Ted Cruz has been badly cast as Gandalf on the bridge at Khazad-Dum, vowing that the Balrog Trump will not pass to the Republican nomination. Although Trump faintly resembles the Balrog (tall, threatening, backlit by the fire of insults, bigotry, and ego), what Indiana revealed today is that Cruz is not Gandalf on the bridge, but Custer at the Little Bighorn, with Trump cast as Crazy Horse.
Just as Custer and his 600 men could not defeat Crazy Horse and his 3,000 warriors, casting Cruz as leader of the #Never Trump cavalry never seemed likely to work. The question is why the officers and gentlemen who believe they run the Republican Party thought it might. Of course, after years and years of baiting and switching the base to win elections, maybe the insiders believed it would be ever thus.
Before any primary votes were cast or any caucuses held, my GOP friends were so happy with their “deep bench” of governors! senators! minorities! a woman! the seasoned! the fresh face! the tough! My friends believed that their large field presented a bounty of fine choices, while my party only had that tarnished crone Hillary, the even hoarier Bernie (a socialist!), and minor league players like Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chaffee, and Jim Webb. Their conviction gave me pause.
Still, that deep bench seemed awfully shallow: a couple of religious nuts; a surgeon who was the Trivial Pursuit pie with only one of the wedges filled in; a seemingly sensible governor and a deeply non-sensible one; a once-was-governor who’d been out of politics for nearly 10 years; Cruella de Ville’s understudy; an inexperienced Hispanic-surnamed kid; a senator who would be zealot in chief; two loud-mouthed bullies; and a Libertarian prince. More critically, all but one of that A-Team snarled the GOP’s pat party line: cut taxes! gut social programs! repeal Obamacare! reward the 1%! more free trade! more military spending! worldwide military intervention!
It’s long been apparent that the GOP never would/could do what it kept promising its base, just as Indian agents never came through for the reservation Indians. But the scam had worked, so why expect this year to be the turning point?
Last year, no one would have bet on Cruz as a serious contender for the nomination. After all, in a very short time on the national stage, he had made himself so widely reviled that no one seemed willing even to share a cab with him. And his policy positions are no different from the Party’s platform; he’s just more so, with a taste for the gold standard thrown in. So if the working class whites who make up the base finally had realized that none of those trickle-down policies will ever help them, why on earth should they vote for Cruz?
For one brief moment in Wisconsin, it seemed that those voters just might keep drinking the Cool-Aid and break for Cruz, but Indiana, widely viewed as Cruz’s last stand, tells us that isn’t going to happen after all.
It’s still possible that Trump might fall just short of the magic 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination outright. So Cruz still has a long shot chance of appearing as Gandalf on the convention stage to deny Trump his victory. Miracles do occasionally happen. That miracle, however, would only further enrage the GOP base, which is large, suspicious, and plenty pissed off already.
Last stands aren’t called “last” for nothing. When troops face an overwhelmingly superior force, usually they are slaughtered. At the moment, the angry GOP base seems exactly to be an overwhelming force, at least within the GOP. Like Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn, Cruz is pretty much done. The real question is whether the GOP, unlike the 7th Cavalry, can survive the wrath of its enraged Indians, whether Trump gets the nomination or not.