Millions of Americans from the Atlantic to the Arctic voted to make their country great again Tuesday, either by anointing Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee for president, or by endorsing the Democrat Hillary Clinton to make it even greater by keeping The Donald out of the White House.
Trump and Clinton steamrolled their respective—though, on the Republican side, crudely disrespectful—opponents across a widely variegated landscape in a dozen states holding primaries, making it likely that, come January 2017, the United States will have as its chief executive either its first woman, or its first billionaire executive.
But because all of Tuesday’s primaries awarded delegates proportionally, Trump left enough chicken feed in the henhouse to keep his principal rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio pecking at him—but more crucially for The Donald, at each other.
By early evening on the East Coast, Clinton had won or was leading in every state except Vermont. Trump, the quintessentially brash New Yorker—and, to some, an unconvincing Christian who mislabeled Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians”—was a runaway winner across the Bible Belt. Cruz won Texas and was competitive in neighbouring Oklahoma; Clinton’s rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, won Oklahoma narrowly, and took 11/12ths of the vote in Vermont.
“Trump has taken ideology out of it, upset everyone’s apple carts, and stolen everybody’s brand,” said radio mahatma Rush Limbaugh, straining to explain the phenomenon.
On the Democratic side, Clinton repeatedly stressed her intention to further the policies of President Barack Obama, the man who broke her heart on Super Tuesday, 2008.
More than 30 states, including populous California, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida have yet to be heard from under the incomprehensible American partisan electoral system, leaving the vast majority of the nation’s citizens with no say in the process at all. Weeks of pro-forma primaries still are to be completed, and there still is a mathematical chance that both Trump and Clinton could be overthrown, but neither Clinton nor Trump was acting that way Tuesday night.
Speaking in a ballroom in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump talked in his victory speech about remaking trade deals that will be “a thing of beauty,” of creating jobs like “you’ve never seen,” and several other ways he plans to “make America great again.”
He also congratulated himself for the progress he’s made so far: “It takes a lot of courage to run for President. This is something I’ve never done. But I felt we had to do it.”
Clinton also spent Super Tuesday Night in the Sunshine State, where a winner-take-all primary will take place on March 15.
“America never stopped being great,” said the former secretary of state, trolling Trump’s campaign keywords. “We need to make America whole. I believe what we need in America today is more love and kindness.”
Sanders, speaking in Vermont after a landslide win in the tiny state, declared that “this campaign is not just about electing the president of the United States,” a tacit admission of the improbability of his path going forward. And Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who did not finish first in any of the first 19 primary and caucus states, vowed to press ahead and “not give the Republican Party to a con artist.”
Related: How Bernie Sanders became a local hero in Burlington, Vt.
The scope of Trump’s triumph became evident as soon as the polls closed in Virginia, where The Donald owns a winery and where the whining of Rubio—who had been reduced in recent days to insulting the comparatively picayune length of Trump’s fingers—was unable to win over more than one-third of the electorate. Neither was Canada’s native son Ted Cruz, who had attempted to link Trump to the mafia and, even worse, to a New York liberal past.
Cruz did score two victories Tuesday: his Pyrrhic triumph in his adopted state of Texas earned him more than 90 delegates to the GOP convention in Cleveland (to Trump’s 50 and Rubio’s zero); and a judge in Chicago ruled that he should not be thrown off the ballot for the Illinois primary on March 15 merely because he was born in Calgary, leaving the evangelical filibusterer and Harvard Law whiz-kid free to try again for the presidency every four years until at least 2040, when he will be the same age that Donald Trump is now. (Trump will turn 70 on Flag Day, June 14.)
Sanders, too, claimed a victory of sorts on Tuesday, announcing a haul of $42.7-million in donations in February, far more than Clinton raised and more proof of the eagerness of Sanders’s mostly young and nearly-all-Caucasian supporters to honour his pleas to redress income inequality by giving a chunk of their incomes to him.
A Maclean’s reporter cruising through urban Texas and rural Oklahoma on Super Tuesday found voters already resigned to eight solid months of Clinton-Trump calumny, empty vows and vitriol, a 21st-century American version of Oscar Wilde’s famous description of fox hunting as “the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.” This opinion was consistent from the Dallas-Ft. Worth megalopolis to the Choctaw Indian lands on the north shore of the Red River.
“I’m gonna hold my nose, close my eyes, cross my fingers and vote for Trump and hope that he’ll do at least something of what he has promised to do,” said Kristi Lisenbee of Dallas, a Cruz supporter.
“I’m hoping that he’ll be the best of all the evils,” Ms. Lisenbee went on. “But his ‘New York values’ just aren’t the same as our Texas values. We are about Biblical family values, not for killing fetuses. I know that there are very, very decent people in New York, but it’s just much more liberal, it’s the lack of freedom. When I was there, I couldn’t even get a Coke more than eight ounces.”
Related: The U.S. establishment only has itself to blame for Trump
“The idea that Trump thinks he’s the only one who knows anything really scares me,” said Toni Schein, a transplanted New Yorker now living in tiny Calera, Okla. “The idea that he could put us in two wars in three months is really terrifying. He won’t listen to anybody. Obama wasn’t like that. Bush wasn’t like that.”
On Tuesday morning, Schein still had not made up her mind whom to vote for in the Republican Party primary in Calera. But she was adamant that it wouldn’t be The Donald, now or in November.
“This man is similar to Hitler with his hatred that could get us into a whole lot of trouble in the world,” Schein said. “I am so tired of ‘the Democratic way’ and ‘the Republican way.’ How about the right way?”
“I would vote for a frog before I’d vote for Trump,” pledged Alisha Pyle, whose father-in-law is the former Chief of the Choctaw Nation. On Super Tuesday, Pyle cast her ballot for Sanders, but she did not expect to see his name on the ballot, come fall.
“I guess maybe Hillary is the frog,” Pyle shrugged.