On the night that he swept the New York Republican presidential primary, showman Donald Trump retweeted good wishes sent his way from a white supremacist.
You could toss it off as a small thing; perhaps he just hastily hit the RT button without realizing who @keksec_org was. The tweet was generic enough: “Your policies will make this state and country great again! #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.” No time to click on a well-wisher’s Twitter handle on the night you’re winning a major state primary with a campaign based on white male rage—you know, to make sure they don’t identify as a member of the #RWDS crowd (the hashtag standing for “right-wing death squad”). Or as a “neo-Boer,” which roughly translates as being an admirer of South Africa’s abolished apartheid regime. Or have a feed filled with images of very pale, scantily clad women featured under the hashtag #WhiteGirlsAreMagic.
This, after all, was the night of the polished Trump, according to the television. One commentator even described the triumphant candidate’s victory speech as “gracious,” presumably because he didn’t call anybody names, or call for Mexico to pay for a wall. The new Trump is said to be the product of Paul Manafort, the new, grown-up manager the showman hired to fix things around the time the papers were reporting his presidential campaign to be in disarray.
Commentators remarked on Trump’s newfound “message discipline,” the message apparently being that the Republican delegate system is “rigged” against him. Of his win in New York, Trump said, “It’s really nice to win the delegates with the votes.”
It was a swipe at Ted Cruz—whom Trump elevated from the moniker of “Lyin’ Ted” to that of “Senator Cruz” in his Tuesday night speech—in reference to Cruz’s success at winning delegates at state and local party conventions that name some delegates outside of the primary or caucus system. Cruz, with his superior network of local right-wing activists, also proved adept at winning delegates in caucus states. Trump is far ahead of Cruz in terms of share of popular votes cast so far in the GOP nominating contests, but Cruz has been nipping at the showman’s heels in terms of the delegate count. Before Trump’s big win in New York, where he won 89 delegates, Cruz had racked up 559 to Trump’s 756. (With his New York win, Trump now has 845; Cruz did not win any delegates in the Empire State.)
While Mexico did earn a mention in Trump’s remarks, it was in the context of his economic message, in which he claimed that our neighbor to the south was taking American jobs. He promised that in a Trump presidency, “great business leaders” such as corporate raider Carl Icahn—who bought TWA in the 1980s, folded it, and then sold off its parts—would be negotiating U.S. trade deals, and the jobs would come back.
And yet, just an hour before that exercise of purported self-discipline—in the Trump universe, such definitions are relative—Trump retweeted a white supremacist. It seems that Manafort’s enforcement portfolio extends not to the candidate’s use of Twitter. Or maybe it does. After all, it’s not the first time that Trump has amplified the tweets of racist far-right activists.
If the message discipline required of Trump to keep accumulating delegates through the electoral process demands that he back away from his more racially incendiary rhetoric, a seemingly accidental retweet of a white supremacist’s blessing could help keep the haters in the Trump fold. After all, Cruz isn’t exactly a softy on Muslims, Mexicans, or members of other minority groups. His rhetoric is simply more finely coded, as in one of his favorite phrases, “radical Islamic extremists,” which is at times coupled with stoking fears that the implementation of Shariah law is imminent in the United States. It’s a phrase that leaves it to the listener to apply to all Muslims. Trump’s rhetorical weapons are more blunt; he’s called for barring the entrance of Muslims into the U.S., which makes establishment types squirm in their seats.
Over the course of primary season, as Cruz accumulated delegates in greater numbers than his vote tallies would seem to support, allegations of cheating emerged. Breitbart News, which leans so hard toward Trump you have to cock your head sideways to read it, reported that several pro-Cruz delegates managed to scuttle a plan to switch Colorado’s nominating system to a primary, which would have been much harder for Cruz to win. The Missouri Times described the Show Me State’s Republican Party as schismatic after Cruz worked the state convention system to win a slate of delegates. In Georgia, Trump surrogates walked out of a district convention in protest after a Trump delegate was not seated.
So as Trump now turns his attention to winning over those delegates described as “unbound” (meaning that they haven’t been pledged to a particular candidate), it seems he’s not above a little vote-buying himself. According to Politico’s Eli Stokols, the plan is to woo delegates to Trump by flying them to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, maybe with a little wining and dining, or possible an expense-paid visit to Trump’s luxury Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago.
While many experts doubt that Trump can accumulate the 1,237 delegates he would need to walk into the July convention as the party’s nominee, all agree that there is now no way in which Cruz can make that cut. “We’ll be going to the convention no matter what happens, and I think we’re going to go in strong,” Trump said.
He’s joined in that thought by members of the Republican establishment, who, according to Stokols, are beginning to get comfortable with the idea of a Trump nomination, seeing as how, in the quest for party preservation, it might be preferable to a riot in the streets of Ohio, which is an open-carry state. The potential riot has been suggested by Trump on several occasions, so now there’s talk of the “real number” of delegates the showman would need to win to clinch the nomination—a number lower than 1,237 but far higher than any tally Cruz is likely to put together.
RNC member and former Jeb Bush supporter Ron Kaufman, described by Stokols as being close to Mitt Romney, signaled the new thinking by party regulars that it would be a mistake to deny Trump the nomination if he has the vast majority of delegates.
“In the end, we want to make sure all those millions of people who voted in a Republican primary understand their votes were worthwhile,” Kaufman told Stokols. “You just can’t kick all those voters—more than have ever voted in our primary before—to the curb. We want to make sure they’re with us in November.”
After all, it’s Trump who has brought all those new voters into the party.
The morning after The Hill reported Trump’s retweet of a message from a white supremacist, the tweet remained in the @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed. That’s one way to lock in the GOP’s new Aryan constituency, one imagines—with a little subliminal message discipline.