Many voters are understandably angry and fearful. Many of us haven’t shared in the economic recovery, and the middle class is shrinking. We’re still reeling from the San Bernardino massacre, the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. The political establishment is a mess; when Senate Republican leaders won’t even hear from President Barack Obama’s nominee for the nation’s highest court, something is badly wrong.
Donald Trump is masterfully tapping into the national mood. But he is not the answer to America’s problems.
He talks big but offers few serious proposals. Instead, with each passing day, Trump unmasks himself as a demagogue who will say or do anything to win, and as a bully whose instinct is to attack anyone who disagrees with him.
But time is fast running out to stop the train wreck this nation would experience if such a candidate became leader of the free world.
While it’s too early to say in this crazy presidential campaign that Trump has the Republican nomination all but locked up, he could be well on his way after Super Tuesday next week.
In Tuesday’s Republican caucuses in Nevada, Trump won his third contest in a row and by the biggest margin yet. With 46 percent, he easily outdistanced Sen. Marco Rubio with 24 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz with 21 percent.
Clearly, Trump is on a roll. Wednesday, he picked up his first endorsements from members of Congress – Reps. Duncan Hunter of Alpine and Chris Collins of New York.
Trump is also leading the polls in most of the 11 states with GOP contests next Tuesday that will award 595 delegates, nearly one-fourth of the total number available. While he isn’t getting a clear majority of the Republican vote, he can keep winning as long as it’s not a one-on-one fight and can continue amassing delegates.
If responsible Republicans don’t want Trump, they and competing campaigns must unite behind a single candidate to take him on, and soon. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is running the most positive campaign by far and has the necessary experience and temperament. But he finished fifth in Nevada and has to start winning to have a reason to keep going.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders is appealing to the same discontent, railing against what he calls a rigged political and economic system.
Hillary Clinton, however, has had some success co-opting his message. She won the Democratic caucuses in Nevada on Saturday to dent the momentum Sanders had from his big win in New Hampshire. She has a sizable lead in polls for the South Carolina primary on Saturday.
The delegate math may also work in her favor if she does as well as expected next Tuesday, when contests in 11 states and American Samoa will award 1,004 Democratic delegates, about 23 percent of the total.
Democrats award delegates proportionately, and Clinton has the overwhelming support of superdelegates – elected officials and party leaders. So if she gets a substantial lead in delegates after Super Tuesday, it gets difficult for Sanders to catch up.
Other numbers, however, should worry the Clinton camp looking to November. So far, voter turnout has been rising significantly on the Republican side while it has declined from 2008 among Democrats. In Nevada, the 75,000 GOP caucusgoers doubled the record from 2012.
Trump is clearly driving the enthusiasm. For all his flaws – and he has many – it would be foolish to underestimate him.
But his backers may not realize the potential damage to the freedoms they claim to cherish if a real, not imaginary, strongman took power. Fear and anger aside, democracy is not a reality show.