Ever since Donald Trump got into the presidential race, the parallels between Trump on the national level and Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings on the local level have always been striking. For example:
• They both have backgrounds in real estate and entertainment.
• They are both novice politicians.
• They are both politically incorrect, leading them to be accused of being extremely insensitive at the least, and racist at the worst.
• Rank-and-file voters support them while the establishment can’t stand them.
• Their opponents never give up and resort to drastic measures to stop them.
• Their hair is always a topic of conversation or amusement.
The list could go on and on. Trump, nationally, and Hastings, locally, have shaken up the old guard to the point of panic.
Nationally, the “principled conservatives” – the rather condescending moniker embraced by the Bill Kristols and George Wills of the right (condescending because it implies that if you don’t agree with their anti-Trump stance you are therefore not principled) – are shaken to their core by what voters in the Republican primary have done during this election cycle.
It is rare in our political history that a segment of our population rises up in numbers significant enough to overcome establishment preferences and endless attacks and diatribes by some in the media determined to belittle, denounce and impugn. But that has happened with Trump nationally and Hastings locally.
Regardless of what happens in Indiana on Tuesday, the Republican nomination for president is a done deal, and frankly has been for at least a month. The creative “contested convention” scenario put forth by a media hoping for such a spectacle and Trump opponents who are in morbid denial has long been fantasy.
Trump wrapped up the nomination when he won Michigan and Mississippi on March 8 and then Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri on March 15. He put an exclamation point on it with landslide wins on April 19 and April 26 in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island, crushing everyone else and forever putting to rest the claim that his support among Republican voters had a ceiling in the 35-40 percent range.
Every week, Trump’s opponents dismissed the latest results – after insisting beforehand that they were “critical” – and claimed that the upcoming primaries were the ones that really mattered. We haven’t seen bars moved this much since Prohibition.
Last August, I said in a column that while Trump’s candidacy was entertaining, it wasn’t likely to last long due to his own hubris. But by January it was clear to everyone but the biggest deniers that this was going to be a very different election year, and I wrote then that my former political colleagues – most of whom can’t stand The Donald – should begin coming to terms with Trump winning the nomination.
Most of them have not. But you don’t enjoy the kind of national polling advantage that Trump has sustained month after month among the broader GOP electorate without those numbers eventually translating into enough state primary triumphs to claim ultimate victory.
There are growing reports that some Republicans in the denial phase of grief are moving into acceptance and preparing to support the will of the electorate. But others, rather than back Trump, are making noises about running a third-party candidate, someone with a purer conservative bloodline and more acceptable to the powers that be.
In fact, Trump supporters should welcome that move. It would make Trump’s path to victory in November more likely, because he is not a typical Republican nominee.
Trump’s supporters are not behind him because he’s a conservative. They are behind him because he is an anti-establishment, outside-the-box, politically incorrect insurgent who is blowing up a system that needs blown up.
Right now, most polls show Trump trailing Hillary Clinton in November by a margin of about 47 percent to 40 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average. That’s going to get tighter no matter what, but a third party candidate would almost guarantee a Trump victory.
Why? Because any voters saying today that they are supporting Trump – at a time when his negatives are at their highest – are definitely supporting Trump in November. His supporters are locked in. A third party candidate – even an establishment-type conservative – would likely pull more from Hillary than from Trump.
That means that Trump could actually win with the 40 percent or so of the vote that he has right now. So Trump supporters should beg Bill Kristol and company to follow through on their threat to find someone to run as a third-party candidate.
Like The Donald, Hillsboro’s mayor has been the target of every conceivable attack, openly and behind the scenes, from both opponents in the other party as well as the establishment wing of his own party.
While the marathon criminal investigation against Hastings may result in charges based on substance – it is impossible to know until charges are actually filed, which they most certainly will be – it was indisputably launched in the first place based on constant complaints to law enforcement from the mayor’s reliable stable of detractors who have been as much a part of a “Never Hastings” movement every bit as fervent as the “Never Trump” crowd, voter sentiment be damned.
But the biggest common denominator linking Donald Trump and Drew Hastings is in regard to the end results, with both of them consistently confounding the experts and the expectations.
It is more probable than many think right now that we will be calling Donald Trump “Mr. President” in January 2017. It is a good chance that we’ll still be calling Drew Hastings “Mr. Mayor” in December 2019, when he ends his second term. It is guaranteed in both cases, though, that the “Never” crowds will still be plotting away.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.