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EDITORIAL

Candidate Trump

Now that his rivals have quit, the Republican Party is at the mercy of populism

Donald Trump celebrates after learning of his victory at the Indiana primary.
Donald Trump celebrates after learning of his victory at the Indiana primary. AFP

The decision by Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich to bow out of the race for the Republican nomination paves the way for the billionaire Donald Trump to be proclaimed the official candidate to the White House at the July convention.

This opens up a very real scenario in which a populist, xenophobic, homophobic and sexist candidate will head one of the two options for holding the presidency of the United States over the next four years.

Ever since he announced his participation in the primaries, Trump has created situations and made statements that are unacceptable for anyone aiming to hold the most powerful political office in the world.

Trump’s recognition is the final phase of a process that began the last time that the Republicans were in the White House, under George W. Bush

It was partly that extravagant behavior that made people underestimate his chances of success. It was hoped that the primaries would finally showcase the disgust that Republican conservative voters surely felt toward a candidate whom party leaders themselves had rejected.

But it was not the case. His campaign has been crowned with victories in a variety of settings, demonstrating a clear popular support for Trump: if any other Republican had achieved the same results, very probably his rivals would have quit a long time ago.

Lacking a clear strategy or any convincing candidates, the Republican Party has failed in its attempts to block his nomination. First it sought Trump defeats at successive primaries; then, it forced the process in favor of Cruz in states such as Colorado; later, it clung to the fantasy of an open Convention despite the political risk – not to mention the risk to public order – that this entailed...

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But what the conservative establishment has failed to understand in all this time is that it was the party itself that, over the years, created the foundations for Trump’s victory tour: it tolerated – and sympathized with – the existence within its own boundaries of a radical populist movement, the Tea Party, which has systematically undermined trust in the political elites, subjected Congress to paralysis for purely tactical reasons, and taken its hostility against the White House to extremes simply because executive power happens to be in the rival party’s hands, even going as far as to allow unfounded rumors questioning Barack Obama’s legitimacy as president to prosper.

Whether US analyses forecasting that a Trump triumph would signal the suicide of a party with a 160-year history are accurate or not – and there are already reputable conservatives who are publicly stating they will vote for Hillary Clinton in November – what is certain is that Trump’s recognition is the final phase of a process that began the last time that the Republicans were in the White House, under George W. Bush.

Trump has shown an ability to combine the anti-system reflexes within a party that is a fundamental part of the system with the deep disaffection felt by the middle class over the economic crisis, and he has sprinkled this mix with a good dose of scandal and controversy.

To the great concern of the sensible elements that may remain within the Republican Party, and no doubt to the great distress of the global arena, Donald Trump no longer has any rivals in his field in the race to the White House.

English version by Susana Urra.