The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation. At no time … were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not publicly known … I was in the room, it didn’t happen.
This is one of those carefully worded non-denial denials, where phrases like “as reported” are left as little cracks through which the administration can criticize the report on details without denying wholesale the heart of the story. Same with “is false” and “it didn’t happen.” Not only are they meant to discredit the report, they’re denials of claims that the Post story never made.
But what’s really striking is that McMaster essentially laid his credibility on the line for Trump to crucify, as though Trump is some sort of elder god of lore to whom all Republicans must sacrifice some portion of their soul. Remember, this is a guy who is actually well-respected and thought to be intelligent:
But as Josh Marshall predicted, Trump woke up this morning and shot these gems out, essentially confirming the Washington Post story:
And now, just moments ago, McMaster had a press briefing in place of Sean Spicer’s (who I believe has now fully transformed into a shrub and has become a permanent fixture of the rose garden), and McMaster degraded himself:
The key take away is that McMaster is essentially conceding the accuracy of last night’s reporting (first from the Post and later confirmed by other outlets) but saying that in the context it was okay. It was appropriate. Notably, when it comes to specifics, he is hiding behind classification to refuse to give further answers.
To come out and perform the rhetorical trick of making it look as though you’re denying the story in a very vocal way (“I was in the room, it didn’t happen”) but using weasel wording in order to evade culpability destroys whatever credibility McMaster had. Honestly, anyone who decides to take a job from Trump ought to know what he or she is getting into, and anyone who somehow doesn’t know what they’re getting into shouldn’t take the job. What’s perplexing is that McMaster staked his reputation on this, for a chump like Trump, only to have it blow up in his face in less than 24 hours.
Talking Points Memo editor John Judis had a few thoughts on the what the results of the French election mean in a wider context (“Macron’s rout of Le Pen shows how Trump is hurting Rightwing Populists,” Talking Points Memo, 5/7/2017):
After Trump’s upset victory in November, the European parties and politicians that were politically close to him expected to get a boost, but exactly the opposite has happened.
Judis gives a few examples to make his case. In Austria:
[L]ast May, Green Party candidate Alexander Van den Bellen edged populist right candidate Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party by .4 percent. A court heeded a Freedom Party protest and threw out the results and called for a new election. In December, in the wake of both Brexit and Trump’s victory, Van den Bellen easily defeated Hofer by 53.3 to 46.7 percent.
[T]he Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party, which targeted immigrants and asylum-seekers, had seen its popularity grow in the wake of the Cologne New Year’s Eve riot… But in subsequent elections, it has fallen flat, while the Christian Democrats, identified with German Chancellor’s Angela Merkel’s refusal to heed Trump’s bullying, has seen its vote rise. In March regional elections in Saarland in southwest Germany, Merkel’s party won 40.2 percent (up from 35.2 percent in 2012), while the AfD, which had previously been running as high as 16 percent in national polls, won only 6.2 percent.
But perhaps the most telling result was in the Dutch elections March 15. For 18 months, Geert Wilders of the Party of Freedom had led all the parties in the polls. Wilders had expected to benefit from Trump’s victory, which he had celebrated as a “Patriotic Spring…” But Wilders got only 13.1 percent of the vote, well behind center-right Mark Rutte’s People’s Party, which got 21.3 percent.
And here’s Judis’s theory:
Why didn’t Trump and Brexit provide a bounce for these politicians? One factor is that Trump, with his strident dismissal of NATO and the European Union, his jibes against Merkel and Germany, his near-endorsement of Le Pen, united West Europeans the same way that George W. Bush did in 2003. Another factor, important in France, was that Trump’s blustering know-nothingness seems to have frightened and offended voters. In her debate with Macron on election eve, Le Pen’s own harsh rhetoric, combined with her refusal to get into details about her program, probably reinforced the impression that she was a French version of Trump, leading to a sharp drop in her polling numbers prior to the election.
Undoubtedly there is some truth to this. By associating Le Pen with Trump’s slovenliness, a certain faction of French voters was sure to be turned off. But I think there are a few problems with Judis’s theory that Trump himself has been a kind of inoculating force against the rightwing populism around the world that he’s supposed to represent.
One is that Trump doesn’t represent rightwing populism in the sense that it’s usually talked about—or at least he’s only interested in full-throatedly adopting the more extreme of traditional Republican positions while disregarding the rest. He has no plan to undertake a grand infrastructure project that would benefit everyday Americans, and his and Paul Ryan’s AHCA bill demonstrates his complete disregard of the working middle class and poor. That’s not the kind of working-class-hero mawishness that Steve Bannon supposedly endorses as an evil Bruce Springsteen. Not only that, but Europe’s relationship to fascism and rightwing nationalism is a lot stronger than it is in America. All of the countries Judis mentions either had fascist regimes rise from within them at one point or were occupied by them. As a result, Europeans are keener to recognize it than regular Americans, many of whom wouldn’t be able to recognize a fascist so long as he was wrapped in the American flag. Besides, the referendum in Turkey (however fair or not) is ample evidence that slow-moving rightwing coups still exist in powerful ways.
Another is that all those countries have something fundamentally different from America: a true multiparty parliamentary system. In the French election, especially, the candidates and their parties that were eliminated after the first round of voting largely backed and endorsed Emmanuel Macron, leaving Le Pen and her party isolated. Even the traditional conservative party in France urged its supporters to vote for Macron. This is also true in Austria, where Norbert Hofer soundly won the first round of voting over Alexander Van den Bellen. But again, the disparate parties united behind Van den Bellen (however enthusiastically or begrudgingly, I don’t know) to defeat the far-right.
This is not true in America, where we have a two-party system with other, smaller parties designed to siphon votes from either major party as protest votes. Unlike in France and Austria and elsewhere, where the political establishments recognized and acted against a severe rightwing threat, in America we saw one of the major two parties give the nomination to Donald Trump after he won the primaries and nearly all of its major members endorse him. Also, the smaller parties (the Libertarian and Green parties) did not encourage their voters to rally behind Clinton in order to defeat Trump—instead, they gleefully tried to recruit as many voters as they could, seeing the general unpopularity of each major candidate as a boon to their own “cause.” Jill Stein, for example, was always more than happy to either equate Trump and Clinton or straight-up say that Clinton was far more dangerous than Trump. (The one exception was Bill Weld, the vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian party, who more or less endorsed Clinton before the election.
The point being that in Europe, there were coalitions ready to rebuke a popular rightwing rising. In America, one half of American political power got behind that rightwing tide and haven’t looked back. Republicans looked fascism in the eye and decided they’d rather try to get as much power as possible than attempt to forestall a nationalist movement that will swallow them whole before they can sufficiently harness control of it.
Although I agree with Josh Marshall (and the rest of the sane world) that Trump is an idiot, I’m not sure about this point (“Trump and the Problem of Militant Ignorance,” Talking Points Memo, 4/14/2017):
So far the Trump Presidency has been a sort of Mr Magoo performance art in which the comically ignorant Trump learns elemental or basic things that virtually everyone in the world of politics or government already knew – things that the majority of adults probably know. Health Care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” North Korea: “I felt pretty strongly that they had tremendous power. But it’s not what you think.” There are perhaps half a dozen examples equally stark.
In other words, President Trump is open about his discoveries and even eager to share them but universally projects his previous state of comical ignorance onto the general public or whomever he is talking to.
There’s no doubt that Trump is fully ignorant about the laws surrounding health care or the complexity of the relationship between China and North Korea. But I don’t believe he’s ignorant to the extent that he doesn’t know that health care reform isn’t simple or that China can’t solve the North Korea situation by snapping its proverbial fingers. Again, he’s ignorant in the sense that he’s unaware of the complex nature of these and a million other examples, but (probably) not ignorant in the sense that he really believed they could be solved overnight by an alpha male.
When Trump tells The Wall Street Journal that he learned a lot about China and North Korea from Xi in ten minutes over chocolate cake, I don’t think he’s telling them that he genuinely learned something. (Maybe he did, but I seriously doubt it was some sort of revelation.) Instead, Trump is making up an excuse for whatever future action he takes (or doesn’t take) with regards to North Korea. He’s trying to make the impression that he gleaned information from the Chinese president that us normal peons are unaware of and perhaps can’t appreciate.
So I don’t believe these are genuine “discoveries” of Trump’s. I’m not yet willing to go down that rabbit hole because I don’t want another repeat of George W. Bush in the sense that liberals believed he was a complete idiot. Bush was incompetent and unqualified, but I don’t believe, and didn’t believe then, that he’s a genuinely stupid person. Trump, on the other hand, is a stupid person—I merely object to the notion that he’s so ignorant of the world that he’s constantly discovering things as a child would in the manner Marshall describes. Trump knows that drafting a health care bill isn’t easy, though once he found out just how complicated it would be he didn’t bother to try.
Trump is an ignorant person in virtually every way imaginable, but Marshall is confusing the extent of Trump’s supposed ignorance with straight-up lies. No serious person believed Trump when he said he knew more about ISIS “than the generals,” so we wouldn’t say that Trump stating the ISIS situation is more complicated than people know as complete ignorance of the situation—yes, Trump is ignorant of the nuances of operations surrounding ISIS, but it’s doubtful that he actually thought for a second that he knew more about it than the top military brass.
Regardless of this very fine point, the problem remains the same: Trump is an idiot and is the most powerful person in the world.
The New York Times published letters from readers to the editors in response to Nicholas Kristof’s dual set of columns about Trump voters, “In Trump Country, Shock at Trump Budget Cuts, but Still Loyalty,” and “How I Angered My Readers, Again.” (You can read my take on that first column here.) Here’s one from Rebecca Sweeden out of Bloomington, Indiana (“Seeking Insight Into Trump Voters,” The New York Times, 4/8/2017):
I have many liberal friends who believe all Trump voters to be deplorable and some have even cut off family members for it… By reducing Trump supporters to “ignorant deplorables,” we only enhance our image as liberal elitists who couldn’t care less about the working class.
I agree with many readers that we shouldn’t categorize all Trump voters as “deplorable”—though I have no qualms about saying that about the openly fascist white nationalists who, until his Syria strike, were among the more raucous of the passengers aboard the Trump Train. But a few readers make a few points about Trump voters that are worth considering. A few examples:
What makes Nicholas Kristof think that Trump supporters can be recruited by the Democratic Party? Can you recruit people who continue to support a president whose legislation if passed would threaten their very existence? Can you recruit people who still believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States? Can you recruit people who cannot be persuaded by rational argument and scientific evidence? Can you recruit people who take the most preposterous lies of the right-wing news media as gospel truth?
Mr. Kristof’s interviews make clear that these voters continue to favor cutting social programs that benefit other Americans. Keep programs that help me; cut programs that help others. This is a pretty miserable and ungenerous attitude, which seems based on these voters’ belief that they are hardworking but unlucky and thus deserving of a helping hand, whereas other benefits recipients are lazy and unworthy. What underlies that perspective, I fear, is racial resentment.
As a black man, I find it hard to see the difference between being a racist and misogynist and voting for a racist and misogynist. I don’t want to talk to either.
What’s interesting about Trump supporters is that there isn’t any other group of voters the media has probed so extensively. No one in 2009 was running around trying to figure out what was going on in the minds of Obama supporters. What’s different is that everyone in the real world has acknowledged, explicitly or not, that Trump is uniquely unqualified for the office of president for myriad reasons, and the reasons are so blatant that it’s hard to imagine how anyone rational could cast a ballot for him. Trump supporters are often treated as though they simply got conned, but Josh Marshall made a point here I want to build on (“Inside the Emerging Alt-Right Snuff Novel,” Talking Points Memo, 4/7/2017):
Before [Steve Bannon joined the campaign], Trump had run a thoroughly jingoistic and xenophobic campaign, with protestor (sic) beatings and various shades of crypto- and non-crypto racism. All on his own he drew around himself that coterie of “alt-right” white nationalists and neo-Nazis who will likely be his greatest and most lethal contribution to the American political scene.
Bannon didn’t join the campaign until August 17, 2016, well after Trump had already gained the Republican nomination. Until that point, Trump had managed to garner the support of outspoken racists far and wide all on his own. So my question to those on the liberal/left side of the political spectrum who constantly repeat that many of these voters felt they had no other choice is this: Hypothetically, would Donald Trump have been able to gain the Republican nomination without his “crypto- and non-crypto racism”?
There’s a feeling among many who identify as liberal that the onus is on us to demonstrate that not all Trump supporters are racists or sexists or bigots in general the same way we refuse to condemn all Muslims when an Islamic terrorist attacks. (Though, funnily enough, it seems many Trump supporters are willing to make those sweeping generalizations.) But the difference is that the vast majority of Muslims are willing to condemn terrorist attacks committed by other Muslims, and they don’t need to be prodded to do so. I haven’t seen the vast majority of Trump supporters—or Republicans in general—do much to condemn Trump’s open racism or any of his other many, many faults. Rather, there is the insistence to move on and forget about it.
So yes, I understand that not all Trump supporters are bigots—I’d wager most of them aren’t, at least not consciously so. But I also don’t feel obligated to constantly go out of my way to remind everyone that they’re not racist if they’re not willing to do so themselves. In all these pieces on Trump supporters where they feel alienated because of a perception that they or at least the man they support are racist, I haven’t seen one where the supporter attempts to understand why people feel that way about them—at least not in a way that’s any more sophisticated than “They’re liberals who listen to fake news.” Instead, it’s often a retreat into stubbornness; “I know I’m not racist, and that’s good enough for me.”
Rebecca Sweeden finishes her letter with this:
By reducing Trump supporters to “ignorant deplorables,” we only enhance our image as liberal elitists who couldn’t care less about the working class. Fixing the problem of divisiveness doesn’t rest solely upon the shoulders of Republicans in this country.
Well, yeah, it rests solely on the shoulders of Democrats, because if it hasn’t been obvious enough, Republicans are willing to do nothing to fix the problem of divisiveness. They have no problem describing half the population as useless moochers who just want “free stuff.” They endorsed and continue to prop up the most divisive president in modern history, one who has explicitly expressed contempt for large swaths of the population he’s supposed to serve. And if his supporters aren’t willing to untangle themselves from the web of lies that Trump and his acolytes, congressional Republicans, and right-wing media have ensnared them in, there’s really nothing Democrats or any of the rest of us can do for them.
In the newest episode of Listening In, former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has bemoaned that his history with the most easily-avoidable self-inflicted career wound HB2, which discriminates against trans people, is affecting his ability to secure consulting jobs. Via TPM:
It’s even impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot,’ which is the last thing I am.
Thing is, there are enough Christian and conservative organizations out there that a guy like McCrory can easily get ‘work.’ (And he has: “I’ve currently accepted several opportunities in business.”) I doubt that any business cares whether McCrory is a bigot, especially if he’s in some invisible advisory role. No, his struggle to find work in the business world is because his stubbornness on HB2 cost North Carolina millions of dollars and thousands of jobs:
HB2 probably cost the state between $450 million and $630 million. Others have cited a $500 million loss. The law has also cost North Carolina a minimum of 1,400 jobs.
Not to mention it lost the state very visible opportunities, like NCAA championship games:
The NCAA announced on Monday the relocation of seven previously awarded championship events — including NCAA tournament games in Greensboro — from the state of North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year as a result of the state’s controversial House Bill 2…
The NBA moved its the All-Star game in Charlotte for the same reasons in July and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called the law “embarrassing.”
The editorial board of USA Today asks a simple question about Republicans’ desire to repeal and replace Obamacare before this session ends, but overlooks a few major points (“What’s the rush on health care?” USA Today, 3/7/2017):
The Senate Finance Committee did not pass Obamacare until that October. This slow progress was dictated by the complexity of the subject and the bipartisan negotiations behind the scenes. In the end, Obamacare passed on a straight party vote, but not until March of President Obama’s second year, after lengthy debate and analysis.
Republicans, on the other hand, have visions of getting a repeal measure to President Trump’s desk by late April or May.
The key difference between the Obama administration and Democratic-controlled congress’s first 100 days in ’09 and the Trump administration and Republican-controlled congress of ’17 is that the latter has moved no major legislation through congress in their first 50 days, and it looks increasingly likely that they’ll finish Trump’s first 100 days without having done anything of major consequence—with the exception, of course, of repealing Obamacare, but even then there’s no solidarity on it, and they don’t have a replacement plan. A reason for that is because, as Josh Marshall points out, Republicans have escalated their rhetoric about their opposition to Obamacare since its inception with no viable way to undo it and/or replace it without a major disaster (“Why Repeal and Replace Is Going So Badly,” Talking Points Memo, 3/8/2017):
Going back seven years the Republican party has not only been committed to opposing and repealing Obamacare. It has grown to the level of almost being a core element of party ideology – not any policy on health care but opposing “Obamacare”. It was the core of the 2014 election, the core of the 2012 election and a major point in the 2016 election…
Coming up with a plan means squaring an impossible circle to bring together those who want a more palatable/’market based’ approach to ensure coverage for roughly the same amount of people and those who want to cut the taxes Obamacare was based on and let everyone fend for themselves.
It’s not just that the hastily-scribbled replacement plan is terrible and can’t possibly satisfy the polar opposite goals they want to achieve—keeping everyone covered by Obamacare covered and reducing costs by cutting the taxes that fund it—it’s that Republicans have been howling about Obamacare forever, and in all the time that it’s been in place they have not come up with anything to replace it.
And that’s why it makes no sense to compare the preparation of and for Obamacare with the non-plan the Republicans are proposing. The planning and development of Obamacare hit the ground running in Obama’s first 100 days (and beyond). Republicans haven’t come up with an idea in seven years. To think that they’ll come out with a real, detailed, comprehensive plan that actually attempts to figure out a way to keep everyone who’s covered now covered in the future, lower costs, and lower the taxes that have helped support Obamacare, and that they’ll be able to develop it and pass it before the midterm elections of 2018 is asinine. That’s why they’re rushing.
In a post on the Editor’s Blog of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall wrote a piece entitled “The Case for Not Being Crybabies,” which begins with the Trump/Acosta confrontation and flowers from there:
There’s nothing more undignified and enervating than fretting about whether the President-Elect will brand real news ‘fake news’ or worrying whether his more authoritarian supporters can be convinced to believe – pleaded with, instructed to, prevailed upon – actual factual information. The answer to attacks on journalism is always more journalism. And the truth is that Trump’s threats are cheap stunts and bluffs, threatening to take away things journalists don’t need.
That’t the final paragraph, and the “things journalists don’t need” is a reference to Trump’s threat of expel the White House press corps from the White House. About that Marshall says:
We know Trump’s MO. He will bully people until they’re cowed and humiliated and obedient. He’ll threaten to kick the reporters out of the White House and then either cut a ‘deal’ or make some big to-do about ‘allowing’ the reporters to stay. These are all threats and mind games meant not so much to cow the press as make them think Trump is continually taking things away from them and that they need to make him stop.
They don’t need to. That access isn’t necessary to do their jobs. And bargaining over baubles of access which are of little consequence is not compatible with doing their job. Access can provide insight and understanding. But it’s almost never where the good stuff comes from. Journalists unearth factual information and report it. If Trump wants to turn America into strong man state, journalists should cover that story rather than begging Trump not to be who he is.
I’m not in the media and never will be, so though I’m not afraid to criticize blatant displays of bullshit both-siderism, language manipulation, historical distortions, and straight-up lies, I’m less keen to offer any sort of solution for honest journalists who see Trump as a threat to the free press or their access to information, so I more or less trust Marshall’s assessment and relative cool-headedness in his post.
My only comment, then, is about two points Marshall didn’t make (or hardly anyone, far as I know). At the press conference in which Trump refused to take CNN’s Jim Acosta’s question, two things happened.
1. It seems none of the other professional journalists in that room seemed to know what to do when Trump went after Acosta the way he did. Everything that happened happened in response. Again, I don’t know what kind of strategy journalists need to develop, but it’s bad for all of us if journalists from competing newspapers and broadcasters don’t bother to stand up for each other in the heat of the moment.
2. Trump went directly on to answer a question from Breitbart. I have to imagine it annoys the hell out of everyone else there that creeps from Breitbart—or Infowars, or wherever—are given press credentials. We can all sit around and cluck at each other about how we think major news outlets (like The New York Times or ABC) are in themselves more subtle propaganda arms, but they are far and away the best we have, whereas outlets like Breitbart and Infowars have filtered reality through a very specific ideological scope which works backwards from a preconceived conclusion to mold whatever happens to fit into the narrative of their worldview. It’s pathetic that they get to enter the room in the first place.
Marshall’s right in this case. The extent to which people in the media glom onto any trivial hint that Trump might not be the authoritarian monster his words and behavior otherwise suggest is ridiculous. Any threat to the media is an issue the media has to deal with first. Rallies and protests are nice, but my own opinion on those is that they might be good at generating passion and attracting attention, but unless that energy gets funneled into channels of power their continuance has increasingly diminished returns. Media figures have to save themselves. If there’s reticence about calling out Trump’s lies as lies, that’s a problem within the media.
Regular schmoes like me don’t have any access to real power. I can’t interview the president, or a senator, or a House member, or even one of their surrogates. I can write a letter or make a phone call, to which I get the response that my concern has been duly noted. So those in the media who do have access to power have to ask themselves whether they’ve been squandering it.
The key is that the GOP primary electorate voted overwhelmingly for anti-establishment candidates. Overwhelmingly. Not just ‘anti-establishment’ but candidates who each in different ways staked their fortunes explicitly on massive turnouts of white voters. Kasich at this point is likely an accurate barometer of establishment, non-hard-right support. Paul Ryan didn’t run. But the Paul Ryan model candidates who did run got crushed. How does it go over if Trump gets denied, Cruz gets denied and the prize goes to a guy – at least the type of guy – who it is not too much to say got firmly rejected through the entire primary process? He’s a Rubio wrapped in a Bush inside a Scott Walker. I don’t deny that Ryan may be a more effective politician than any of those three. But he is the establishment and he is also a wholly owned subsidiary of the Koch Brothers. It is hard to imagine any scenario in which the substantive, expressed will of the GOP primary electorate was more thoroughly rejected at the convention meant to ratify it.
Agree with every word. The reason a Paul Ryan nomination seems so implausible to me—and again, I’m not putting it past the GOP, it just seems so suicidal—is that I think Ted Cruz is chameleonic enough to ease up on some of his extremism to become more acceptable to run-of-the-mill, non-hard-right Republicans. He’ll accept a certain dosage of establishment instruction to maneuver his way around Clinton in November. Is he a shoo-in? Not by a long shot. Polls show that Clinton beats Cruz fairly well, so he’s not like Kasich in that he’s not going to have too many Democratic converts. (Trump probably has a better chance to flip some Dems than Cruz does, if you can believe it.) But what Cruz has up his sleeve, what all Republicans have up their sleeves, is that he is not Trump. Trump being denied the nomination will be a relief to so many Republicans that I think a lot of them will settle for anyone who isn’t him. Whether that’s enough to defeat Clinton is another matter entirely, but I have my doubts that Cruz topping the Republican ticket will lead to a blowout in line with a ticket topped by Trump.
All this brings up another point I felt in my gut when Trump first announced his candidacy and started flapping his mouth, long before I started this blog. Marshall writes:
But let’s not forget the big picture. A Trump nomination is a genuinely catastrophic outcome for the GOP. The polls are now abundantly clear on that point. I don’t think many people still believe the always improbable notion that there is any substantial constituency of working class white Obama voters in the industrial midwest who Trump could pull into the GOP column. But again, the big picture: all the establishment dream scenarios – Kasich, Ryan, Romney, Generic Unicorn – are only marginally less catastrophic than Trump. Perhaps even worse.
All of the alternative scenarios are ones that – if we weren’t focusing on Trump – would seem clearly like catastrophic decisions.
The presence of Trump makes everyone else, even Cruz to some extent, appear normal. Whereas in 2012 I and every other Dem and liberal were trying hard to suppress visions of the havoc a Romney presidency would wreak, in 2016 Romney appears to be as much a Democrat as Martin O’Malley. It’s not true, of course—Romney was very far to the right no matter how much he tried to portray himself as a moderate—but Trump’s wild rhetoric masks the stances of his opponents.
I’m not one of those who contends that Trump’s a liberal or at least not a true conservative; he’s used a lot of right-wing talking points to foster support and would surely try to enact a lot of right-wing policies were he elected. What I doubt is how sincere he is about those positions, though if he were to act upon them it would be completely irrelevant. The point, though, is that because he’s so bombastic, so crude and loud and obnoxious and mortifying, that far-right religious zealot Ted Cruz is able to portray himself as a sane alternative, even though he’s in all likeliness more dangerous than Trump, because the sincerity of his hardline conservatism is not in question. John Kasich has gotten support from Democratic voters, partly as a protest vote against Trump, but partly too because he has marketed himself as a moderate, even though as I’ve pointed out he’s anything but.
Whether that will mean anything in this election remains to be seen. But if Clinton wins, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s defeated in 2020 by a hard-right Republican who looks like someone’s dad and invokes the specter of Trump, reminding voters that he (because it’ll be a he) is so much more presentable than Trump.