For months, Donald Trump has complained that he should not have to win a majority of delegates to the Republican convention to be the party’s nominee. We were among those who insisted to the contrary — that he had to win a majority and otherwise abide by the procedures the party had set forth in advance of the nomination contest. Now that he has won the Indiana primary and Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich have dropped out of the race, he is guaranteed to do that: to win fair and square, without the threat of violence in Cleveland that he had previously and shamefully raised.
His victory demonstrated some real strengths that it would be foolish to deny. His mastery of the media was one, and we do not make that observation backhandedly: Would that a conservative of good character had displayed such an ability to use the networks to convey his messages. Trump had a better sense of where Republican voters are on immigration than most of the other candidates (even if he has taken no interest in the crucial details). His campaign has also shown boldness and imagination. Who else would have tried to win while spending almost no money? Who else would have ignored the strategists and consultants and just winged it, day after day, and successfully too?
There ends our praise. We regret that Trump will be the Republican nominee and think Senator Cruz, our preferred candidate, would have been vastly better. Trump has done little to demonstrate any commitment to, or even understanding of, conservative principles; his instinct seems to be to use government power to silence his critics; he has no experience in government, a lack that we persist in seeing as a bad thing; his ethical record is disturbing; he will simply make things up when it suits his purposes; he traffics in conspiracy theories about everything from Iraq to the JFK assassination; he exhibits little self-control. We assume that in coming days we will hear even more discussion than previously of a new, more “presidential” Trump in the offing. We’ll believe it when we see it sustained.
Trump has won more primary votes than any nominee before him; but it is also true that no nominee has seen more primary votes cast for his opponents. He eked out a bare majority in Indiana at a time when past nominees were winning supermajorities. Any other nominee in this weak position would now turn to unifying his party. But Trump has in recent days said that he can win without doing that. If he finds a way to win the general election without nearly uniform support from Republicans, he will again have broken the mold of modern politics. He enters the race as an underdog against Hillary Clinton, who is, thanks entirely to him and notwithstanding her own primary defeat in the state, the other great victor in Indiana.