It looks like Donald Trump is going to win today’s Indiana Republican primary. According to the latest polls, he has rapidly expanded his lead over Ted Cruz in the last week, suggesting that the latter’s strategy of selecting Carly Fiorina as his running mate and the non-compete deal he arranged with John Kasich has not helped him in the least.
There are 57 Republican delegates at stake in Indiana and the rules award 30 of them to the overall winner and three each to the winner in the nine congressional districts. So the overall winner will likely win anywhere from 45 to all 57 delegates and if Trump does so, he will then require less than 200 more delegates of the remaining 450 to win the nomination outright, a reachable target.
On the Democratic side, it looks like Hillary Clinton will win by a small margin over Bernie Sanders but since their delegates are awarded proportionately, each will gain roughly half the delegates with her getting slightly more, which is not good enough for Sanders since he is the one who is behind and needs to close the gap.
As Trump’s nomination gets closer, the lines are being sharply drawn for or against him. Within the Republican party, there are those who say that his heterodox views will destroy the party by trampling all over the stances (climate change denialism, anti-choice, anti-Obamacare, anti-poor, anti-LGBT, pro-oligarchy, Bible thumping, flag waving, pro-‘free trade’, militaristic) that have been the party’s brand for so long. The harshest criticisms have come from the neoconservatives who seem to fear that while he talks about ‘making America great again’, he sees this more in terms of making better trade deals rather than what they want, which is projecting military might all over the globe, encircling Russia and China with military bases, and being willing to wage war against any nation is not properly subservient to the US. It should be no surprise that this this is the same group that is suggesting that if he is the nominee, they may well support Hillary Clinton, since she is a loyal neoconservative.
Things are more confusing for those of us who oppose the neoconservative agenda and are not Republican supporters in general.. It is hard to get a read on how bad Trump would be since he has said so many contradictory things. But it is clear that he is nowhere close to being as hardline as Cruz on issues such as health care, LGBT issues, religion, anti-choice, and anti-poor. His worst stances have been his downright sexist statements, xenophobic utterances against Hispanics and Muslims, and his discriminatory business practices and scandals.
What also alarms people about Trump is his possible recklessness, especially when it comes to issues of war and peace. Would he, simply out of pique because he thought a foreign leader insulted him, decide to initiate military action, start a third world war, or even initiate a nuclear strike? In other words, how much of a reckless hothead is he in militaristic terms?
It is clear that when it comes to rhetoric, he is prone to wild exaggerations and a disregard for facts. In the world of international diplomacy and finance, words carry great weight. A casual remark from the US president can set off alarm bells in other nations and send financial markets reeling. But it is also true that after some initial turbulence, people tend to factor in such things and will likely discount his statements.
So the real issue is whether he will be reckless in more than just words and take concrete harmful actions. Here the record is thin because he has not held public office and we only have his business record. From what I can see, while his business practices are definitely shady, he has not been particularly reckless if by that we mean taking personal risks. In fact, what he has demonstrated is a talent for is taking few risks with his own money but getting others (the government and the other investors) to take the risks while he reaps the benefits. The four bankruptcies he has had are not personal ones but businesses he was involved in.
If there is one thread that runs through his utterances, it is that he seems to see himself as an excellent deal maker. He brings up the idea of deals all the time and his most withering criticism of the Obama administration and his rivals is that they don’t know how to make good deals. Even on the recent Cruz-Kasich pact where Kasich supposedly promised to not compete in Indiana while Cruz would return the favor in New Mexico and Oregon, Trump’s response was typical, “I have a feeling it’s not a good thing. Cruz looks like a fool. He can’t make a deal.”
He says that this failure in deal making is the cause of all that ails the US. He boasts that he will be able to make deals with anyone, even his foes, and that those deals will be good for the US. While that is a specious argument, it does provide insight into the way he thinks and operates and may give a clue to his likely behavior.
In business and legal negotiations, the practice seems to be to start by making extravagant claims and staking out a maximalist position and then start working down from there before arriving at a deal that both sides are willing to accept. Trump seems to think that that will work in politics too.
The main flaw in his reasoning is that it is based on the idea that the government is just another business and works on the same principles. It is what drives the efforts of the right to corporatize public institutions by installing business types to run them, people who prioritize profits and losses and cost cutting and not the providing of essential services and benefits to those who need them
So this approach by Trump may, if he is elected president, result in him failing spectacularly. But it does not necessarily indicate recklessness in terms military adventurism.