Marco Rubio’s only appeal to the elites is that he’s not Donald Trump. But after Tuesday night that probably won’t be enough. With the momentum — what George Bush the Elder famously called “the big mo” — born of this week’s results the Donald might well drive a stake through the last great hope next week in Florida.
If Marco loses there, it’s time to call the undertaker.
Stonewall Jackson said the secret of his remarkable military genius — the military academies of the West still study his tactics, politically incorrect or not — was that “I never take counsel of my fears.” The Republican elites have lately taken counsel only with their fears.
Donald Trump is nobody’s idea of a great leader. For a man who has made billions in business, and he has accomplished that no matter what his critics say, the man is remarkably ignorant of almost everything else, more than how to pronounce Second Corinthians. If he had only known what “Two Corinthians” really was he could have finessed the question by just calling it “Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth.”
He has all the attributes of the robber baron and none of the baron’s understanding that showing a little class, even if he has to hire someone to come in to apply the cosmetics, is what voters expect from presidents and even presidential candidates. He’s all robber and no baron. When his Trump Casino Holdings went belly up in 2004, the list of small-business vendors, contractors, and other creditors ran to 1,904 pages.
His series of seminars on how to get rich in real estate, which he grandly called “Trump University,” were a disaster for the suckers and for everyone not named Donald Trump. His lawyers are still fighting lawsuits charging deceptive trade, promised mentors who never showed up to mentor. He advertised that his “faculty” was handpicked but once he was put under oath he admitted that he didn’t actually know very much about the old alma mater or anyone who taught there.
His fight with an elderly widow trying to keep her house in Atlantic City is infamous. He used eminent domain to take her property to make room for a parking lot for the limousines of high rollers lured to his casino, which subsequently went bust. He stiffed illegal immigrants from Poland whom he hired to work on several projects. They sued and he settled under an agreement put under court seal.
“Here’s the recurrent theme,” writes columnist Quin Hillyer, who has covered the Donald closely, “Trump is for Trump. He says he’ll make American workers part of something ‘so strong, so powerful,’ but it’s tough to find previous examples of him making others rich or successful. Instead, he has taken his quarter-billion-dollar inheritance and left behind a trail of wreckage.”
Any other candidate with a fraction of Mr. Trump’s baggage would have been left for dead months ago, but this is not an ordinary year and his rivals in the party, and particularly his critics among the elites, never tried to understand what the Trump phenomenon is all about. It’s about the rage of the little guy, who has worked faithfully in election after election for men who talk bravely with boast and bombast before the election only to slink away like a dog with his tail between his legs when it was time to redeem the talk.
This time the little guy hears something that sounds authentic. He may be fooled again, but he he’s got nothing to lose, and he gets a kick out of the discomfort of the elites who never had it so good and thought the good times would roll forever.
The elites have been so blinded by their inability to destroy the Trump phenomenon that they now can’t see another opportunity at hand. Some of them even talk of trying to make the best of another Clinton presidency, no doubt figuring their wealth will be the usual insulation. If Donald Trump prevails on Super Tuesday, and he looks like the smart bet on the morning of, the time is past for continuing to throw more ineffective mud balls.
As unattractive as the clown may be, he’s better than the crook. The next president will likely appoint up to four justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has, sadly, evolved into the most powerful law-making institution in the land. Two more Elena Kagans and two more Sonia Sotomayors and a left-wing court can dismantle everything the Founding Fathers put into the Constitution, and “the living Constitution,” capable of “growing” into however the court can twist it, will be a dead letter to the generations that follow. Justice Sotomayor describes plainly and without apology what the nation would expect from Hillary Clinton’s justices: “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.” That’s plain enough to frighten even an elite.
• Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.