How far will America let this tantrum go?

The Observer editorial board

Donald Trump speaks Tuesday night at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.
Donald Trump speaks Tuesday night at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. Getty

The first time we wondered if Republican Donald Trump’s campaign might be over was when he said John McCain was not a war hero because “I like people who weren’t captured.”

That was July 2015, one month after he formally launched his bid. After that, we thought other things might at least tap the brakes on his rise. Like talking about Megyn Kelly’s menstruation. Like calling Mexicans rapists. Or making fun of a disabled New York Times reporter. Or calling Carly Fiorina ugly. Or proposing a ban on all Muslims in America.

Of course, his poll numbers seemed to get stronger after each egregious remark. And today, nine months to the day after he announced his run, Donald Trump has all but locked up the Republican nomination to be president of the United States.

Mathematically Trump has a long way to go, and John Kasich’s win in his home state of Ohio Tuesday delivered a shot of hope into his long-shot campaign. But Trump leads in several big, upcoming states. Barring an unlikely sudden surge by Kasich or Ted Cruz (who went 0-for-4 with Missouri pending), the only way to stop Trump will be a brokered convention in Cleveland June 18-21, the nation’s first in 64 years.

Trump rolled in Florida Tuesday, knocking Marco Rubio out of the race. He coasted in Illinois, won North Carolina, led in Missouri and finished second in Ohio. Establishment Republicans surely convened a conference call devising ways to get delegates not to support him at the convention.

It was all unthinkable not long ago. But Trump appeals to so many camps for so many reasons.

The billionaire businessman is attractive to many lower and middle class Americans who have seen their jobs outsourced or watched legal immigrants leapfrog them in the office hierarchy. Trump’s xenophobic outbursts tap into the economic anxiety of a shrinking middle class. When pundits talk about voters being “angry,” this is a big part of what they’re angry about.

In an era when government in Washington is perceived to be broken, many voters see Trump as the only true outsider and the only one with any shot at changing how things are done in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

And his supporters love that he’s “not politically correct.” To us that means he’s disrespectful and unappreciative of anyone who thinks differently from him. To his fans, it means he tells it like it is (even though his statements are repeatedly proven false).

We continue to find a President Trump administration inconceivable. But we have underestimated him every step of the way. In the coming weeks and months, Americans will have to decide just how far they want to take this tantrum. Kasich vowed Tuesday night that he “will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.” Voters should make sure Trump doesn’t either.