There was a republican debate last night and there are four primaries this coming Saturday. While each will generate its own narrative and endless think pieces, what happened today was the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as we have known it in my lifetime and in the modern age.
Failed 2012 presidential contender Mitt Romney was hauled out by a thoroughly panicked GOP establishment to launch a scathing, over the top attack on Donald Trump. He stopped just short of accusing him of child molestation and drowning kittens he had set on fire. It was a remarkable descent into sleaze and histrionics by a man most republicans continued to hold in some sort of esteem. Romney has forever ruined his reputation and it wasn't just among Trump supporters but a wide swath of the base.
The only news that was made in last night's terribly moderated debate came at the every end: each candidate agreed to support whoever is nominated. Consequently the previous two hours of calling Trump unfit and a disgrace to the office was immediately undone. It's difficult to describe this debate as anything but a useless embarrassment.
Sometimes lazy analysis is no less true for being lazy: Trump won because no one took him out. What would taking him out look like? No one knows because it hasn't happened, hasn't, indeed, even come close.
Marco Rubio had been programmed earlier last week to attack the size of Trump's hands. This meme was generated in the hothouse of Twitter (I watched it be born and grow). Rubio mocked Trump's hands at rallies and at one point said that small hands on a man connoted a small . . . well guess. At tonight's debate Trump responded to that line of attack by saying his hands were large, as was everything else.
Welcome to the American presidential race of 2016.
The size of the male reproductive organ to one side, the debate was a shout fest, poorly moderated and instantly forgettable. Political pundits look for inflection points but there were none to be had last night. Trump continues to dominate in the polls and the upcoming set of primaries favors Trump doing very well. Once March 15th hits, the states award their delegates in a winner take all fashion, as opposed to the complicated and sometimes pinched proportional manner as has been the case up to now. Once winner takes all comes into full force, the expectation is a cascade of delegates will accrue to Trump and he'll be unbeatable at the convention. The Romney attack was designed in large measure to encourage voters in the various states to vote for anyone but Trump and deny him the requisite number.
It won't work. Trump will be the republican nominee. Peggy Noonan fretted last night that the republican party is shattering but except for the grifter class, the donor class and their serfs in elected office, not many in the republican base much care. This is because the party has left them high and dry for decades now, insisting they'll defend their interests while selling them out at every possible turn imaginable. It's come as a tremendous shock to the bubbled class that they are being divorced, being left for someone who may be a bit louche or outre (what would we do without the French language for occasional use in English?).
Conventional analysis no longer applies. A huge, political realignment is taking place in America and nothing will ever be the same again. Only a fool, and apparently there are plenty, would deign to suggest the metes and bounds of this realignment. But make no mistake: it is taking place and it is irreversible. Democrat supporters of socialist Bernie Sanders openly speak of voting for Trump if Hillary Clinton is their nominee. The yelps and howls from the corrupt establishment to the base that Trump isn't a conservative is thrown back in their face with the retort "And since when have you been?"
The game is over, the spell broken. Trump has slain the media because it cannot stop him, cannot wound him, cannot kill him. Voters from all walks of life in America know this instinctively and they've waited a long time for a politician who isn't built up and then subsequently destroyed by the dishonest Fourth Estate.
It's possible but not probable that the bitter "Never Trump" movement can deny him the nomination but only through some means that destroys the party outright. Both in Minnesota and nationally, the party is full of mediocre people who do the bidding of the donors, thinking themselves accomplished politicos only to be outed by Trump as incompetents who don't know the very people they routinely fleece for money and votes. While the establishment is very angry, it is no match for the pent up rage of an electorate denied effective representation by a party that not only took them for granted, but this cycle treated them with utter contempt.
Because of Trump, and for the first time, they can return the favor.