Donald Trump on Tuesday delivered a convincing, but expected, victory in the New York primary. Yet, by winning handily, he contradicted what has emerged as his closing argument — the claim that the system is “crooked” and “rigged” against him.
For Trump, the past two weeks has looked like a pilot of “Delegate Apprentice.” After U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) won the Wisconsin primary the race entered a phase in which the battle for delegates may decide the nominee. The disorganized Trump campaign was badly outmaneuvered by the more disciplined Cruz operation. As Cruz locked up delegates in states like Colorado, Trump invested resources not in organization but in a whiny and dishonest narrative about a “rigged” system. Even in victory, Trump repeated this argument after winning New York.
“It is really nice to win the delegates with the votes,” Trump claimed. “It’s a crooked system and we’re going back to the old way where you vote and win.”
At a time when Trump should be offering a message of unity and aspirational substance — for both tactical and principled reasons — he is doubling-down on a message of victimization and conspiratorial grievance.
This, in a word, is sad! It’s also false. Consider the following three factors:
1) Trump’s victories
Trump can’t have it both ways. He can’t claim his losses were the results of a “rigged” system while his victories in states like New York and Florida were legitimate. Trump obviously believes deeply in the legitimacy of his front-runner status, and must therefore accept the essential fairness of a system that has granted him those victories.
As Cruz locked up delegates in states like Colorado, Trump invested resources not in organization but in a whiny and dishonest narrative
2) The lack of centralized rules and control
The delegate race is so confounding for the Trump campaign — an organization built around a cult of personality rather than coherent principles and competent operatives — precisely because there is no controlling “establishment” or central authority in the Republican Party.
To the extent that there is an “establishment” it is most certainly not to be found in a villainous James Bond-like lair in Washington, D.C. with a well-stocked cocktail bar and secret Acela Corridor train station. Instead, the real establishment is 50 different grassroots-dominated local parties that meet in Lyons Clubs and fellowship halls of churches. The confusing and disparate nature of the delegate rules proves there is no “system” capable of conspiring against Trump.
And let’s not forget the Trump campaign itself has zero outsider credibility and no experience reforming or limiting government. After all, nothing says Americana quite like a whiny billionaire and a campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was an apologist for Washington insiders in the truly villainous Jack Abramoff scandal that celebrated bribery, spending orgies, K Street cronyism and the earmark favor factory. Corey’s amnesty plea for Abramoff figure Bob Ney is here.
3) Majority rule (i.e. the Not-Trump 63 percent) is not a conspiracy
What has made this race so unusual are not the rules per se but a strong and diverse field of candidates that produced a weak front-runner who has been incapable of closing the deal and unifying the party. For Trump, the biggest obstacle to 1,237 has been Trump. No one but Trump is responsible for running a campaign defined by celebrity superficiality, crudeness, and lack of fluency on policy and conservative principles. And nothing in the rules has blocked, or is blocking, Trump from winning a majority of delegates outright.
Trump’s core grievance, again, is a contradiction. After New York, he praised the “old way” of winning, yet his belief that the nominee should be chosen by a plurality rather than majority of delegates is a rejection of the long-held standard that a nominee should be chosen by a majority rather than a plurality.
There’s nothing nefarious about the Republican wing of the Republican Party asserting itself. The simple fact is 63 percent of Republican voters so far have supported someone other than Trump. An open convention that allows this bloc to prevail is the most democratic and fair option available.
There’s nothing nefarious about the Republican wing of the Republican Party asserting itself
Trump will likely perform well in upcoming northeastern states like Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut. However, it’s far from clear how he will fare in larger, more diverse states like Pennsylvania, California and Indiana, a state where there has been no polling. Trump needs to dominate those contests to win a majority of delegates (1,237) and lock up the nomination before the GOP convention in Cleveland.
Cruz has wisely decided to pivot to a message of unity, aspiration and hope. His refined message doesn’t mean he’s “moderated” his views. Instead, Cruz is articulating a substantial agenda, clear principles and belief in conservative ideas that will create an environment of opportunity and growth.
Trump’s tendency to complain while winning (and while benefitting from a media establishment inclined to give him free coverage) suggests he’s incapable of making such a pivot. New York showed Trump the front-runner is still a long way from becoming Trump the standard bearer of party he doesn’t comprehend and is unfit to lead.
John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.