26 April 2016
Ego trumps collusion
The big story yesterday was that Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich had formed some sort of last-ditch entente to stop Donald Trump from winning a pre-convention majority of delegates for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump immediately cried foul, claiming that his rivals' pact was morally equivalent to criminal acts of collusion in the business sector. He needn't have bothered, since Kasich appeared determined to sabotage the entente almost instantly. As he understands it, the arrangement between himself and Cruz allows each man to concentrate his resources on the remaining states where he fares best against Trump in the polls, so that neither man wastes money in a state where he's likely to finish a distant third. That sounds reasonable, but saving money isn't going to beat Trump. Either Kasich or Cruz has to win these states in order to force an "open" or "brokered" convention in which delegates will be free to vote as they choose (i.e. against Trump) on the second ballot. In Indiana, Cruz trails Trump but leads Kasich in the polls. The sensible thing -- from the viewpoint of the Republican party if not that of any sane person -- would be for the anti-Trump vote to rally around Cruz. Yet obvious stubborn pride, barely disguised as modesty, prevented Kasich from saying so last night. Asked repeatedly by Anderson Cooper on CNN whether he would tell his Indiana supporters to vote for Cruz, Kasich answered repeatedly that he didn't believe in telling anyone how to vote. He tried to make it plain that he would not contest the state, or at least would no longer spend money there, but it was painfully more plain that saying "Vote for Cruz" was like swallowing hot coals for the governor. Again, for any normal person that's exactly how saying "Vote for Cruz" should feel, but Kasich was supposed to be making some sort of strategic sacrifice in order to stop Trump, and the only way to stop Trump seems to be to do all he can to help Cruz win in states where Kasich has no chance, as Cruz supposedly will do for Kasich in Oregon and other places, where, as in tonight's states where it's too late to stop Trump, Cruz is rightfully despised. The problem for this new entente is that, as far as I can tell, Kasich himself still despises Cruz. But perhaps he loves himself more than he hates either Cruz or Trump. At this point, Kasich is nothing but an oldschool "favorite son" candidate trying to run a national campaign on the spurious premise that the Republican base is longing for a reasonable man to lead them this year. His persistence throws his own reasonableness (by Republican standards, that is) into question. I hate to say it, but we probably have to blame the news media, which want desperately to have a "good guy" in the Republican race besides Gog and Magog. They can sustain Kasich with ego-fueling free publicity, but in doing so they perpetuate both his own delusions and the larger illusion that the Republican party is still animated by sanity at this late hour.