My favorite moment of Tuesday night’s installment of “Let’s Make A President” was watching Van Jones lose it live on CNN. It was hilarious. I’ll give you the quotes after a brief overview of the evening’s developments, which featured a huge, crushing five-state sweep for Donald Trump and an impressive night for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.
Bernie Sanders did an amazing thing this year. Despite being too old, rumpled, Jewish and way too far left to be serious contender for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party — a party, by the way, to which he did not even belong (and probably, still, in his heart, does not belong) — he became by force of his arguments, his authenticity, his integrity and his ability to energize young people a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Tuesday night, after losing four of five primaries in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region, Sanders did not concede defeat in his quest, but instead gave a familiar speech about what he stands for and how he has exceeded expectations. I have no interest in suggesting that he needs to go. I hope and expect he will handle that in a constructive way when the time comes.
Love and hate
Clinton, in her remarks after winning the Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware primaries (Sanders won Rhode Island), shifted into general-election mode. “I applaud Sen. Sanders and his supporters,” she said. Then she turned to some developing themes for the general election, including one in which she managed to smuggle in a lower-case reference to the name of her likely November opponent, saying she envisions an America “where love trumps hate.”
Without any wordplay, she also tried to create a contrast with Donald Trump by saying she wants to lead “an America where we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.”
Trump spoke last and bragged the most, about how great he had done in the five-for-five sweep, about how he would beat Clinton in the fall — “so easily.”
Twice, he urged Sanders to run as an independent. Clever fox, let’s see if Bernie can figure out why you want him to do that.
When asked about previous remarks that Clinton has succeeded by “playing the woman card,” Trump replied: “If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get even five percent of the vote. The only things she’s going is the woman’s card. The beautiful thing is, women don’t like her. OK?” I’ll leave you to think that through on your own, because I gotta get to Van Jones.
But to get to that, you first have to understand how big Trump’s wins were. The days are over when Trump-phenomenon deniers can say that Trump is succeeding with “a minority of a minority” because he was winning primaries with 30 or so percent of the vote in the crowded Republican field of the early states. That was true, but as the field narrowed, Trump’s support grew. Tuesday night, with the field down to three, Trump broke 55 percent of the primary vote in all five contests, and broke 60 percent in two of them.
Heading into Tuesday night, the punditocracy was still in partial denial of the growing likelihood that Trump would actually win the nomination. The main idea, as you well know, was that he would fall short on the first ballot (when most of his delegates are required to vote for him but after which they are not) and then the Republican establishment would dispense with him by getting them to switch on the second ballot to someone they can stand, or, in the case of Ted Cruz, despise a little less.
But Tuesday night was a big blow to that “cunning plan.” After Tuesday, the smartest odds makers announced that Trump had won enough delegates to either be on track for a first-ballot clinch, or so close to that number that the party could not deprive him of the nomination without insulting and alienating most of their primary electorate.
Which led, even on the liberal CNN, where Van Jones opines, to the need to acknowledge that, yes, Donald Trump could very likely be the nominee. Jones, who was on the panel where that acknowledgement was made, expostulated thus:
“I refuse to adapt to the absurdity of what’s going on. I just refuse to adapt to it…
“This is absurd. There is something definitely wrong here. We are in real danger where we start lowering our standards of what matters…”
Other members of the panel sought clarification of exactly what it meant to refuse to adapt to it. I would describe his reply as less than concrete on this point. It included a description of how much more qualified John Kasich was to be president, but that Kasich had won “only one state, and, and… pancakes.”
Other members of the panel sought to counsel Jones to acknowledge that the now-undeniable level of support for Trump within the Republican electorate was clear evidence that, that… that it was happening whether he was willing to adapt to it or not. He reasoned back, thus:
Something’s happening out there. It’s real and you can’t deny it and you can’t ignore it. But you should be able to govern. [Presumably he meant that somehow there had to be some minimum standard of governing ability before someone could just become president.] You should be able to speak respectfully. You should be able to pass the standard of a third-grade class before you’re on your way to being president of the United States.
Co-panelist David Axelrod, also a Democrat and an Obama guy, tried finally to comfort Jones by explaining that, rather than wanting someone that can govern, Trump supporters want “a guy who’s gonna punch the system in the nose.”