Super Tuesday’s been and gone, and Grace Segers considers what is left in the wake of the results
Back in the more innocent days of October 2015, I, along with most American commentators, asserted that reality TV star and real estate magnate Donald Trump would not become the Republican nominee, much less the US president. Many suspected that the 2016 presidential election would be an interesting one—two populist candidates in each party were garnering large amounts of support. But 2016 isn’t only interesting, it’s historic: Super Tuesday has illustrated that the American two-party system is deeply flawed, and possibly no longer fully represents the American populace’s views.
“Super Tuesday” is the first Tuesday in March, when twelve states vote in primaries or caucuses. Colorado voted in the Democratic race but not the Republican one, and Alaska visa versa. The twelve states are incredibly diverse in terms of geography and ideology, ranging from the more moderate Vermont and Massachusetts to multiple traditionally conservative Deep South states. In the Republican race, Donald Trump swept numerous southern states, as well as New England. In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton defeated her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, in most of the Super Tuesday states. These primaries show that Democrats are beginning to consolidate around their prospective nominee, but the Republicans are splintering into warring factions which could result in the prolongation of this already nasty primary fight.
Trump won in seven out of the eleven states voting in Republican primaries or caucuses on Tuesday, obtaining a total of 274 delegates. 1,237 delegates are needed to win the Republican nomination. Trump has now won states in every major US region. His victory on Tuesday is significant because he not only won in more moderate, secular Vermont and Massachusetts, but also gained evangelical conservative votes from other southern states. This proves that the traditional Republican coalition of deeply religious conservatives is not as monolithic as previously thought; these voters are willing to elect a man who has supported Planned Parenthood and flubbed a quote from the Bible.
Why do such disparate voters support the same man? Trump benefits from his political demagoguery: he has a broad spectrum of opinions, which allows voters to pick and choose which of his policies they like. Conservatives in Arkansas may not like Trump’s support of Planned Parenthood or Medicare, but they do approve of his hard-line denunciation of illegal immigrants and Muslims. Likewise, working-class moderate voters in Massachusetts may disagree with Trump’s disparaging comments towards women and people of color, but they like his promise to promote American job growth at the expense of China or Mexico. Trump speaks so forcefully that criticisms of his varied opinions backfire—his supporters don’t care if they disagree with some of his platform, they just want him to “make America great again”.
Trump also has the fortune of a divided opposition. Senator Ted Cruz won his home state, Texas, and Oklahoma and Alaska, obtaining a total of 161 delegates. Senator Marco Rubio won Minnesota, obtaining 82 delegates. Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson didn’t win any states, but neither is dropping out. While neither Cruz nor Rubio had an incredibly strong showing, both still have incentives to stay in the race. Each is arguing that he is the best anti-Trump candidate, and is trying to consolidate the so-called “establishment” vote around his candidacy. But as long as voters who don’t support Trump are divided between his rivals, Trump has a better shot at the nomination, even with only 30-35% of the vote. Between his strong showing on Super Tuesday and the continued division of the Republican Party, Trump is nigh unstoppable. If he wins the Republican nomination, the GOP may be splintered into two factions: that of the populists, and that of the old guard terrified at what their party is becoming.
In a slightly less muddled field, Clinton has regained her edge over Bernie Sanders. Super Tuesday brought Clinton victories in seven states, as well as 544 delegates (2,383 are needed to win the Democratic nomination), and her campaign has taken on a renewed air of inevitability. Sanders is by no means out of the race, winning four states and 349 delegates on Tuesday. One of the more contested Democrat races was in Massachusetts, which Clinton narrowly carried with the support of working-class voters near Boston. This shows that Clinton may able to build a coalition to carry her to the presidency, with support from minority voters in the Deep South and Democrats in the Northeast.
However, if Clinton and Trump do become the nominees of their respective parties, the former Secretary of State will need to successfully appeal to the working-class white male voters, most of whom are currently flocking to Trump. Much like Sanders, Trump speaks to a portion of the electorate who feel abused by the economic system. Although Trump and Sanders have opposing views on almost every topic, their populist passion is similar. Interestingly, Clinton’s campaign against Sanders may be a trial run: again in the Presidential election, she may have to appeal to the voters she struggled with in the primary.
Thus far, the 2016 presidential race has proved that traditional party politics no longer define who obtains each party’s nomination. A large portion of the American population’s anger is propelling Trump, and to a lesser extent Sanders, to far greater success than anyone expected. Super Tuesday may be remembered as a harbinger of the coming general election, fought between two deeply flawed candidates both wishing to win the support of a deeply dissatisfied electorate. In any case, 2016 is shaping up to be far more revolutionary than anyone could have imagined only four months ago.
Featured image credit: DonkeyHotey on Flickr