In the wake of the Super Tuesday primary results, what was once a clown car of the Republican presidential nomination race has turned into a gift that keeps on giving, and not in a good way for the GOP.
Of course, the Republican establishment is in full freak-out mode thanks to what looks like an upcoming coronation for Donald Trump in Cleveland this summer. Not that the Democrats should be smug, as anything can happen: This campaign has morphed into the weirdest presidential race since 1940, when a Democratic utility executive became a Republican for five minutes in an attempt to deny Franklin D. Roosevelt an unprecedented third term.
The only reason the 1940 election was not a completely torrid affair was in part because social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle were mercifully non-existent. FDR’s opponent, Wendell Willkie, was reportedly in the midst of a longstanding extramarital affair, but the Democrats said nothing because the party’s vice presidential candidate, Henry A. Wallace, was an oddball and Republicans had proof: as in correspondence from a Russian self-described “guru” who in letters preached to Wallace the virtues of Agni Yoga.
Willkie lost that election, but remained on very good terms with Roosevelt, even as World War II dragged on and they were on course to run against each other in 1944. Willkie was denied the Republican nomination, however, and he died a few weeks before the November election.
Such magnanimity and cooperation amongst American politicians is painfully rare today. The life of Wendell Willkie, however, is a lesson many politicians could learn from today, including Donald Trump. One notable difference between these two businessmen-turned-politicians: Willkie actually ran to the left of FDR on civil rights and racial equality issues.
Trump, of course, has reveled in his rhetoric over the past eight months, with his insistence that we somehow find a way to prevent Muslims from entering the U.S., in addition to his comments about Mexico and Mexicans — including his taunting of black protesters earlier this week, asking with a sneer as they were escorted from a rally, “Are you from Mexico?” Along with his slow disavowal of David Duke and the KKK over the weekend, Trump has shown his critics that he is a demagogue at worst or ignorant at best.
Hence, his recent comments to ABC News that he has “done so much for equality” come as an insult to the long list of Americans who have made a real difference on this front, including Branch Rickey, Earl Warren, Lyndon Johnson, Josephine Baker, even swing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy — not to mention a certain woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus, Rosa Parks.
So, what does Trump insist is evidence of his leadership when it comes to equality? His Mar-a-Lago estate and club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Once the home of a General Mills heiress, the estate was donated to the U.S. government in the late 1970s, in the hope that it would become a “Winter White House.” Trump’s struggle to purchase the property 30 years ago, as discussed in the Washington Post, is in part why he insists he would be the best negotiator with America’s top trading partners and adversaries. After all, if you can take on the City Hall of a town of 10,000 people, that primes you to take on Vladimir Putin and Daesh (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Islamic State).
According to Trump, while other membership clubs may have restrictions on the acceptance of racial and religious minorities, Mar-a-Lago does not ask about any ethnic or religious background. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Super Tuesday, Trump declared, “nobody has done so much for equality as I have,” because Mar-a-Lago is “totally open to everybody.”
It may be true that anyone can join Mar-a-Lago, but it comes with a hefty price, though a few years ago the fee was reduced: The cost to join was slashed from $200,000 to $100,000. According to ABC News, annual fees are $14,000 a year, rooms are over $1,000 a night and members must spend $2,000 on food annually.
If you think it is tough to become a member, it is also difficult to find employment at Mar-a-Lago: The New York Times alleged that out of the 300 U.S. residents who were referred there for a job, only 17 were hired; during that time, over 500 visas for guest workers were granted for foreign workers to work at this estate-turned-club.
Equality, indeed — when it’s convenient for Donald Trump.