"Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."
In Indiana, Republican voters finally won the victory over themselves tonight -- providing the votes to guarantee that Donald J. Trump will be the GOP presidential nominee in Cleveland this summer.
At the end of a long political day, even the ghost of Lee Harvey Oswald -- the alleged presidential assassin bizarrely linked by Trump (and the National Enquirer) to Sen. Ted Cruz's dad -- couldn't conspire to slow the seemingly relentless drive of a real-estate billionaire, reality-TV star and short-fingered vulgarian toward his mystery date with American political history.
The Donald's slam dunk in the Hoosier State -- easily defeating the Texan Cruz by about 20 points and on track for all 57 delegates in Indiana's closely watched primary -- didn't just put Trump on a path to collect the needed 1,237 delegates for the Cleveland confab in July. As the brutal tally came in, Cruz stunned his supporters by suspending his campaign, making Trump now the presumptive GOP nominee.
It wouldn't have mattered if Cruz had stayed in. The overpowering way that he won a key Heartland state today all but rendered that 1,237 quest moot -- largely because it's become increasingly clear that Republican elites who once sniffed "never Trump!" at the billionaire's buffoonery and his sometimes violent wrestling match of a campaign are now scurrying like light-frightened bedbugs to latch on to their future nominee.
Consider the affluent, fast-growing Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, consistently ranked by Money magazine as one of America's best places to live -- in other words, the opposite of the rust-bitten, decaying factory town often portrayed in the media as Trump World. Earlier today, the Indianapolis Star reported seeing only Trump signs outside the polling places in Fishers. An 18-year-old in a folding chair holding a Trump sign aloft told the newspaper: "We just believe in (Trump's) message and really think he can change America for the better."
He may never get the chance. Recent polls show more than two-thirds of Americans say they won't vote for Trump under any circumstance. But the all-but-certain Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has had her own stumbles this campaign season, including a weak showing in today's Indiana balloting. That at least leaves the door slightly open for a possible 45th U.S. president who launched his campaign last summer saying the Mexican migrant population is full of "rapists" and then barreled down the homestretch trying to link his closest rival to the JFK assassination.
Tomorrow's newspapers will be chock full of analyses about how Trump nailed down the Republican nomination in Indiana, but that's not even the real import of the astonishing thing that has just happened. The Republican Party, in its desperation to "unify" and salvage something, anything, for the November election, not just nominated but "normalized" a would-be president whose casual embrace of goon violence at his overheated rallies, whose toxic spew of insults or hate policies towards women, immigrants, or Muslims never seems to stop, and whose embrace of harmful conspiracy theories from vaccines to President Obama's birth certificate has already made a mockery of America around the world. What Indiana really did is put a seal of approval on a scary, not-good, horrible chapter in our politics and our history.
And yet the GOP's promised #NeverTrump, open-convention-in-Cleveland resistance to the billionaire's homegrown bitter brew of America neo-fascism crumbled faster than the 76ers' perimeter defense. Even the Wall Street Journal, the fortress of traditional elite country-club Republican thought, already waved the white flag of surrender, urging Republicans today to stop worrying and, if not love The Donald, at least not challenge him with a third-party conservative candidate.
The real story last night was the party of Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, of Dwight Eisenhower and the interstate highway system, now turning to a candidate who boasted in a nationally televised debate that there's "no problem" in his crotch size, who once wildly mocked the gestures of a handicapped journalist who dared to write a critical article.
For all the "never Trump" bluster of the Mitt Romneys and the Marco Rubios (who'd been very quiet lately) and the Lindsey Graham's of the GOP, their party is now flipping its grown-up car keys to the man who gleefully promised to restore old war crimes like waterboarding and launch new ones like killing the family members of possible terrorists, who would shred the U.S. Constitution -- as it were one of his old marriage licenses -- to bar people from the U.S based solely on their religious beliefs.
After tonight, it appears certain that Americans will be choosing between the woman bidding to become America's first female president after 43 (Grover Cleveland twice) men, and a man who once went on the radio with a famous "shock jock" to declare that "a person who is very flat chested is very hard to be a 10."
If that man raises his right hand to take the oath of office on January 20, 2017, it won't be solely the doing of angry, older blue-collar factory workers whose jobs were outsourced to China and Mexico -- the archetypal Trump voter. Just today, Nate Silver -- the polling analyst who became an icon in the 2012 race -- shattered some of the myths about who's really voting for Trump. Their average household income -- $72,000 -- is actually considerably higher than the national average, and higher than the comparable figures for Clinton or Bernie Sanders voters (both around $61,000).
You don't need a Ph.D. in computer science to figure that out. Go out to one of Trump rallies these days, as I did last week in suburban West Chester, and you won't really see militia types (and I've seen militia types) or bikers looking to lay into #BlackLivesMatter activists. On a long line, I instead met grandmothers from upscale Gladwyne, middle-aged men in golf shirts from exclusive country clubs, and an upwardly mobile law-school applicant. They weren't people who were struggling economically, but they were angry at the changes they see in their America.
Keave Slomine from Penn Valley -- a mortgage banker before the 2008 crisis, now a Main Line Realtor -- was there with his younger brother Jay (also a Realtor), among the hundreds turned away from a full arena. The Slomine brothers were all over the map politically -- criticizing Obama for being too liberal one minute and for not taking on Wall Street the next. But they seemed energized by the conflict with the 500 or so student protesters massed on the other side of the street.
"For the liberal left, it is race politics and and the liberal left is going to be total African-American and that's what you're seeing here," Keave Slomine told me, looking over at the demonstrators, "and those are the people who are going to rush to preserve Hillary Clinton, to preserve their interests."
Tonight, it all came together on the edge of the American prairielands -- these resentments over social changes and "race politics" in the era of the first black president that were shaken and stirred by talk radio and by craven office seekers, the media's ratings-driven love affair with a verbal loose cannon from reality TV, and finally with the party's grand poobahs and its affluent voter base throwing in the towel.
Trump's triumph shouldn't have happened in Indiana. The Hoosier State has had its political ups and downs (remember Dan Quayle?) but there was once a time when the Indiana primary campaign produced arguably the greatest speech in modern American political history. It happened on April 4, 1968 -- the night Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. With some cities about to erupt in riots, Bobby Kennedy arrived at a rally in a mostly black section of Indianapolis, where in that pre-smartphone era the crowd wasn't even aware of what had happened. From the back of a pickup truck, Kennedy told the stunned crowd what had happened, quoted the ancient Greeks on love and suffering, empathized by talking about his brother Jack's murder "by a white man."
"And let's dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world," RFK concluded. "Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people." Forty-eight years ago, there were no riots in Indianapolis, and Indiana Democrats rewarded Bobby Kennedy with a victory.
In 2016, Indiana Republicans rewarded a candidate who loves to whip up the savageness of man, who spits in the face of gentleness. No matter what else happens, their broken party will never look the same.
And for most of the GOP elites -- the big money lobbyists on K Street, the warlords on Capitol Hill, the billionaire donors -- there may be a few gin-scented tears, but their struggle is finally over tonight. They loved The Donald.