of the party it’s hard to see how that’s not the case. Sen. Cruz was the last marker of the “never Trump” movement who was involved seriously in the presidential race, and he claimed in the weeks leading to the Indiana primary that the voters in the The Hoosier State would be the beginning of the end for Trump’s momentum. However, with that proven wrong, with Sen. Cruz’s departure, and the the path all but completely clear for Mr. Trump’s nomination the race will now inevitably shift away from the primaries.
In the speech which ended his candidacy last night Ted Cruz remarked, “From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory…tonight it appears that path has been foreclosed.” This is a remarkable admittance of fact from a candidate who only days ago was vowing to take the race all the way to the convention, and block Mr. Trump from getting the Republican nomination on the first ballot. Sen. Cruz had been mathematically eliminated from winning the primary on delegates alone since the sweeping victories Mr. Trump had in the last round of primary voting, but that never seemed to dismay him until the very last votes were counted in Indiana.
Over on the Democratic side we have not yet seen the same level of admittance of the facts, in the way Sen. Cruz exhibited last night. Senator Bernie Sanders, who won Indiana by a narrow margin of 53-47, has promised that he will take his campaign all the way to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. In speaking with CNN last night he said that he will continue to fight an “up-hill battle”. What the Senator refuses to admit however is that his campaign is just as mathematically eliminated from gaining the nomination as Sen. Cruz’s was; the amount of delegates that he will now need in order to get the nomination is completely implausible, bordering on completely impossible, you can see here numbers from FiveThirtyEight explaining this fact. It is well established that Sen. Sanders would have to hit way above his weight in every remaining primary to even be considerable. Omitting any mention of how the Sanders campaign claims they will flip Superdelegates in his favor; because frankly to this writer they are nonsensical, undemocratic, and would never happen; we see that Sanders has no viable path to the nomination of the Democratic party.
With Hillary Clinton the presumptive nominee of the party, Sen. Sanders is — as NBC News aptly put it — “a third wheel” in the presidential race. He is hanging on by a thread, while continuing to court his key demographics. Sen. Sanders continued involvement in this race wouldn’t be a problem if not for certain characteristics of his campaign, and Secretary Clinton seems not to mind as her campaign has shifted resoundingly to the general election, and has decided to mainly ignore Sen. Sanders in the run up to Philly. However Ted Cruz’s exit from the race has signaled a massive shift in the dynamics, and attitudes in where we now stand in terms of presidential politics.
Donald Trump’s now clear path to the general election puts the Democrats in a tough position. Without any more serious competition to the right, and the presumed death of the “Never Trump” movement, Mr. Trump has a clear opportunity to shift all of his attention in to attacking Secretary Clinton. We’ve seen the beginnings of this over the last couple of weeks, as Mr. Trump has begun to preview of few of the rhetorical attacks he will likely repeat going in to the general. As he’s done with all of his opponents he’s given Secretary Clinton an unflattering nickname, “Crooked Hillary”; he has also attacked her using many of the same talking points that Sen. Sanders has used to criticize her, calling her unqualified for the presidency, attacking her on her votes for the Iraq war, and criticizing her for playing “the woman’s card”. Barring the comment about the her gender most of these attacks have been parroting the same lines repeated ad nauseam by the Sanders campaign, and this is a very deliberate tactic by the Trump campaign, who has been trying to court Sanders more independently minded voters.
Hillary Clinton, now fully in general election mode, has tried to response in different ways to Trump’s attacks, but the trouble that she is now having is: despite her ignorance of Sen. Sanders he is still there, and he is still using the same kind of attacks he’s been using the entire race to disparage Sec. Clinton, and win himself the nomination even though he has no path to that aim. The result of this is that Sec. Clinton is now being attacked from the right, and the left, and with the dismissal of Sen. Cruz these attacks will only increase as the entire republican base laser focuses themselves on attacking her campaign.
So, what then do the Democrats need to do to meet this new threat of a united Republican base?
Firstly, and critically they must unite the party. In a strange turn of events the Republicans have been able to begin to rally around a single candidate much faster that the Democrats — even though the difference of opinion in the GOP far exceeded the different of opinion between the candidates on the left. This unification doesn’t need to go as far as calling Bernie Sanders to drop out of the race, as he has made multiple emphatic admissions that he will not, and at this point it seems like a lost cause to keep trying. His campaign would be fine running along side Sec. Clinton’s if the Senator was able to admit that he is now officially running a message campaign. With no viable path to the nomination his role in the party now needs to shift in to one which will use his influence to effect the platform which the Democrats will adopt in July. That would be fine, and perhaps helpful for the Democrats to embrace some of Sen. Sanders ideas in order to grow the party base, and attract some of his far left supporters — seemingly the fact that Sec. Clinton already supports most of Sen. Sanders ideas is a moot point because the perception is off. People rallying behind Sen. Sanders don’t believe that Sec. Clinton supports many of the ideas that they are rallying behind, and a public admission of this fact from the DNC would help. However, that is only possible if the Senator is willing to admit that he has no path to the nomination, and that he is only running to influence those ideas. He must accept loses, he must embrace Clinton, and absolutely, most of all, he must stop attacking the presumptive nominee from the left as she is trying to deal with the much more pressing concern of the Republicans.
Secondly, and perhaps obviously, once the Democrats are able to unite around Sec. Clinton they then must begin to focus all of their efforts on countering Republican rhetoric. However, when dealing with Trump there is a nuance to the approach that must be taken.
To begin, the party, and its members must expect Donald Trump to be slanderous. For this entire campaign it has been the main way that he has attacked people; disparaging his opponent’s character apart from critiquing their policy goals is one of the main ways Mr. Trump has gotten the better of many of his opponents. Mr. Trump says things that are shocking, that are offensive, that are out of the normal means of government decorum because they get attention, and that is exactly what he will continue to do going in to a general election. It does the Democrats no favors if they are put in to a defensive posture every single time Donald Trump says something shocking. Through this way he will control the narrative, and that is the last thing the Democrats want going in to November. If instead the party, and it’s supporters are braced for these kind of attacks, and are willing to take them in stride, and then push back effectively that would tip the balance of narrative a bit further from Mr. Trump, and give the liberal candidates some breathing room.
Along with this it is important that the Democrats do not allow their supporters, and independents in the country, to forget or write off what Mr. Trump has said in this primary election. Mr. Trump’s infamous, and predicted pivot towards moderatism has been very well covered in the press, with Mr. Trump’s own campaign chief Paul Manafort telling Republican insiders that Mr. Trump is going to reshape his image to appeal to more voters. But as Ezra Klein from Vox says becoming a moderate in American politics isn’t just about your policies, it’s about personality. The candidates who are called moderates are cautions, compromising, and comfortable in their political demeanor. “Moderate is a political style, not just a political position”, he says, and none of those attributes apply to Donald Trump. The Democrats to that effect then must keep the public abreast of what extremities Mr. Trump has gone to in the past, and will inevitably continue to reach towards in the future. In the overwhelming, and exhausting nature of the twenty-four seven style political news coverage many people will be willing to forget many of Mr. Trump’s earlier platitudes as the race marches on, but the Democrats must be willing to remind people of what he’s said, remind the public that his style of politics is dangerous to the American system, and harmful to public discourse.
Finally, and possibly most important, the Democrats must counter Mr. Trump’s rhetoric with sound policy, and pragmatism. Donald Trump has no experience, he has never worked in government, or held a public office. He has never written public policy, or had to work within a governmentally organized system to accomplish goals. He is from the business world, and he is accustomed to running corporations from the top down, making his word always the last. Despite his calls that he will be a great “deal maker”, it’s doubtful that he will understand, or be able to make the kind of compromisable plans created in government. On the contrary to that the Democrats are running one of the most qualified candidates ever to run for office. Looking at Hillary Clinton’s resume alone would be enough to convince most people, but her experience goes even deeper than that. She is one of the most thorough, well thought out, and educated politicians in American government today, and her highly detailed plans reflect that. Sec. Clinton is wickedly smart on an incredible range of policy issues, and has had experience in almost every level of government, if there is any doubt in the scope of Sec. Clinton’s knowledge, and experience one only needs to look at the ability she demonstrated in her long interview with the New York Daily News. This depth of knowledge, and experience is precisely what the Democrats must use to counter the rhetoric of Donald Trump. Well thought out, educated, and workable policy is what will hopefully show the American people the difference between the measured approach taken by the Democratic candidate, and the extremities of the Republicans. When Mr. Trump will throw out widely unworkable policy proposals, think “The Wall! TM”, the most effective counter will be demonstrating the experience and workability of pragmatic democratic policy, which even perhaps if it is to the left of many Republican ideas could at least demonstrate to voters which party has responsibility in mind.
Make no mistakes about it. By being named the official nominee of the Grand Old Party Donald Trump’s shot at the presidency is very real. The worst possible thing that the Democrats, and left leaning independents could do now is ignore that, or assume that there would be no way that he would be elected president based off of his ideas alone. Ignoring Mr. Trump, or laughing him off is how he got to where he is now with so little major opposition, until it was to late. It is going to be a tough fight until November, and for Democrats to pull this election out they are going to need to be united, smart, well calculated, organized, and most importantly willing to be as present as they can be in electoral system.
Addendum: During the later stages of writing this piece news broke that Ohio Gov. John Kasich is also dropping out of the presidential race. This assures Donald Trump the republican nomination, and doubles down on the points that have been made in this article. Instead of revisiting the article to change, or add small details this addendum should serve as an acknowledgement of these new facts.