It appears to be happening. Donald John Trump is almost surely going to be the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. The man lives, according to the Daily News,1 in a three-story Louis XIV–style penthouse apartment at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street—as well as Palm Beach’s Mar-a-Lago, a sixty-room retreat in Westchester County, John Kluge’s bulging old estate in Virginia wine country, an afterthought-ish six-bedroom house in Beverly Hills, and nearly forty more Manhattan apartments that are available for his personal use. He is winning the nomination on the strength of the unshakable bond he has built with the white Republicans who consider themselves to be the most dispossessed of Americans.
It’s very clear by now that almost nothing can sunder this union. On March 3, Mitt Romney stepped forward to give a speech lambasting Trump. The 2016 front-runner, said the 2012 nominee, is “a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” Aha, said members of the famous Republican establishment: maybe finally this will lay him low. Five days later, a poll found that the attack helped Trump—31 percent of registered GOP voters were more likely to support him in light of Romney’s speech, and just 20 percent were less likely.2
Rather more disturbing, one result of the violence that broke out on March 11 at a scheduled Trump rally on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where protesters and Trump supporters hurled epithets at one another and some fistfights took place, was that that violence also helped Trump. The candidate has spent weeks heaping verbal abuse on hecklers, walking his admirers right up to the edge of physical confrontation. On the very day that the Chicago fiasco unfolded, Trump was at a press conference in Palm Beach answering questions about violence at his rallies. Referring apparently to an earlier episode in North Carolina, where one of his white supporters sucker-punched a black protester, he said, “I thought it was very, very appropriate. [The protester] was swinging. He was hitting people. And the audience hit back. And that’s what we need a little bit more of.”
A videotape of that event had emerged, and needless to say, Trump was lying. The black protester was walking up a flight of stairs inside a sports arena with his arms at his side when seventy-eight-year-old John Franklin McGraw yelled “Hey!,” got the young man to look his way, and hit him in the face.
Monmouth University, which was conducting a poll of Republicans in Florida at the time, added a question to the survey: “As you may…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Try two months of unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 a month.
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our complete 55+ year archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 a month.