OK, NOW WE’RE PLAYING CARDS

1. It’s Wednesday, April 27, 2016.

2. Nine months ago, I sat with friends in Connecticut musing about what seemed at the time to be Donald Trump’s quixotic presidential bid. All of them believed that this was just a publicity ploy, that he would be bored with the process, that no one would support him, that he’d be done by Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, that same Donald Trump got 58% of the vote in a three-way race to win the Connecticut Republican primary. And that wasn’t even his best showing in the five primaries contested. That, ahem, honor goes to the 64% of the vote he got in Rhode Island.

Most serious observers would not have bet a dime on how the Republican race stands now. Trump is so close to the nomination he can see the gold-plated balloons dropping on his head in Cleveland 12 weeks from now.

The Democrats’ problem has always been that there was no winning candidate for the nomination besides Hillary Clinton. That’s thanks in large part to the fact that whatever bench the party might have had was decimated by losses suffered in recent off-year elections.

What’s the Republicans’ excuse? They won those years, and the stars of those elections put themselves forward for 2016 – Rubio, Cruz, Christie, Rand Paul, Walker, Perry, Kasich – along with Jeb Bush, a party elder with presidential pedigree.

Cruz and Kasich are still around. Barely. They limp into the final states with their limited non-aggression pact aimed solely at stopping Trump. They were humiliated in the five states where they competed last night – neither one could manage even 30% of the vote in any of them.

The Republicans thought they were put up an all-star team of candidates and licked their chops at the idea of taking back the White House. Now, even if Trump wins in November, they will still be outsiders, held in contempt by the guy they tried every which way to stop.

They – and we – will have a lot of time to figure out what happened. After Hillary Clinton’s inauguration.

3. Somewhere in the headquarters of the Democratic Party or in the Brooklyn lair of Hillary for America, there must be a team of people prioritizing which of Donald Trump’s ridiculous statements will be on posters, coffee mugs and signs come this fall.

Last night’s should be high on the list.

“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote,” he told his supporters after his win last night. “The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card.”

Yeah. OK.

First, not that women were flocking to him, but that can’t make him more attractive.

Second, if I could plant a question at the presidential debates between these two, it would be about some part of the world that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Maybe someplace in Africa or South America. I’m dying to see if Trump can even figure out where it is, let along address the issue – which, by the way, Clinton will know cold, as she’s demonstrated time and time again in the debates with Bernie Sanders.

Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I’d wonder if there’s any of the 50 states Trump could possibly win.

4. If you get a chance, you should read the always perceptive Frank Bruni’s column in The Times.

It’s about sore losers.

He’s responding to the Bernie Sanders people saying they’ve been robbed of the nomination by whatever — closed primaries, campaign funding from Wall Street and other sinister stuff. Some of them say they’d vote for Trump before they’d vote for Clinton.

He’s also responding to the Ted Cruz campaign that has essentially said it needs to subvert the Republican Party nominating process in order to save it. It believes that even though Trump has won a majority of the states so far and nearly enough delegates to clinch the nomination, he’s not a legitimate Republican.

Bruni says that this is a phenomenon in both parties, the idea that any loss is the result of corruption and chicanery and the winner is illegitimate and needs to be thwarted at every turn.

It’s food for thought.

I think he’s right to an extent, and if I’m honest I think I see myself. Elections seem to have become more life and death. The idea of Trump winning, even if the pollsters say the possibility is remote, sickens me.

5. How did we get here? I’m betting on the turbulence of our change.

Things happen faster. We see more thanks to our technology, and the picture is sometimes more disagreeable than we can stand.

Same-sex marriage, an issue that Bruni has championed, is one of those things. At the turn of the century, 15 years ago, if you had said same-sex marriage would be legal in all 50 states, you would have been thought to be wildly mistaken.

And yet, legal it is. It happened faster than anyone seriously could have imagined.

But while the rate of acceptance is pretty amazing, the people who steadfastly oppose same-sex marriage didn’t go away.

So look what they did. They found other ways to go after people who don’t conform to their conception of normality. The North Carolina transgender bathroom law. The Mississippi law allowing business to refuse services to same-sex couples planning to marry.

These people cite religious beliefs and personal freedoms.

It escalates. If you’re on this side of the issue, it’s hard not to blow your stack. You cheer the Bruce Springsteen boycott and PayPal’s decision not to create jobs in North Carolina. You attack the people who perpetrate and support such laws as bigots and fools.

That’s the way it is with every issue. On every topic. On every side.

The stakes seem bigger, so losing seems untenable.

Is that right?

No, probably not. Compromise is a virtue. You get something now, and maybe after you see how that works, you go for something else later. When change is slower, the impact is muted and the side effects can be mitigated.

One other thing: The fact that when we lose on an issue or an election, it’s not just something you read in the paper the next day. It’s 24/7 on cable news networks. It’s trending on Twitter and Facebook. It’s in your face all day long and for days after. It’s all you can see and all you can hear.

That has to light a fuse.

Bruni’s column is thoughtful and incisive. It’s also a lost cause. This is an era of no compromise – “no retreat, baby, no surrender,” as Springsteen sings.

It’s not a pretty picture.

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