THE BLOG
02/24/2016 11:35 pm ET Updated Feb 25, 2016

Trump in Command: Despite Mispronouncing Its Name, His Big Win in Nevada Sets the Stage

It's probably best, since nothing actually happens until it happens, to wait till next week, when the human-scale presidential nomination contests of February suddenly morph into the multiple-state extravaganza of this year's "Super Tuesday," to proclaim the ascendancy of Donald Trump over the Republican Party. Which is not so much the "hostile takeover" as many would like to have it as it is the stunning yet utterly logical product of powerful trends in Republican politics and the dominant media culture.

Trump's big win in the Nevada Republican presidential caucuses dispelled yet another myth about his presidential candidacy; that he has a ceiling of little more than a third of the vote in the Republican contest. In the Silver State, the most representative contest so far, where rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio each had bigger organizations to turn out caucus participants -- the lack of which was Trump's big pitfall in his opening Iowa loss -- Trump, with 46 percent, garnered more votes than the two senators combined.

Here's how strong Trump is in the Republican contest.

In South Carolina, Trump won handily even after melting down in the debate there and getting into a fight with the Pope.

In Nevada, Trump won big even though he routinely mispronounces the state's name.

Ivanka Trump, shown in this Trump for President ad on how to support her father in the Nevada Republican presidential caucuses, carries on The Donald's practice of mispronouncing the state's name. He won in a landslide anyway.

Nevadans usually take that seriously.

For example, when Nevada moved to the opening tier of nomination contest states for 2008, I was on hand in its homey little capital of Carson City for the very first candidate forum of the 2008 Democratic presidential race. The Nevadans there were absolutely thrilled, as you might suppose. Right up to the moment when moderator George Stephanopoulos, the ABC News star, opened the proceedings and mispronounced their state's name with a soft "a." (Like most pronunciations of Spanish place names in the US, Nevada is completely Anglicized. Or, as we say here in the West, Westernized.)

It wasn't a huge surprise that an East Coast media personality didn't know -- or bother to find out -- how to pronounce Nevada. It was a surprise that a former Clinton White House communications director didn't know how.

But the cries of dismay and disapproval that greeted Stephanopoulos in 2007 weren't replicated for Trump in 2016.

It turns out that the billionaire bully boy -- who owns a big casino hotel on the Vegas Strip -- can call Nevada whatever he wants.

Why? Because the notorious Obama birther and greenhouse denier is saying what a huge swath of Republicans wants to hear.

Media entrance polls indicate that most Nevada participants are angry and made their presidential choice long ago. With only three days between South Carolina and Nevada, Trump didn't have time to blow up in another debate or get into a fight with the head of another major world religion. Which, let's be clear, only cost him a handful of points in his otherwise big win in the Palmetto State primary.

Back in July of last year, I had thought that Trump, a chicken hawk Vietnam War draft dodger who ludicrously says he feels like a vet because he went to military school as a kid, might have finally blown it when he claimed that John McCain isn't a war hero. While I not infrequently disagree with McCain, who is arguably the most famous Vietnam War hero and whom I backed for president in 2000, as I noted when I wrote about Trump's appalling attack, Trump can't even carry John McCain's jock strap. Yet he got away with his shamefully ludicrous dissing of the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

So it quickly became apparent that Trump was so effective at appealing to the huge backlash constituency that Fox News and Republican operatives have so assiduously cultivated over the years that there was little the canny opportunist could do to screw it up. Just as long as he kept acting like an entertaining proto-fascist, that is.

I'm convinced it is fundamentally an act on Trump's part, by the way. After all, we once backed the same Democratic presidential candidate. (The good news about Trump's ascendancy is there's so much to discuss in coming months.) But let's not forget that people often become what they pretend to be.

Trump has been greatly aided in his ascendancy by the nature of his competition. Loudly hailed by much of a rather clueless national media establishment as one of the strongest fields of candidates in recent memory, it was actually a collection of mostly empty suits and hollow wannabes. Just as Trump, rather to his credit, took great glee in pointing out.

Ladies and gentlemen, consider the emperor who sallied forth with no clothes, John Ellis ("Jeb!") Bush. A hundred and fifty million bucks got him bupkis.

Then there are the only effective opponents to our ultimate "reality" TV star, that would-be Joe McCarthy, ultra-rightist Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and a slick chameleon-on-plaid and ex-Bush protege, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Cruz dropped to third in Nevada right after having to fire his communications director, who foolishly tweeted about a supposed video clip of Rubio saying the Bible holds few answers. Dude, don't be a dunce. Why would Robo-Rubio, of all pols, say anything like that??

Naturally, he didn't. In fact, as you might suppose, Rubio said the opposite, that the Bible holds all the answers. But of course. Because the Republicans have become a party that spreads religion over everything, like ketchup over mystery meat in a bad diner.

The seeming irony is that it is Trump -- the New York sybarite who brandishes his ex-supermodel wife and beautiful daughter as major weapons in his arsenal of symbols -- who is winning the battle for evangelical voters. That makes no sense at all, right?

Unless you think sociologically.

What fundamentalist religionists the world over have in common, as we've seen to our horror in the Middle East, is followership in authority-based, triumphalist creeds.

Trump can't even be bothered to learn how to say the name of his supposedly favorite biblical passage. But it doesn't matter because he so vividly presents himself as an authoritarian leader catering to the prejudices of a self-anointed elect. The will to power dominates.

Are the Republican pros finally going to put a stop to Trumpism, as they've been intimating for many months now? Unlikely. They are, as the Brits say, hoist by their own petard.

But let's save a full post-mortem till after next week's Confederate (excuse me, "SEC") primary.

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