Trump’s Super Tuesday victory: another defeat for our revered political norms

REUTERS/Scott Audette
Donald Trump speaking to supporters about the results of Super Tuesday primary and caucus voting in Palm Beach, Fla., as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie looks on.

There are laws; there are rules; and then there are norms. Break a law, you might get thrown in jail. Break a rule, you might get thrown out of the game. But break a norm, which is really just sort of a social convention, and it’s not clear what happens to you.

When Donald Trump failed to immediately reject the praise of David Duke and to disavow the support of elements of the Ku Klux Klan, he didn’t break any laws or any rules. But under the old norms, the pre-Trump norms, the smart set would have said you can’t get away with that politically.

Turns out, those smarties would have been wrong, just as they’ve been wrong repeatedly about Trump.

Trump had a very good Super Tuesday. Not perfect. He lost by a sizable margin in Texas to Texan Ted Cruz, and Cruz also took Oklahoma, which borders Texas and where his margin was smaller.

Marco Rubio finally notched his first win, in our own Minnesota, and our wonderful state also presented Trump with his first third-place finish. (Right after Trump had boasted that in the contests so far — even in the three that he lost to Cruz — he had never finished lower than second in the field, Minnesota took that small brag away from him. And Cruz, who has now won three states, will have to stop claiming that he is the only one who has beaten Trump. I heard his victory statement, and he managed to get that brag in one last time, because the results from Minnesota hadn’t come in yet.)

But come on. Trump won seven states. He added to his overall delegate lead. (If you click on this, you will get all the updated results.)

So, after all the other he-can’t-say-that things that Trump has said, it turns out his small dalliance with the KKK also didn’t sink him. It was just a norm, not a law or a rule, and all we get to do about it is cluck our tongues.

Trump’s ‘ceiling’

Has Trump hit any kind of ceiling? Well, in my native state of Massachusetts, which is generally known for producing moderate Republicans, Trump reached his best vote percentage yet, 49 percent, and bested his nearest rivals (Rubio and John Kasich, who tied at 18) by 31 percentage points! That’s a whipping, and it adds fuel to Trump’s argument that he doesn’t suffer from a low ceiling, as was often suggested a couple of months ago.

After his victory statement, which was about as humble and gracious as Trump ever gets, he even took a few questions from the assembled media and kept his cool despite the insufficiently reverent tone of a couple of the questions that clearly irked him.

(The exception to his almost-graciousness were his remarks about Hillary Clinton. He called her a lawbreaker and questioned whether she would really be “allowed to run” against him.)

All of the above suggested to me that he is starting to transition into general-election mode. But the whole week also convinced me that norms are made to be broken, at least where The Donald is concerned.

There are ways to disparage the sweepingness of Trump’s good evening. I caught an interview with Rubio in which he tried to mention them all. In several states, he said, Trump’s margin of victory wasn’t as big as it had been in some of the late polling. He made much of the fact that he had closed within 3 percentage points of Trump in Virginia. How’s that for loser talk? He suggested that this was caused by his decision over the last few days to hammer on the message that Trump is a “serial con artist.”

But even though Cruz won the biggest prize of Texas, and by a healthy margin, Trump nonetheless added to his delegate lead over both Cruz and Rubio. If Trump had had a bigger night, the race might be effectively over. As it is, Trump is still on track to be the nominee.

Clinton, Sanders and Minnesota

Same with Clinton. She had a very solid night, added to her delegate lead over Bernie Sanders and won seven of the 11 contests, including the four biggest, and mostly by large margins. Sanders won by solid margins in the other four states — including the best state, Minnesota, by 62-38.

So, there’s no argument that Sanders has to drop out, but no argument that Clinton is on a path that, if it continues, will make her the Dem nominee. Clinton’s victories, by the way, were almost all in the South. The now-familiar pattern of her winning by big margins among African-American voters continues.

In her victory speech, Clinton said (as she has been saying in recent days) that “I believe what we need in America today is more love and kindness,” which just might be a way to contrast her campaign with Trump’s. And this one, which is unmistakably meant as a Trump slam:

“We know we’ve got work to do. That work, that work is not to make America great again. America never stopped being great. We have to make America whole. We have to fill in what’s been hollowed out.”

Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 03/02/2016 - 10:10 am.

    Interesting Professional Presser

    I happened to see Trump’s press conference last night. For everyone who follows his antics and over-the-top bombast, this was an interesting Donald.

    He may have been tired, or not: but, in any case he was relaxed and civil, showing professionalism that some might view as “Presidential” (whatever that means to various folk). He complimented many, including his competitors, and sincerely thanked others.
    Most interesting to me was the calm way he controlled certain questions and some obvious reporter bait. He actually appeared as a rational executive.

    This was a calm, rather thoughtful business-like visage. I will check channels today to see if this contrary image gets any play.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/02/2016 - 11:10 am.

      Political strategy from a “non-politician”

      It’s the old switch to the general election mode. “Hey, I’m not crazy–who are you going to believe–me 2 weeks ago or me now !”

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/02/2016 - 10:26 am.

    Again, this shouldn’t surprise anyone

    Republicans have cultivating a subtext of bigotry and intolerance for decades while publicly denouncing racism, it’s always been a bait-n-switch, what do you think all these voter restriction laws are all about? Duke ran as a republican, do you really think Cruz and Rubio would turn away KKK votes? In many ways Trump has just taken the republican sub-text out into the open and made it explicit,he’s just saying it out-loud. Republicans have been speaking code to their voters for decades: “Family Values”, “Silent Majority”, “Moral Majority”, “Entitlements”, etc.

    Republican voters always understood this, there was never any reason to keep real agenda’s under wraps as far as they were concerned, the code was meant to collect hapless liberal and moderate votes, and it worked.

    When Trump voters celebrate Trumps willingness to speak his mind, THAT’S what they’re talking about, he’s unapologetically speaking their language out loud instead of speaking in code. I mean who do you think the republican “base” has been all this time?

    The only people in this country that can be surprised by this are liberals and democrats who’ve been in denial for the last two decades. What you’re seeing IS the essence of the republican party and has been since Gingrich launched his revolution. We can trace it back further but the point is people have sounding the alarm for decades only find deaf ears among democrats.

    Sure, mainstream/corporate media pretended this was “normal”, their mission is to report, not reveal. Yeah, conventional wisdom ignored the subtext because challenging motivations (no matter how obvious) is un-sportsman like and “unbalanced”. Whatever.

    Take heart. Those of us who have been paying attention have noticed that the republican party has been on a collision course with the Abyss for quite some time now. You can cultivate this voter base if you want, but their numbers are shrinking and eventually no matter how passionate they may be, they just don’t have the votes. At some point the magical thinking and deliberate ignorance yields an unsustainable political party. The republican inability to quash Trump reveals that the seeds of mediocrity planted decades ago have finally grown into full blown incompetence.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/02/2016 - 11:07 am.

      Time to Kan the Klan Talk

      While a student, I once attended a George Lincoln Rockwell forum at Coffman Union.
      The Student Senate prohibited the Black Shirt attire at the last moment, taking some of the American NAZI theatricality away from the evening, unfortunately.

      That same year I attended the impromptu appearance of MLK on the St. Paul campus, one of a “scramble” receiving only word-of-mouth notice that morning.

      Martin Luther King, speaking to us in ad hoc circumstances, was as movingly impressive as if to a crowd of 3,000 in Northrup.

      Those were interesting and revealing “real time” times for many of us. It’s unfortunate nearly all citizens today see only edited replays with selected sound bites and revised images.

      Smart people with value systems and those with personal philosophies, who think for themselves, don’t require social interpreters. They can spot phony “suits” and properly embrace the “real deal.”

      I’m not a bit worried about November. I may not like the results, but I’m not worried about America’s future, much less “panicked.”

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/02/2016 - 11:31 am.

        “Time to Kan the Klan Talk”, says Jim Million.

        And why is that ? Should we pretend that it didn’t happen ? That is has no meaning in an election ? Should we pretend that Trump really didn’t know who was endorsing him ? It’s all part of his tactics–at least I give him credit for that level of awareness.

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/02/2016 - 05:51 pm.

          What didn’t happen?

          The Klan is pretty irrelevant these days, except as another political wedge issue. I think “disavowal” anytime in the last 10 years, say, is fine but not terribly significant with respect to reality, either. I haven’t seen any news of note on the KKK until right now, and that’s not about the Klan, but about Trump. This seems just another wedge for Trump haters and some others. There are likely very many reasons to dislike or mistrust Trump, but this one is a long stretch for me.

          My Dad remembered seeing at least one burning cross on a Saint Paul hill back in the late ’20s. At that time, the Klan was after local Jews, not the few Blacks here.

          Times change, cults tend to wither, those outrages fade (or should) and targets shift. I believe we should get very proactive if we find the KKK rising again here and, say, kidnapping Muslims in South Minneapolis, for example. But, they’re not.

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/03/2016 - 08:04 am.

            Kan the Klan talk ?

            Jim Million, your standard of attention may extend to all the way to south Minneapolis, but other people look beyond their back yard and into the wider world. There are numerous Klan associated groups operating actively in the US. Those are the groups that have those members that dress themselves up and attend meetings. But like most things, the operation is more like an ice-berg. Their members are the ones who are willing to confront (under a sheet of course). But the large body belongs to those who identify with the movement and are in sync with the goals of the Klan but who are not official members of the group. Making the Klan “OK” only encourages the members and unaffiliated followers and similar groups..

            So yes, it does matter how the Klan is regarded–it represents one strand of white supremacy movement in a nation that should reject it wholeheartedly.

            (quote)

            The modern KKK is not one organization; rather it is composed of small independent chapters across the U.S.[172] The formation of independent chapters has made KKK groups more difficult to infiltrate, and researchers find it hard to estimate their numbers. Estimates are that about two-thirds of KKK members are concentrated in the Southern United States, with another third situated primarily in the lower Midwest.[173][174][175]

            The Klan has expanded its recruitment efforts to white supremacists at the international level.[176] For some time the Klan’s numbers are steadily dropping. This decline has been attributed to the Klan’s lack of competence in the use of the Internet, their history of violence, a proliferation of competing hate groups, and a decline in the number of young racist activists who are willing to join groups at all.[177]

            Recent membership campaigns have been based on issues such as people’s anxieties about illegal immigration, urban crime, civil unions and same-sex marriage.[178] Akins argues that, “Klan literature and propaganda is rabidly homophobic and encourages violence against gays and lesbians….Since the late 1970s, the Klan has increasingly focused its ire on this previously ignored population.[179] Many KKK groups have formed strong alliances with other white supremacist groups, such as neo-Nazis. Some KKK groups have become increasingly “nazified”, adopting the look and emblems of white power skinheads.[180]

            Wikipedia

            (end quote)

            and

            (quote)

            The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the United States, estimates that there are a little more than 930 such groups [smilar to the Klan] in the country right now. Most of these are white supremacist groups or white nationalist groups, according to Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC….That number is up from 602 hate groups in 2000, according to the SPLC.

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/30/the-current-state-of-white-supremacist-groups-in-the-u-s/

            (end quote)

            So even if Jim Million wants to drop the Klan talk, and say it only matters if it happens in his back yard, it really does matter in today.

            • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/13/2016 - 01:18 pm.

              Ya, so?

              There are many little cells of aberration within the U.S. You choose to hate the ones that seem to hit your nerves; while, others scorn the ones that reach their hearts. Whatever the case, individual passion becomes diluted beyond oneself, that is, unless propagated.

              Your own citations support the thesis the Klan is morphing but not very credible. They no longer rise to levels of cause célèbre, unless used to underpin a political “gotcha” question. If truly newsworthy, these bums would be all over the 6:00 network news. As happens, those time slots are focused on BLM, not on KKK. Rational minds refuse to give them a forum.

              And, that’s the end of this worn thread.

              Thanks

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/02/2016 - 11:40 am.

        From Jonah Goldberg at the National Review:

        (quote)

        …It is obvious to me that Trump didn’t want to denounce David Duke and the Klan in the Jake Tapper interview. The “bad earpiece” explanation is a transparent lie, and when others invoke it, they are simply carrying water for Trump. Trump quite clearly heard the question. He mentioned David Duke’s name himself several times. He simply didn’t want to denounce Duke. And when Tapper mentioned the KKK, Trump still didn’t say, “Wait a second . . . ” and rip into the Klan. The question is, Why? One plausible answer offered by many folks is that he just didn’t want to dance to Tapper’s tune. And I get that. But even when Trump disavowed Duke in the Friday press, this is how he did it: “David Duke endorsed me? OK, all right. I disavow, OK?” It’s clear he’s simply paying lip service, and reluctantly at that. Again, the best defense of Trump is that he hates these PC gotcha games by the press. I think that’s plausible and probably explains some of it. But, denouncing the Klan should be easy. You shouldn’t have to think about it. And you certainly shouldn’t let you’re fear of being called “politically correct” get in the way. That’s beyond asinine. If you want to turn the tables on the interviewer and note that the Klan used to be the militant wing of the Democratic party, go for it. The one thing you shouldn’t do is sound like you’re reluctant to condemn the Klan(!) or that you’re dog-whistling that you don’t really mean it when you do. Yet when you watch the Tapper interview, it becomes clear what is really going on: He think condemning the Klan will hurt him with conservatives or southerners or both. He needed aides to tell him, “Mr. Trump, sir, it’s okay to disassociate yourself with the KKK.” And so he took to Twitter to clean up the mess he created. In other words, the issue isn’t that conservative opponents of Trump think he’s a Klan supporting racist, it’s that Trump thinks many of his conservative supporters are. And that’s just one reason I don’t want this guy speaking for me.

        Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/432228/trump-thinks-kkk-are-conservative

        (end quote)

        (end quote)

        • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/02/2016 - 01:47 pm.

          Trump: the man with the bigger dog whistle

          I think he fumbled on purpose to let all his Klan Fans know that he is more on their side than the other Republican candidates. The Klan has been voting Republican since 1972 so they know who their “fellow travelers” are. Trump just wants to distinguish himself from Rubio and Cruz. Once the wink wink nudge nudge is done he won’t have to bring it up again. They’ll know who to follow no matter what he says later.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/02/2016 - 11:02 am.

    Would one of those norms be

    not running for president if you’re under an FBI investigation for violating the Espionage Act almost 2,000 times?

    Because Trump mentioned last night, and many people agree, that Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t even be allowed to run under those circumstances if her name was Mrs. Smith and not Mrs. Clinton.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/02/2016 - 11:44 am.

      And let’s not mention the fraud claims against Trump University,

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/02/2016 - 02:39 pm.

      Keep repeating the lie

      Hillary Clinton is not the subject of an FBI investigation, although the contents of her server (much of it not originating there) may be.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/02/2016 - 06:55 pm.

        Huh?

        If the FBI came here to my garage to seize my car and the contents of its trunk, I’d consider myself under investigation. These guys would be looking for contents owned by me by serving papers on me, not my car.

        I don’t have to be charged to be under investigation.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/02/2016 - 02:56 pm.

      And

      If her name was Mrs. Smith we likely would not have spent 60 million dollars investigating a $60,000 real estate deal. Madame President looks forward to serving all of her citizens….

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/02/2016 - 11:15 am.

    The key phrase of this election cycle for the Republicans is “political correctness”.

    The more a candidate adheres to political correctness, the worse they do with this slice of the population.

    Trump’s entire entertainment persona is built around “saying it like it is”. This is what he is selling in this election (it’s authentic in this sense)–but with a key difference, it is echoing the view of the disenchanted white population that feels that their lives have been diminished by various brown peoples. Now, I’m pretty sure that Trump has never felt that his economic prospects, or his way of life and or the quality of life in his neighborhood has ever been threatened by the presence of others–so there is an essential phoniness in his candidacy (and inauthentic in this sense).

    But the mode of his election is to blow a whistle, not a dog whistle, and tell his followers to be “loud and proud”. The dog whistle used by the other candidates is no longer a sufficient incentive–it has been blown so many time to so little effect, that the Trump whistle now seems to be the authentic direction to move into. It’s politics of the “other”. This is the politics of heightening the divisions.

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/02/2016 - 01:27 pm.

    “HUGE” turnout for the GOP

    I have never seen so much political energy in caucus room. Other friends have mentioned the same thing concerning their GOP caucus turnout.

    However – was this energy for the GOP or was it initiated by a “huge” anti-trump coalition?

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 03/02/2016 - 06:23 pm.

      Yes

      I’m interested in seeing the precinct turnout numbers to derive some idea of who and where.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/02/2016 - 08:28 pm.

        In Mankato Precinct 1

        (not usually a liberal stronghold)
        The DFL caucus turnout was a bit over 2000
        the GOP turnout a bit over 1000
        (numbers from the Mankato Free Press).

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/03/2016 - 09:35 am.

      Huge, not Yooge

      I suspect a lot of people were there to vote against Trump. His low numbers here would seem to point that way. I don’t know if it was an organized effort.

  6. Submitted by Dan Berg on 03/02/2016 - 08:24 pm.

    Bellwether

    Trump is if nothing else a beautiful example from which everyone should learn. Not about any particular set of ideas or philosophies he might have because based on my observation he has none other than “Is it good for me”. What the Donald does represent clearly is the danger in placing too much trust in democracy. Since he joined the race everyone had always dismissed him as a joke and not worthy of attention and yet he kept on coming. Most are repeating those same thoughts when discussing him as a candidate in the general election. While an implosion by Trump is still quite possible it doesn’t change the fact that there is a meaningful statistical chance he could become president.

    A Donald presidency will control all of the powers to which any other president would have. All of the military, executive orders and leadership of untold elements of the federal bureaucracy. All without the controls we have been accustom to because Trump doesn’t care about the same things as most politicians. He is the perfect example to why we need strong limits to the extents of state powers.

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