Politics & Policy

Trump’s Followers Aren’t Interested in ‘Winning’ — They Want Heads to Roll

(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

There will be blood.

On Tuesday night, Donald Trump swept the “Acela Corridor” primaries — Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island — and made it more likely than ever that he will be the Republican nominee. Next week’s Indiana primary is now truly a must-win contest for Ted Cruz. (It’s never a good sign when an event is being touted as your “Alamo.”) And even if Cruz can keep Trump from winning the nomination outright, taking the nomination from him at a contested convention is now far more difficult.

But on Wednesday morning, Trump fans had pitchforks poised. Early in the day, Breitbart editor John Nolte, the Walter Duranty of pro-Trump propagandists, tweeted: “If Trump loses to Hillary . . . I will forever blame #NeverTrump,” referring to the movement of conservatives who have said they will not vote for Donald Trump in a general election under any circumstances. As a matter of psephology, he’s not wrong: Donald Trump will lose if people don’t vote for him. That’s how elections work. But as electoral strategy, Nolte is not exactly winning friends and influencing people.

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Consider as evidence the rest of his Twitter timeline, which is a running tirade against Trump opponents, variously described as “saboteurs,” “supremacists,” and “vote-thieves” suffering an acute case of “prideful butthurt.” In typical conspiracy-mongering fashion, Nolte says #NeverTrump adherents have “allied with Dems and MSM [the mainstream media] to destroy Trump in General” “to keep their spot at the trough,” or, elsewhere, to “retain their $$$.”

It requires staggering self-deception to place the blame for a Trump general-election defeat anywhere except where it would belong: squarely on the shoulders of Donald Trump. It’s not on account of a Twitter hashtag that the average polling spread for the last month has Clinton winning by 8.5 points, or that only five head-to-head polls in the last year projected that Trump would run better than Clinton (and even then only modestly). It’s not because of a handful of vocal conservatives that Trump’s unfavorable ratings started, when he announced last June, at 68 percent — and that they are at nearly the same place now. That’s on Donald Trump.

If Trump wins, his supporters will trot out the guillotine. If Trump loses, they’ll trot out the guillotine.

And so would be a loss in November. Trump has unprecedented name recognition. He’s garnered some $1.9 billion in free publicity during this presidential cycle — more than six times as much as his closest competitor (Cruz). He has “Ten Billion Dollars” at his disposal. Trump has everything he needs to be president. If he can’t do it because there is a group of conservatives who are not interested in rallying around an untrustworthy liberal who mocks the handicapped and calls women “pigs” — isn’t that his problem? Isn’t it Trump’s problem if a whole lot of conservatives think that women shouldn’t be punished for having abortions, that the president of the United states shouldn’t retweet white supremacists, and that American foreign policy shouldn’t be operated like a protection racket? If Donald Trump wants conservative votes, isn’t it his job to show that he represents conservatives? And if those conservatives won’t acquiesce, then Trump’s supporters can go out and find other people who will vote for him. That’s also how elections work.

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But Trump’s partisans won’t do that — because winning this election is not actually what they’re about. They’re not about “making America great again.” They’re sure as hell not about party unity. They’re about vengeance. They’re about crushing the conservatives they believe have betrayed them. They’re about tying the villains to the tracks and pushing the TrumpTrain™ full-steam ahead.

#related#If Trump is the nominee, it won’t matter what anti-Trump conservatives do leading up to November. If Trump wins, his supporters will trot out the guillotine. If Trump loses, they’ll trot out the guillotine. They just want to see heads roll.

This has been the animating impulse from the beginning. At the heart of the Trump phenomenon is a bloodthirst, and one way or another, there will be blood.


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