When you hear "Hail to the Chief," do you now start thinking of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE?
A candidacy that was first thought of as a colossal joke has turned into a serious farce. Trump surely looks like he will be the nominee of the GOP if two things happen: Gov. John Kasich loses his home state of Ohio and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE loses his home state of Florida. The day of reckoning is March 15. Ohio and Florida are winner-take-all states. How can these two candidates stay in the race if they can't deliver their own states?
Already, the GOP establishment is petrified that the unthinkable is thinkable. The beginning of an audible protest has begun. Republican Rep. Scott RigellScott RigellSpanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat GOP rushes to embrace Trump MORE of Virginia has called Trump "a bully unworthy of our nomination."
The leader of the Republican Party in the House, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (R-Wis.), has bluntly stated that "If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry."
The most serious and potentially damaging charge against Trump is that he is an unstable person with a temperament that makes him unfit to be commander in chief. In addition, his lack of knowledge in regards to national security matters makes him unqualified, as well. These sentiments were expressed in the strongest terms by the last two nominees of the Republican Party (Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney) just yesterday.
But the voters who are voting in the Republican primaries are not listening to their leaders. It is my belief that those GOP voters are voting for Trump in large measure because the "establishment" tells them not to. These voters are getting a secret pleasure out of going into the voting booth and saying "screw you."
When I look into the faces of the adoring crowds cheering for Trump, I clearly see the faces of those who were for George Wallace's presidential campaigns in 1968 and 1972. You remember Wallace's rallying cry: "Send them a message." Trump is the message, with a good bit of old-fashioned racism, nativism and just plain hate thrown in.
A lot of those who are Trump supporters lead what Henry David Thoreau called "lives of quiet desperation." Now is their chance to strike back. Trump is their vessel. Don't they care that Trump will bring down and tear apart their party? Don't they care that he will lose to probable Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports MORE in the general election? No, not at all!
They, like Trump, are just interested in satisfying their own personal immediate needs. When someone like Mike Murphy, the Republican strategist, says, "Who does he offend? College-educated white women and Latinos. The groups we need to win," that line of reasoning means nothing to them. These are not strategic voters.
In a memorable live interview with CBS on Wednesday night, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said the choice in November will be between a "dishonest candidate" and a "crazy candidate." And in his opinion, the "crazy candidate" will lose. Not only lose, but "beaten like a drum." I can't ever remember such a statement.
Right now, it looks like Trump is a repeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964: a total debacle for the GOP in November. But the conventional wisdom surely has not applied so far. Trump was supposed to be gone by now; a subject of ridicule and embarrassment. That's obviously not the case. He is on top and looks unstoppable.
The conventional wisdom is that Trump is an aberration; the first Tuesday in November will bring back reality and normalcy. I hope that comes to pass. There is a segment of the American population that has always been susceptible to a demagogue and those voters are eagerly embracing one now.
The question now is, how many of them are there?
Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.