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editorial

On Tuesday night, voters in Republican Party primaries in five states and one territory will cast their ballots, and they are likely to move Donald Trump – who the party's establishment sees as more virus than candidate – one large step closer to becoming the presidential nominee. Mr. Trump and his supporters have the GOP teetering somewhere between revolution and dissolution. And the Republican Party, which controls both houses of Congress and has won five of the last nine elections for president, still doesn't know what to do about it.

Unless voters stop Mr. Trump – on Tuesday, there are winner-take-all contests for delegates in Florida, Ohio and Missouri – the party establishment, such as it is, will activate Plan B. It was laid out on March 3 by one of the grandest remaining names of the Grand Old Party, Mitt Romney. He called on all three remaining non-Trump candidates – Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ted Cruz – to remain in the race, and for voters to vote for the one most likely to win in their state. Those candidates and their delegates would then come together at the nominating convention this summer to nominate Anybody But Trump.

The plan has at least three big holes in it.

First, it's not clear all of the GOP establishment, or even the remaining non-Trump candidates, are willing to completely disown Mr. Trump. Several prominent Republicans, led by New Jersey Governor and newly-minted campaign prop Chris Christie, now back him. And only hours after Mr. Romney's attack on the Donald, the three men he called on to co-operate to block him each said that, if Mr. Trump won the nomination, they would support him.

To what extent are they hedging their bets, and to what extent are they fudging the truth? Either way, the disingenuousness won't play well with GOP voters. Mr. Trump's base is made up of people who are mad at a lot of things, not least the sense that politics as usual, and the usual political suspects, are the problem. That base isn't big enough to win a general election, but is big enough to take over the Republican Party, or take it down.

Second, Mr. Trump's personality and rhetoric may be a revolt against the Republican Party, but his platform is more of an evolution of Republican doctrine. A lot of what Mr. Trump promises is an on-steroids version of what the GOP is already peddling. Frankenstein came from a GOP lab.

Yes, there are exceptions. Mr. Trump is not much of a social conservative, he's not obsessed with abortion, and he's made vaguely positive comments about Planned Parenthood. On health care and other social programs, he doesn't focus on dismantling government initiatives largely relied on by his lower-income base. And he's happy to denounce free trade deals: The GOP has always backed free trade, though many of its voters do not. He also loves to talk about how corporate money and lobbyists are corrupting politics, and how he, unlike ordinary non-billionaire politicians, can't be bought.

But on taxes and government spending, despite his I'm-in-this-for-the-little-guy rhetoric, he's offering a platform that looks like supercharged Republicanism. Mr. Trump's plan includes a huge tax cut – but upper income earners will get the lion's share. According to an analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, middle-income households will get a $2,700 tax break – but the wealthiest 0.1 per cent, with incomes of more than $3.7-million (U.S.), will see their taxes fall by an average of $1.3-million. To pay for this, U.S. government revenue would be reduced by $9.5-trillion over the next 10 years.

The math in Mr. Trump's platform doesn't add up, but that's been true of Republican budget proposals for some time. Mr. Trump is simply taking the unreality to new heights. In his Anybody But Trump speech, Mr. Romney challenged Mr. Trump on that, saying the plan would balloon the deficit and national debt. He also critized the billionaire for his "refusal to reform entitlements." For those who do not speak Republican, that translates as "refusal to cut social programs." Mr. Romney did not suggest that Mr. Trump abandon the tax cuts for the wealthy.

Mr. Trump is peddling a policy fantasy, though it's one held by the GOP establishment: That taxes must always go lower, and that lowering them automatically delivers magic levels of economic growth. Mr. Trump is just amping up the pitch to new levels of incredulousness. He's also offering monster tax cuts without monster social spending cuts. It is as impossible as it is popular.

Which brings us to the final problem for the GOP, and America: Whether Mr. Trump wins the nomination or is blocked, a significant part of the party's voters are going to have reasons to leave the fold. The modern Republican Party has been a strange coalition of social conservatives, working-class whites, Tea Partiers, policy wonks and corporate interests. It is not a natural alliance. And in its current form, it may not last much longer.