And the great day of wrath has come
And here’s mud in your big red eye
The poker’s in the fire
And the locusts take the sky
-Tom Waits, Earth Died Screaming
I mean, in a just world, seeing Ted Cruz fail would be cause for celebration, right? This hateful messianic, the culmination of every rotten political trend of the last 40 years, this embodiment of a movement that screechingly defines itself entirely as opposition to progress, this sneering elitist, this violent bigot, the nihilistic self-serving fraud: his sadness and defeat should be a time for joy.
But it isn’t, because 1) for god’s sake, that means Trump, and 2) he’ll be back, claiming in 2020 that he was defeated by a liberal billionaire who hijacked the party. Oddly, I’ll turn this over to Ross Douthat, who has written what I think are the two best paragraphs of his tenure at the Times (if you can ignore how he helped, in his fundamentally sad way, to enable these trends by attempting to put a nice Catholic spin on the snarling hatred underneath).
Cruz will be back, no doubt. He’s young, he’s indefatigable, and he can claim — and will claim, on the 2020 hustings — that True Conservatism has as yet been left untried. But that will be a half-truth; it isn’t being tried this year because the Republican Party’s voters have rejected him and it, as they rejected another tour for Bushism when they declined to back Rubio and Jeb.
What remains, then, is Trumpism. Which is also, in its lurching, sometimes insightful, often wicked way, a theory of what kind of party the Republicans should become, and one that a plurality of Republicans have now actually voted to embrace.
And so the Great Day of Wrath has come. The Party is Trump; Trump is the Party. L’état est orange. And while I agree with the experts that he doesn’t have much of a chance- it’s hard to when without getting votes from blacks, or Latinos, or women*- who the hell can say? We’ve entered the time of the seriously Weird. There is nothing normal about this. This will be the single-most dangerous nomination in American history. Even if he loses, enormously, this will be written in history books as the time America embraced sheer unvarnished hatred as a replacement for anything good, decent, or intelligent. It isn’t like Romney or McCain or (god knows) George Bush or Reagan appealed to the head, but they tempered their pleas to the angry and disaffected jackals with some human decency.
That isn’t Trump’s way. There has been nothing in his campaign that has had any substance, unless you think a raging chemical fire is something that can be held and cherished. We’ve seen a few campaigns like this in our history, like Pat Buchanan, who surprised people by doing fairly well in primaries. But they’ve never won. This is uncharted territory for America. It is not normal. It is not just upsetting. It is genuinely terrifying, and even a nutcrushing loss in November will only partially mitigate the effects. What Trump has unleashed will be barking madly down our streets for decades to come.
*What will be exciting is the first time Trump or a pundit says that Hillary is running a “divisive” campaign and only “appealing to special interest groups” by winning with everyone except older white people. They’re the only baseline, god dammit!