NEW YORK—Where were you the night Donald Trump killed the Republican Party as we knew it? Trump was right where he belonged: in the gilt-draped skyscraper with his name on it, Trump Tower in Manhattan, basking in the glory of his final, definitive victory.
“I have to tell you, I’ve competed all my life,” Trump said, his golden face somber, his gravity-defying pouf of hair seeming to hover above his brow. “All my life I’ve been in different competitions—in sports, or in business, or now, for 10 months, in politics. I have met some of the most incredible competitors that I’ve ever competed against right here in the Republican Party.”
The combined might of the Republican Party’s best and brightest—16 of them at the outset—proved, in the end, helpless against Trump’s unorthodox, muscular appeal to the party’s voting base. With his sweeping, 16-point victory in Tuesday’s Indiana primary, and the surrender of his major remaining rival, Ted Cruz, Trump was pronounced the presumptive nominee by the chair of the Republican National Committee. The primary was over—but for the GOP, the reckoning was only beginning.
Dozens of reporters perched on white plastic folding chairs as a subdued Trump mused on his victory in the brown marble lobby, 67 floors beneath the penthouse apartment the billionaire entertainer calls home. The sign on Trump’s lectern read “VICTORY IN INDIANA - New York City.” To his left, stopped for the night, was the golden escalator he’d ridden down when he announced his campaign last June with a rambling, unscripted address that invoked the “rapists” he said were pouring over the Mexican border, beginning what would be an uninterrupted series of shocks to the political system.