Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Real Winners And Losers: Indiana Idioteque

Bye, Ted



Not many bands currently working can summon up the uneasy mélange of claustrophobia and political anxiety that defines living in a world in which Donald Trump has a fair chance at having the launch codes for the largest nuclear arsenal on earth. Radiohead is one of them. Radiohead make pre-apocalyptic music — not a soundtrack for the end of the world or for the ruins afterward, but rather for the time right before, when everyone is failing to arrest its crescendo. The title of this week's edition of Winners and Losers, in fact, comes from Radiohead's song "Idioteque," whose line "We're not scaremongering / This is really happening" kept echoing in my head as I watched the returns tonight.

That's why the timing of the release of the foreboding "Burn the Witch," their second song since 2011's The King of Limbs (their appropriately titled song "Spectre" arrived last year; perhaps we should have taken that as a proper warning), is pretty perfect.

"Burn the Witch" is thought to be the first single from a new record this year, and it can't arrive soon enough.

The Fish Monster Guy

The trouble with good old-fashioned retail politics — shoe leather and door knocking and baby kissing and glad-handing — is that you have to publicly interact with people in unscripted situations. A lot of campaigning is done in controlled environments, where engagement happens on the politician's terms. Once a politician relinquishes that control, anything can happen. Like, you could extend your arm to shake the hand of what you believe to be a well-intentioned, friendly citizen and prospective voter, and they could pull back their hand, caress their hair, and say "too slow," embarrassing you in front of everyone with a schoolyard prank. Then add insult atop insult by saying you "look like a fish monster."

This is the nightmare that Ted Cruz lived on the last day of his presidential campaign.

Did he know, in this moment, that the campaign was over? Was this the piece of anecdotal evidence that hammered home the message of the internal polls his campaign staff was bringing him — that the Republican voters of Indiana were rejecting him? I have no way of knowing for sure. But it definitely feels true.

Chekhov’s Trump

If you say in the first chapter of an election cycle that there is a Trump up in the polls, in the second or third chapter of the election cycle it must go off. If it's not going to freak everyone out and go off, it shouldn't be hanging there on the X-axis. It has better things to do, like run beauty pageants and go golfing.

The Trump went off. And it kept going off over and over again, kind of defeating the purpose of getting rid of the fluff in the narrative. (This is a man who said he was going to keep winning until we got tired of it.)

Anyway. It looks like we’re going to do this, America, although maybe we should have known all along that we were destined to one day vote for a Mr. Moneybags who ran a reality TV show and is on the news so often that it seems like he must Airbnb a couch at CNN for naps.

People Who Sell Guns and Ammunition

Do you feel safe right now? Think carefully before you answer. Do you trust the people around you? Do you trust strangers? Does everything feel like it's on an even keel? Do you have confidence in the grand truce that is civilization? Are you willing to leave your personal safety and that of your family and property in the hands of the authorities? Do you wish you had more volition, more agency, more control?

The Word (?) "Bigly"

Or is it big league? Whatever it is, get ready to hear it a lot more. Also "tremendous," "really," "great," “unbelievably great relationships,” “believe me,” and “let me tell you.”

Vigo County

This county in Indiana houses Terre Haute and an impressive presidential election–related Snapple fact. Since 1888, its voters have picked the winning presidential candidate every time except 1908 and 1952, a record impressive enough that a film crew is out documenting the place’s thoughts on the election this year. They are like a map splotch that gets flipped every four years and always lands on heads. So, congrats!

Their primary picks didn’t get to show off too much of the county’s preternatural predictin’ abilities; per Politico, many of the unaffiliated voters responsible for the streak only vote in the general. Voters sided with Sanders and Trump, if you’re interested. The Tribune-Star reported in advance that Bernie Sanders could have had a teensy advantage: “If historical points count, Sanders holds an edge on the others in the Terre Haute connections category. He slept here once.”

"White Nationalists"

"White nationalism" is basically rebranded white supremacy. They cleverly avoid saying publicly that they beleive white people are genetically superior or have the right skull shape or whatever. Instead, they say America's character is essentially white and European, and that it should, you know, stay that way. If you were to think that pretty much amounts to the same thing as vintage white supremacy, you'd be right.

Anyway, Donald Trump is their guy because of, rather than in spite of, his xenophobia and racism. Whereas a lot of analysts think that Trump's inflammatory, racist rhetoric is an act at some level and that his "real views," whatever those are, are more moderate, white nationalists believe that Trump is publicly moderating his views. In other words, they believe that he's even more racist than he appears to be, and is disguising it in order to win the election.

Encouraging idea!


Ted Cruz

The Texas senator admitted to his handful of remaining supporters, who were blissfully chanting, “CONSTITUTION CONSTITUTION,” that there was no way he could ever be president. On the C-SPAN feed, there was much audible gasping and moaning.

Who would have guessed that a man who inspired such loving remarks as, "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you” and “I think I’ll take cyanide if he ever got the nomination” could ever lose to Donald Trump? Who could have predicted that a candidate who had fewer than 600 delegates wouldn’t have proven to be a controversial convention’s secret sauce? Who knew that naming a vice-presidential candidate before you even won the nomination wasn’t a cure-all for other glaring campaign deficits? Who thought that having an internal catalogue of most movies made in the ‘80s did not translate as “totally human,” or that being transphobic wouldn’t be a primary clincher?

Regardless, Donald Trump thinks that Cruz will have an “amazing future.” “I don’t know if he likes me or doesn’t like me,” the man who coined the phrase “Lyin’ Ted” said, “but he is one hell of a competitor. He is a tough, smart guy."

Cruz has lots of time to decide whether that endorsement is a good or bad thing.

Everyone Who Missed Jeopardy! Because of Election Coverage

I’ll take "Moving to Canada" for $200, Alex.

Conspiracy Theories

Donald Trump, a “really smart person” who went to Wharton and will soon be a Republican nominee, thinks that maybe people should look into Ted Cruz’s father’s dealings with Lee Harvey Oswald. He’s just asking questions — just like the National Enquirer, which endorsed the small (fingered) business owner and has a Mary Poppins bag of questionable dirt on the former candidate.

There is no proof that Rafael Cruz ever hung out with JFK’s assassin, just as there is no evidence that Antonin Scalia was murdered, or that Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz are all ineligible for the presidency. On the other hand, most of the stuff that Trump talks about isn’t true, either.

If he wins the nomination, get ready for Trump to start bringing up Hillary Clinton’s adopted alien baby.

The Ghosts of Ted Cruz Past

Cruz was not pleased by his opponent’s latest serving of word Lunchables. “I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign,” he said. “I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.” Cruz called him a "serial philanderer" and "pathological liar” — and said the words “describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam.” These are not particularly novel sentiments, but Cruz usually isn’t the one to forward them. Follow us on a journey to yesteryear, when Cruz’s opinion of Trump was much different, even though the front-runner’s personality has remained static in the interim.

— “No matter what he says, I like Donald."

— "I will give him credit that when he insults someone, it’s always memorable and colorful.”

— “I like and respect Donald Trump. I don’t anticipate that changing at all.”

Of course, these feelings faded a while ago — “Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi alone” — but every time Cruz insulted Trump it felt like a reminder that he only started fighting back when there was no longer a political reason to refrain from partaking in the Trump insult buffet. Now that he’s out of the race completely, we’ll see if Cruz reverts to his ethereal former Trump-lovin’ self and secretes an endorsement, or if telling us what he really thought about Trump was just a passing craze. Given that many people once driven to smelling steaks by the Trump campaign have been practicing their groveling, it doesn’t seem impossible, especially if there is still room in Trump’s hypothetical administration after Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, and Carl Icahn have called dibs. Maybe Ben Carson has a stash of anti-#NeverTrump vaccines in his secret storage pyramid.

On the other hand, Cruz has never had much of a problem having fellow Republicans hate him, even those already despised by most of the party. Maybe winning the disapproval of Trump Republicans and establishment Republicans is the key to his 2020 run. Until then, there are dozens of ‘90s movie scripts Ted Cruz can read while filibustering budget deals to keep the dream alive.

Republicans Who Thought We'd Never Reach This Point

We’ve reached the depression stage. Give them a few days, and maybe they’ll get to acceptance. And if not, maybe Carson made up a new batch of vaccines.

Carly Fiorina and Heidi Cruz

Let's keep this brief. Carly Fiorina made the unconventional decision to accept Ted Cruz's invitation to join his ticket as vice-presidential nominee even though he hadn't yet won the nomination. Heidi Cruz put her life on hold to follow her husband around for months. Carly literally fell off the stage after the shortest vice-presidential campaign of all time. Heidi Cruz got called ugly by the presumptive nominee and then got accidentally punched and elbowed by her husband. Sometimes you don't have to come up with your own metaphors.

These Weird, and Frankly Unsettling, Official Ted Cruz Campaign Posters That He Sold on His Website



Dana Milbank

Last October, Dana Milbank was so confident that Trump wouldn't be the nominee that he not only wrote a column guaranteeing it, but vowed to literally eat said column if he were wrong. In March, he playfully revisited the idea, admitting that Trump had a real chance and soliciting recipes for cooking and eating newsprint. And here we are.

Milbank is a stand-in for many, many pundits who were certain that Trump had no chance of being the nominee. Why did they believe this, and why were they so wrong? I've got some ideas, but the question should become an obsession for the political commentariat. I have my doubts that it will, though.


It's about to get worse.