The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

How Donald Trump Celebrated His Victory Over the Republican Party

After a resounding victory in Indiana, the reality-TV star is going to be the GOP's presidential nominee.

by Harry Cheadle
05 May 2016, 4:00am

Donald Trump celebrates his victory in the Indiana primary at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday, May 3. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Trump Tower isn't anything special. Sure it's monolithic, carved out of glass and marble, the kind of phallus Ayn Rand would have loved, but that could describe half of Midtown Manhattan. It's that nowhere part of the city just north of Times Square, where the buildings are monuments to old money, the sidewalks are wide and patrolled by doormen, and the delis are overpriced.

Donald Trump has made a habit of giving his primary night speeches here, and it's easy to see why—the skyscraper is to Trump what Chicago is to Barack Obama, and what that ranch in Crawford, Texas, was to George W. Bush, the piece of land that serves as the locus of accepted mythology surrounding his presidential campaign. It was here, in the brightly lit, marbled lobby of the Tower, that Trump addressed the press on Tuesday night, making his first appearance as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

As expected, Trump won Indiana's GOP primary by double digits, and in the process, he made it essentially impossible for any of his remaining opponents to stop him from getting the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination. There will be no contested convention, no long slog through the final primaries this spring—Trump will be the GOP pick for president, simply because more Republicans voted for him than for anyone else.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the last serious Trump challenger, conceded this fact around 8:30 PM, an hour and a half after networks announced his bumbling Indiana loss.

"Together, we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we've got, but the voters chose another path," he told an audience of weepy volunteers in Indianapolis Tuesday night. "So with a heavy heart, but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign."

As Cruz's speech played across the lobby in New York, a small crowd of Trump's inner-circle supporters let out a quick "Trump! Trump! Trump!" chant. Cordoned off from the media by a rope, a few of them embraced, celebrating their man's logic-defying win. Reporters whipped out their phones and cameras, vining and tweeting what I guess has to be called a historic moment.

The Republican Establishment, with its mainstream conservatism, flamed out months ago, and now Cruz's bible-thumping, abolish-the-IRS approach had come crashing down too. What remained was Trump—an enigma swaddled in anger wrapped in reality-TV-bred populism, walking through the crowd to strains of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up," a song about a man getting an erection.

"It's been an unbelievable day, and evening, and year," he said at the podium, sounding like a man who, like everyone else, actually can't quite believe his electoral success. "I have never been through anything like this, but it's a beautiful thing to watch, and a beautiful thing to behold, and we're going to make America great again."

He then went through his standard stump speech, toning the bombast down slightly for the occasion. The theme, as usual, was Trump victories, past, present, and future. He marveled at his own success in Tuesday's primary, and gleefully hyped his likely general election matchup against Hillary Clinton. When he pointed out that a recent Rasmussen poll found him two points ahead of the Democratic frontrunner nationally, cheers broke out across the room.

"We're going after Hillary Clinton," Trump declared. "She will not be a great president. She will not be a good president. She will be a poor president." He proceeded to preview some lines of attack against his presumptive opponent, accusing Clinton of treating coal miners "as if they were just numbers," and supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement—or, as Trump likes to call it, "the single worst trade deal in the history of the world"—that her husband signed as president.

Cruz, who Trump had dismissed as a "wacko" on Twitter just hours earlier, was now, in the real estate mogul's words "one hell of a competitor" with "one hell of a future." (The Texas Republican, who held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to accuse Trump of being a "pathological liar," didn't say whether he would back the party's presumptive nominee.)

But Trump was in a forgiving mood, and he even had kind words for Reince Priebus, informing the audience that he had just gotten off the phone with the beleaguered Republican National Committee chairman. "It's not an easy job," Trump acknowledged, noting that Priebus "had seventeen egos" to deal with at the start of the 2016 cycle. "Now I guess he's down to one," Trump added, grinning.

Dutifully, Priebus did his part as well, calling for the party to unify around its all-but-official nominee. It was clear, though, that in this case, party unity means pushing the #NeverTrump holdouts to decide that well, OK, sometimes Trump, at least as an alternative to Clinton.

What else was there to be said? Not much, aside from the usual string of Trumpisms, imagining a future in which ISIS will be defeated, veterans will be respected, US allies will stop taking America for granted, the wall will be built, and jobs will come back.

"We're going to say Merry Christmas," Trump added for good measure, in a nod to the evangelical Christians who chose him over Cruz in Indiana's primary Tuesday. As usual, though, Trump said far less about God than the typical Republican political candidate—you got the sense that there's only room for one lord inside Trump Tower, and his name is on the front of the building.

But don't worry, because he's a benevolent deity. "This country, which is very, very divided in so many ways is going to become one beautiful loving country," Trump assured America. "And we're going to love each other. We're going to cherish each other."

First, though, we're going to have to get through an election.

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