Primarily Yours: Past New York to California — But Time for Home, D.C.

It looks as if we’re going to be in for another round of non-stop political noodling, Trump-o-mania, Hillary-Bernie battles, and who will clinch the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.

It will be presidential politics 24-7, right up to the California primary in June which ought to settle things — if they haven’t been settled by then.

The roller coaster ride, which once used to feature a whole slew of candidates, but now contains only three Republicans and two Democrats, begins, well, yesterday.

As far as Donald Trump is concerned, he’s won already, which is maybe why his victory speech sounded a little like a national victory speech.   In the big New York primary for both parties, Trump won 60 percent of the vote in the Republican race, leading him to claim that Ted Cruz was technically eliminated.  This isn’t quite true, but let’s face, when you finish third in a race to John Kasich (I know, we forgot again) as Cruz did, your chances are on life support. 

Hillary Clinton also did well, stopping the onrush of victories that Bernie Sanders brought to New York . She won convincingly, with 57 percent of the vote. Sanders had 42 percent, which, while not entirely crush-worthy, was impressive for her and disheartening for the Bern, who had thought — as did the polls and the media, which dashed out a 52-48 exit poll — that he would do better here, what with the proximity to his home state and such.  But New York is Clinton’s home state, too.  The more Sanders won, the more he seemed to lose.  This was also the case with New York.  If you look at a map of the counties in New York, he won almost the entire state — except for the big urban areas, except for New York City jurisdictions.

Now, we’re off and running — five major primaries will be held next week in Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut.   This will spark — as it already has — another round of speculation, predictions and the meaning-of-it-all articles like this one.  The media — and this is especially true of the television media of all stripes — and objective non-objective persuasions have been reduced to cheerfully congratulating themselves on being wrong every time out when it comes to the fate and progress of Donald Trump.  Some weeks past, when Cruz won an unlikely victory in Wisconsin as well as Colorado — victories which sparked a Trump cheating tirade which he’s never entirely abandoned — the media had Trump finally stopped, wounded, all but derailed and predicted that soon enough the mysterious GOP establishment would rally around Cruz or the other guy, whomever that might be.

Didn’t happen.   Trump did a showy reshuffling of his staff, added some veteran strategists, a mixed bags of effective pros, old-timers going back to the Dole campaign, foreign policy advisers that included Cold War warriors and so on.   He made some policy speeches that did include complete sentences and were read from prompters.  Gone were all but a few rallies and clashes with demonstrators and free-wheeling claims about history and events that did not happen.  True, he whined about the delegate system, saying it was rigged. This was like a guy cleaning up all the chips, and claiming that the other guys had cheated.

Of course, the danger of an ur-Trump who doesn’t behave like Trump is that he may become boring.  His victory speech was something like that: Trump light.  “Huuuge” has been replaced by “amazing.” Gone was “lying  Ted,” replaced by Senator Cruz who, of course, doesn’t stand a chance any more.  Trump will still get rid of Obama-care. He’s still going to make “amazing” deals, with the help of other dealmakers like him. “The economy, we’re going to fix it. It will be amazing, you watch.”

The idea that Trump — and less so Clinton — might sweep the next batch of states is not as viable as it might sound, especially since that’s what media types are positing.  They have been known to be wrong.  Pennsylvania is not New York, and neither is Maryland, for that matter. Trump’s message to the forgotten working class will resonate in troubled mid-sized cities like Scranton, where for a time “City in Crisis” seemed like a permanent headline in the local newspaper.

The thing of it is we’ll be talking Trump morning, noon and night again.  Trump said the media was wrong about his chances, but added, “I don’t mind. As long as they keep on talking. Just keep on talking.”

Maybe Washington, D.C. — the center of the world, not necessarily Trump’s world, at least not yet — will escape the political immersion that will visit other states and cities. 

This time of year, there are other things happening here that reminded you that there is a life after primaries and elections.  This time of year, we’re invested in modest and celebratory things like house tours, and the not so modest operatic extravaganza of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Kennedy Center, which begins the same night of the also im-modest and out-of-touch-with-the-reality-of-daily-life White House Correspondents Dinner. This dinner and parties before and after are where elected officials, the Washington establishment of politicians and media go kiss-kiss without trying to bite each other.  That other surreal world showing up at those parties will be the denizens of Hollywood — at the tables and on the red carpet.

Daily life here is different in the city and in the neighborhoods removed from Trump and Clinton land.  Here, we have neighborhood parties and neighborhood issues — liquor licenses in Georgetown, a homeless shelter plan for all the wards still being chewed over, a June 14 election which may see the return of  Vincent Gray to the District Council at some point, no matter what the Washington Post may opine.   We live in a city that is still defined by the people who live in it, although we live in a rapidly changing city that is also redefining its demographic identity.    We have a mayor who is faced with the unusual task of making prosperity work for everyone.  We live in  a city that still has little or not enough say in some of its critical concerns — such as its budget, guns and civil rights.

But we live in a city of people, nonetheless, a city that, besides its monuments, has some unique qualities that are common to small towns and the great wide world all at once.  I was present at a celebration, a Sunday afternoon party in Adams Morgan attended by a group of people that fought long and hard and won a zoning battle on the issue of pop-up housing projects.  There was music by a rock band headed by a veteran diplomat, playing “Mr. Tambourine Man.” There was beer, paella, strudel and conversation about dogs and neighbors and schools and crime and news of an impending grandchild. There were, as it were, dogs and children present, and the realization of neighbors and neighborhood.

More recently, on the evening of the New York primary, there was a musical offering with the aid of the Embassy Series of Chopin and Jewish prayers at the Embassy of Poland, commemorating the 1943 uprising of Jews against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, fought bravely by Jewish resistance fighters. The uprising failed militarily but triumphed morally in history.  There were Holocaust survivors in attendance along with the writers and diplomats. There was a lighting of menorah candles, and the music was as sweet as spring incense.

Now, that afternoon and that evening were amazing.


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