For better or worse, we are what we repeatedly do. It is the reason old habits die hard. And after 69 years of life, that truth becomes more salient when one must morph into a contortion of self under one of the most strident lights in American public life. Despite winning three Republican contests in what feels like rapid succession, Donald J. Trump, the larger-than-life billionaire, will not win his party’s nomination.
In Greek mythology, Daedalus created two pairs of wings out of wax and feather for himself and his son, Icarus. The elder, putting his on first, explicitly warns his son against complacency and hubris, instructing him he needs only follow his flight path.
And befittingly, at this junction in the campaign, Trump bears a lot of semblance to Icarus—haughty, inexperienced, and arrogant. His handlers (campaign manager and others), on the other hand, you could call Daedalus.
Nevertheless, with the latest win in Nevada and a strong national polling, a giddy media overwhelmed by the gravity-defying aura of the New York businessman seem eager to coronate him as the eventual Republican nominee.
Whatever the prophecy of the pundits may be, such outcome is highly dependent on a metamorphosis of sorts of the man-child. And since his campaign began, we have seen some conscientious effort at this shift, particularly in his debate performances. The early debates are a far cry from the most recent, where an always obnoxious Trump has given way to a strategic and sometimes refrained Trump. Which does show at the very least, that he is somewhat paying attention to his herd of hired handlers.
But to make it to the convention floor in July as the inescapable nominee, Trump must not only keep walking this straight and narrow, but aggressively fight self to keep caged the wild and unpredictable beast within. The fact that only 4% of the delegate total has been awarded so far makes this a daunting and arduous journey, contrary to popular premonitions these days.
And to this point, Jeb Bush’s exit from the race only accelerated the course of events. It would be foolhardy to think for a moment that somehow, as things do stand, Bush voters are likely Trump voters. If you truly believe this, then you deserve your own space shuttle to Mars cause you truly and most definitely do not belong on this planet. The constant bullying of Bush by Trump debate after debate is all you needed to see to identify the polar personality difference between these two and the sort of voters they would attract.
As Bill Scher, a senior writer at the Campaign for America’s Future, astutely points out in Politico, “Give Marco Rubio the Jeb Bush and John Kasich voters in South Carolina, and he would have beaten Trump by five points.”
And no, this is not fantasy thinking; but what days and weeks ahead would bear out as the Republican field rapidly winnows (thanks to a big push by party wigs to consolidate behind an electable candidate, especially with a Supreme Court nomination likely hanging in the balance). For Trump to win any eventual forlorn voters left stranded by the failed candidacy of any of these—Bush, Rubio, and Kasich—he would have to moderate his tone and consequently risk alienating a loyal base that fancies his crude and unfiltered verbosity. It is my assessment that voters from Cruz and Carson (once these do quit the race) would be split right down the middle to Trump and the establishment candidate.
However, all these pales in comparison to the discipline that Trump himself, at such an age, must summarily conjure to win over the “new” votes left by the trio mentioned earlier. For someone who successfully picked a fight with the most powerful man on the planet by leading the Birther movement that forced an embarrassed Obama to kowtow to his demands and derisions, it is indeed a stretch to ask that he plays by rules not his.
Some crucial and sizable anti-Trump votes would be up for conversion, but at a huge and indigestible cost to the frontrunner.
Which brings again to mind the tragedy of Icarus, who as he flew became intoxicated by his own gravity-defying heights; just as Trump readily now believes his invincibility and his strategy to win the nomination. Daedalus had warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, but for better or for worse, we are who we are. Icarus would fly too close and feel the heat of the sun melt his wax and his feathers and fatefully plunge into the sea below.
So whether it be weeks or months from now when Trump’s campaign finally comes to an unavoidable screech, we may in all honesty find it hard to blame him. He came to this dance with Hubris and Complacency on his arms and so far has successfully swooned with them to critical acclaim. Yet, as Icarus’ tale does bear, it would be foolish to presume this same pair would ultimately not lead him to the exits.
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