Donald Trump scored a huge victory in New York, as did Hillary Clinton. But let’s face it, that was already priced into their stock.
It does nothing to diminish the magnitude of Trump’s win, even on his home turf, to say that it was obvious he would clobber Ted Cruz after two weeks of polls that had him over 50 percent. The only lingering mystery was whether he would win around 90 of the state's 95 delegates, which he did, moving him that much closer to 1,237.
Everyone in the media is fixated on the math, and that’s understandable, but I think Trump is also up against a cultural war. That is evident in much of the media coverage, and in the way that Hollywood types denounce Trump in apocalyptic terms, but also in the political precincts.
Case in point: Politico reports that some GOP operatives are getting the message that if you work for Trump, you’ll never work in this town again. Says anti-Trump Super PAC chief Katie Packer: “I would never hire or want to work with somebody who tried to help Trump. It would be disqualifying.”
A blacklisting threat speaks volumes about the Republican Party view that employment by Trump amounts to going over to the dark side. Perhaps those sending such signals should ask themselves why Trump has won 2 million more votes and far more contests than Cruz.
And the candidates who had highly credentialed consultants—Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and others—are no longer in the race. So this sounds more like bitterness than anything else.
Of course, if Trump wins he will begin to control much of the party machinery, and those making the threats could be the ones angling to get work from the nominee.
Another aspect of this culture war is not just that Trump gets waves of negative media attention, which might be explained by his record as a provocative and controversial candidate. It’s that he gets hammered with equal intensity by commentators on the left and the right.
I can’t remember a presidential contender who drew so much vitriol from both ideological corners, even as he continued to pile up victories. And you don’t have to look far for evidence.
These stories were on Salon’s home page yesterday:
“Neanderthals for Trump”
“The Mad King of New York: Why the Empire State Lies at the Heart of Trump’s Sinister Appeal”
“Big Top Trump: His Yearning for ‘Showbiz’ Quality at RNC Hilariously Illustrates How Donald Trump Has Turned the Party into a Circus”
And these stories were on National Review’s home page yesterday:
“Trump’s Counterfeit Masculinity” (depicting him as a caveman dragging a woman off by her hair)
“Women Really, Really Dislike Donald Trump: Take Note, Republicans”
“No, I Will Never ‘Come Around’ to Supporting Trump” (that’s by Jonah Goldberg)
So love him or hate him, there really is a new political force emerging, which we can call Trumpism. It’s not rooted in the political base of either party. Rather, it’s an organic, personality-based movement that appeals to many voters on a gut level—and breeds fear and resentment among his detractors.
Cruz warned the other day that a Trump nomination would lead to a “bloodbath” and “hand the election to Hillary Clinton.” It’s that kind of rhetoric that makes clear the Republican Party will be fractured if Trump wins in Cleveland—and if he doesn’t.
A number of things have to fall into place for Trump to convert his political success into an actual nomination. And one of them, in my view, is overcoming the cultural resistance that depicts him as a danger to his party and his country.
But every time he wins big in a state like New York, that doomsday message becomes harder to sell.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.