Mark Casci: Donald Trump, the politician from the reality TV age

DONALD Trump did what he does best last week and said something completely outrageous in order to gain media attention.

In this instance, the Republican frontrunner suggested that women who have illegal abortions should face punishment. The statement, like so many of Trump’s, provoked widespread condemnation and was swiftly “clarified”.

This is not new. During the past 20 years, he has declared his support for candidates of both the Democratic and Republican Party, as well as independents, and donated money to both as well. He has been pro and anti-abortion, for and against gun control, in favour of and opposed to public healthcare.

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In short Donald Trump will back and support any position which benefits Donald Trump. The former reality TV show host is the politician for the reality TV age – the more shocking and outrageous you are, the more attention you will get. And this attention has taken the billionaire from bullish spoiler candidate to frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States of America.

Since declaring his candidacy, Trump has advocated the killing of terrorist suspects’ families (a war crime), declared Mexicans to be rapists and drug dealers (demonising nearly one in five Americans) and said he would ban Muslims from entering the country until, in his words, we can “find out what the hell is going on” (something that would in all probability bring US commerce to its knees due to lost business opportunities).

Surely such a risible figure cannot be put forth by the party that gave the world Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt? Unfortunately, the “grand Old Party” of America is caught in a perfect storm created by its own extremely complex and esoteric internal rules.

In order to secure the Republican nomination a candidate does not require the backing of ordinary voters who have their say in each of the 50 state primaries, but rather a set amount of delegates – party officials – in order to officially contest the presidency. Each state has their own rules as to how they allot their delegates. The magic number of delegates is 1,237. Trump currently holds 741 with his nearest rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz, sitting on just 461. To catch him, Cruz needs to win 85 per cent of the remaining delegates, and polling shows him nowhere close to doing this. However polling also shows Trump is likely to fall short of 1,237 himself.

This is where it gets complicated. The nomination will be decided at the Republican convention on July 18-21. If nobody hits 1,237, there will be a “brokered convention”, effectively a behind closed doors exercise in horse trading.

Delegates pledged to the candidates who have dropped out, including Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, will come under pressure to switch their support. And this is when things can get really interesting, as they may back a compromise candidate.

At this stage the Republican party apparatus, acutely aware of the fatal damage that a Trump nomination or even presidency will bring to its reputation, will go into overdrive looking to put up someone, anyone, other than Trump to face Hillary Clinton in November.

All of this sounds arcane and highly against the democracy and freedom so many Americans eulogise but it is not without precedent. In 1952 Democrat Adlai Stevenson was nominated as the result of a brokered convention while President Gerald Ford needed a brokered convention to edge out Ronald Reagan as recently as 1976.

In short, we could see a previously undeclared candidate, who has avoided the media scrutiny of the primary elections, fighting for the presidency.

We will find out the likelihood of this scenario tonight when the primary results of Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania are declared. Trump is on course to win the latter two, but failure to win in Wisconsin would lead to the inevitability of a brokered convention.

And if you think the prospect of the free world being led by someone like Trump was not bad enough, the process could become even more complicated.

Republicans could instead chose to do the unthinkable and ignore the general election, let Trump besmirch the party name, and let him operate as a “Rino” – a Republican in Name Only. Instead they can focus on the races for the House of Representatives and House of Senate.

Despite a Democratic majority in both houses in his first term in office, Barack Obama struggled to pass his healthcare reform bill. In his second term he has faced a Republican Congress and failed to get anything of substance done.

Were the Republicans to solidify holds over both Congress and the Senate, a Hillary Clinton presidency would be neutered from day one.

It would give the Republicans four years to regroup and put the Trump aberration behind them.

Either way we’re potentially in for four years of lunacy or political paralysis.

Batten down the hatches Planet Earth.

Mark Casci is news editor of The Yorkshire Post.