A little more than a year ago, the idea of Donald Trump ascending to the perch of a major political party appeared to be laughable. From the moment he announced his bid for the presidency, he was immediately written off as a joke, a traveling variety show that required slightly more serious consideration than Miley Cyrus' attempt at hosting the MTV Music Awards. He stumbled out of the blocks, breaking every rule (written and unwritten) of campaign etiquette along the way. To most of the country, Donald Trump was the catastrophic car wreck on the highway shoulder; the world knew something terrible was happening, everything was likely to go up in flames in glorious fashion, but for some reason - rather it be out of sheer terror or for entertainment value - we couldn't take our eyes off of it.
Nobody expected anything to come of it, though. With the exception of his bundle of delusional - yet die hard - supporters, an early consensus was established that Trump was nothing more than a pothole in the road to the "all-but-evident", sure fire match-up of familiar, more established political names - dynasties - in the 2016 General Election: Bush vs. Clinton. In all, there were an astonishing seventeen candidates on the Republican side vying for the nomination - a mixture of establishment and fringe candidates with varying levels of credentials and legitimacy. There was no way The Donald would emerge from the circus that was the GOP nomination process on top.
Until he did.
Now, a year later, and less than three months from the Republican convention, Donald Trump is the King of the Party. With the exit of his primary combatant from the fight - the even more extreme Ted Cruz - the flailing-haired is now the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. So now that the circus has transitioned from boardwalk freak show to the big top, what now? Where do we go from here? Let's start from the top... The Party
1. The Mad Scramble
For the past six years, the Republican Party has been in flux. From the rise of the Tea Party, to the political impotence and ineffectiveness of Congressional Republicans, and now, to the fall of the mighty Republican establishment, the Obama era has certainly been a rocky road for the GOP as a party. Now, the Party itself must fight for legitimacy, and most importantly, for sustainability. Typically, after each primary season - once each of the opposing candidates ceremoniously bows out of contention - there is a rallying effect that begins. Here, the party licks its wounds, combines like terms, and enters the convention a "unified party". This is no typical election season. At first, hopes of a contested convention was the only hope to thwart a Trump nomination and preserve the conservative way, and it seemed every tier of the establishment was fully committed to doing everything in its power - from signing pledges, to "rigging" delegates, to potentially changing convention rules - in order to protect the establishment. Those efforts were for naught.
Party officials are now faced with the reality they feared the most - being forced to hoist up Donald Trump as the face of their party. Lindsey Graham once said picking between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is like choosing between "being shot or poisoned". Looks like Party elected to take the quick approach. Donald Trump is the "Anti-Conservative" and the "Everyday Republican" in every sense of the word. He is Big Business personified, yet he shuns campaign contributions. He pledges to bolster the military for aesthetics, but vows to return to an isolationist military policy that shies away from past conservative nation-building efforts. While the GOP struggled to wrangle support of minority and traditionally anti-conservative voter support away from the Democrats, Trumps first efforts was to isolate, insult, and denigrate every demographic group who was not White, working class, and male. Officials now have to choose between the Party and the Candidate, to continue with the (failed) national platform from the past three decades or to adopt one of ambiguity and bigotry. If the ultimate goal is longevity, The Republican Party is now at a crossroads where they must choose the long, painful route to the presidency - at the expense of the party - or sacrifice the oval office in an effort to (potentially) preserve the Party.
2. The Mass Exodus
Where will Trump's support come from among elected politicians and big named Republican stalwarts? Usually, politicians line up to jump on the coat tail of nominees in hopes for a boost to their own political clout. With Trump, however, it appears he has made even more inside his own party than he has among the Democrats. The primary election was one of the most bizarre bloodbaths in recent political history, certainly in my lifetime. At times, the trail resembled an elementary classroom complete with finger pointing, childish bickering, immature name calling, and even jokes about ones hand size and overcompensation for a certain physical endowment. Donald Trump was at the center of it all - the classroom bully who took advantage of easy targets among the weak, made friends with the timid and strategic, and exploited unsuspecting. When he wasn't singlehandedly picking off his adversaries, one by one, he was taking shots at the establishment regime currently in Washington. He took swipes at deeply rooted politicians like John McCain and shots at emerging stars among Republican leadership like Paul Ryan. Trump hasn't made many friends among the rank an file in the Party, so it is difficult to imagine that once he hits the trail, many will follow. Some GOP figures have turned their back on The Donald and vowed not to support a Trump presidential run, and others have already pledged to support Hillary Clinton. The question is, will any of the big name GOP politicians break ranks and join the #ImWithHer movement? It appears everyone is await the first domino to fall.
3. The Mighty May Fall
The unconventional nature of this primary season will likely have further implications on GOP political representatives as well, as the potential of a Trump presidency reverberates through both House and Senate races. Experts claim a Trump presidential run likely causes the Republican Party to lose its grip on the GOP led Senate and places many of the House seats in jeopardy in 2016. If the short-term prospective weren't threatening enough, the long term ramifications could be cataclysmic for the two-party system as we know it. Over the past several months, once the Trump movement shifted from improbable side show to an apocalyptic reality, back door meetings among the establishment have taken place to discuss the possibility of promoting a third-party conservative, establishment candidate in the General Election. IF this does indeed occur, consider it the extinction level event that seals the fate of the fractured Republican Party.
As for the Republican National Convention, itself...
4. Expect Part World War III, Part WWE
Between the media frenzy, the potential for protests, and the personality that is The Donald, one shouldn't expect anything less than fireworks in Cleveland come mid-July. Some key Republicans have already announced they will be skipping out of the festivities - either out of revolt for the nominee or due to a genuine fear for their safety considering the violent nature of past trump rallies. When you throw in the acceptance speeches of all acceptance speeches, filled with aimless rhetoric, unfulfillable promises, and a certainty of divisive language, the 2016 National Convention for the Republican Party will prove to be an event for the ages. And that's assuming the Party itself doesn't attempt any last-minute shenanigans. Then, all hell will break loose.
Speaking of Trump Rallies...
5. Expect Lots of This...
There is no doubt that Donald Trump can draw a crowd. He is the biggest entertainment draw and the hottest ticket in town, bigger than Beyonce. With the nomination at hand, expect even bigger crowds, filled with even more irrationality and mindless chants of "Build That Wall". The crowds will not only become larger, they will likely become whiter, as the racial rhetoric shows no sign of withering. The potential of President Trump will bring the extremes out of the woodwork and back woods, and with them comes the innate hatred that often accompanies them to these types of rallies (see David Duke and the Klan).
6. And More of This...
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That law has proven itself to be true throughout the primary season. Similar to Trump rallies, expect counter protests to grow in number, attention, and fervor. Anti-Trump protests have already shut down a political event in Chicago and blocked freeways, preventing a number of others from getting off the ground. These protest are multi-cultural, cross gender barriers, and break through age brackets. Surely the rise of Trump will mean the rise of his opposition.
7. And Even More of This.
When you combine an empowered and emboldened army of Trump supporters with an enraged sea of protesters, the end result is likely to be catastrophic. We have already witnessed acts of violence at Trump rallies, many of these events egged on by Mr. Trump, himself. Chances are, there is a strong probability that one or more of these events will become ugly, far more ugly than any events we have seen to this point. Trump has attempted to truncate some of the violence at rallies by limiting access of those who could "potentially be protesters" (read: anyone young, of minority decent, and college aged who's holding a sign). However, its likely that this will only increase tension between those on the outside and those on the inside.
Now, to Donald, himself...
8. Pandering, Pandering, and More Pandering
According to Trump, the blacks love him, Mexicans love him, and Women love him, but in reality, The Donald has managed to alienate basically every ethnic minority in the country, the disabled, veterans, and now women. Winning the Republican nomination solely on the backs of white, blue collar males may have been possible, but in the General, success will require him widening out his net and looking for support from the very groups he spent the last year running into the ground. We have already seen how certain figures are more than willing to be thrust into the spotlight and sacrifice their dignity to rid the Trump campaign of its racist stigma. Expect some first-class, high quality shucking and jiving to ensue (a la the black pastors and the "we love Mister Trump" Hispanic supporters). In 2016, ANYTHING is for sale.
9. Expect a Change in Tone... Or Maybe Not
Pundits, politicians, and strategist all expect Trump to shift in his approach towards the American people. They look for him to abandon the professional wrestler persona and adopt a more "presidential" tone filled with substantive information, invoking a more subdued welcoming personality, and move away from the divisive rhetoric. Besides, its what any normal politician would do. Typically, there is a "race to the middle" after the primary season winds down. Here, the nominees adopt a more moderate platform in hopes of gaining support of the independents among the electorate. The problem is, Donald Trump is no normal politician. The fact is that his approach to the nomination has been so unconventional, so extreme, so divisive, and so off the cuff, adopting a moderate tone would mean alienating the very people who selected him. It also means reneging on many of his extreme policies. Now, Donald is not beyond backtracking, however, the problem with making such direct promises means that he has buried his feet in concrete on many of the issues. His fight with Cruz to be the most extreme of the bunch has made his attempt to draw support outside of his base far more difficult.
10. Expect the Unexpected
As we have seen over the past year, efforts to forecast the actions of, and reactions to Donald J. Trump have proven futile. In an age where politicians and predictability are synonymous, Trump has broken the mold. If its late night Twitter rants, or strategic, absolutely inappropriate insults, or waging war against the media or a specific demographic, Trump bathes in his unpredictability. Not only is he unpredictable, predetermining the public response to his antics is also impossible. When he insulted John McCain for being a prisoner of war, everyone expected backlash. When he mocked a disabled reporter, everyone though it would derail him. Even after his parting shot at Ted Cruz, linking his father to the assassination of JFK, he still managed to sink the final nail in the coffin in the Indiana primary the next day. Nothing... I mean nothing is outside the realm of possibility for Donald Trump, and therefore we should all expect to be shocked, offended, and/or appalled by something Donald (or any of his followers) do over the next six months.