Yes indeed, that is a reference to the wonderful 1964 Peter Sellers classic movie, Dr. Strangelove, and the subtitle to that movie was How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. As I stumbled out of the air-conditioned embrace of the Burlingame Airport Hyatt after a weekend of the California Republican State Convention, that movie title hit me like a freight train because something happened in that hotel this weekend.
I am not quite sure when it hit me. Maybe it was when protesters snuck into the Burlingame Airport Hyatt and hung a gigantic yellow sign that screamed "Stop Hate" across the vast open atrium of the hotel. And I thought the picture of an elephant holding a gun to a person's head was a particularly nice touch as well. Subtle in the same way that our elections have become, and yet for some reason the shot seemed to miss the target.
Maybe it was when Donald Trump did his routine in front of a lunchtime room of California delegates who had come to the hotel for the convention. I was expecting fireworks, people yelling, standing, applauding. Instead, despite the undeniable Trump energy as he pinballed from one thought in his head to another, the crowd was, well, subdued.
It could have been when I started interviewing the various GOP folks there and one down ticket candidate said, "well, if Trump is our nominee, they will have to figure out how to reconcile that, and I am not really sure how they do." That was a weird way for someone to talk one of their own potential presidential candidates. It had that feel of parents who wake up one morning and realize that no, your son is not going to be the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, but instead is going to be a sheep herder in Kazakstan... Well, that's nice. And you are our son so, um, we support you. Because we have to.
Actually, it's even more complicated than that right now. Let's be honest, these folks have been through an emotional wringer that they are probably not stress tested for. One after another, established party favorites crashed into the rocks of Donald Trump, splintering into little candidate shards like flimsy skiffs. And as Donald Trump surged forward you could hear them saying things to each other along the lines of, "this too shall pass."
And then it came the great consolidation. The powers that be woke from their slumber realized shit was going down and started to rally around the consensus candidate, Marco Rubio, who promptly exploded into a million robotic pieces deep in the woods of New Hampshire. Another scalp for Trump and another politician aground on the rocks.
Of all people, it turned out that John Kasich was right. The hell with the primaries, we are taking this thing to Cleveland! We are going to arrive in Ohio, stumble in one door an ungodly mess of political suicide pacts and emerge the other side with a chosen one to be selected at a later date. Mitt Romney? Paul Ryan? Well, we figure that part out later but at least Drumpf is back locked in his gold plated tower like a political Saruman (Lord of the Rings reference folks).
It's like an entire political party has been going through the five stages of grief. But recently, the final phase of the GOP emotional journey is rearing its head: acceptance. And this is what I was feeling in the spacious atrium of the Burlingame Hyatt. The Great Resignation has begun. The dark reality is that Donald Trump has a very good chance of getting the necessary number of delegates before Cleveland, rendering the whole strategy of crawling into Cleveland moot. And down ticket candidates are now starting to decide how to deal with this new reality. This weekend, many of them voted with their feet, as only three Republican members of the California Assembly attended their own party's event. Do you really want a picture you next to the orange-haired one in the middle of a hotly contested race?
Others look at the White House as a hollow prize, especially with the threat of the Senate switching sides. After all, the GOP has been out of the White House for eight years, and the end of times did not arrive. Another four years they can swallow, but losing the Senate and several Supreme Court seats is a whole different matter. Rationalizing this way means they can pretend El Trumpo is off on a sad little island somewhere while the party romps off to win the bigger battle.
Which bring us back to that Trump speech. You know why it wasn't all fire and brimstone? Sure he lobbed attacks at "Lyin' Ted" and folks he claims are out to get him, but his heart wasn't in it. Because in his corpulent Frito-hair head, he has it in the bag. The fight is over and it's time to start unifying and getting for the big show. In other words, he too has arrived at acceptance.