Saturday, April 07, 2012

Flirting with Disaster

Wrote this last year for the Marianas Variety, forgot to post it here. I almost get teary eyed thinking about how crazy the Republican contenders for the election were. Sad to be down to just Romney, Satorum and the ghost of Newt Gingrich.


“Flirting with Disaster”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety

Donald Trump isn’t running anymore for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 2012. It’s a shame really. Technically, he never was really running, but rather participating in what seems to be the current national pastime of leaders in the Republican Party, flirting with the idea of running for President. It is a lucrative game and one which takes clear advantage of the problem that the Republican party lacks a clear leader or vision for their brand in the next election.

Trump’s candidacy was ridiculous but had to be taken seriously for a few weeks because the media and opinion polls ended up turning the mere idea that someone could be running, into a series of polls and stories which actually made it seem not just that he might run, but that he might win. The idea that Donald Trump could be elected on the Republican side of the ballot had little to do with reality, but rather fantasies of how interesting he would make things. No doubt his temporary surge in the polls stemmed from people imagining that on inauguration day 2013 he would say “you’re fired” to Obama’s face. He is a household name, one loathed far more than loved, but his confidence, craziness and willingness to say ridiculous things to keep him in the spotlight made him unable to resist. Can you imagine him in a debate with Obama and when a question of foreign policy comes up? Obama sarcastically challenges Trump by stating that dealing with Kim Jong Ill and Gaddafi isn’t like dealing with Meatloaf and Gary Busey.

For the next few months we can expect more Trumps to appear, in an attempt for the Republican Party to fill its message vacuum, sort through a huge field of possible candidates and inspire its deeply divided base. In the 2008 election Democrats were faced with a similar huge list of candidates and the electorate was treated to an endless string of debate-o-drome forums, which sometimes, because of the sheer number of candidates were reduced to rounds of yes-and-no-please-raise-your-hand-style questions. The difference for Democrats was that their long list of candidates contained two historic choices, or two contenders who promised to not only change the election but the country if elected. Although the party seemed at time on the verge of imploding at times, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and the chance to help make either make history, was still an enviable choice.

Republicans in this election have just as many potential candidates out there, but a list of lackluster options. The exciting and almost forbidden exception to this is Sarah Palin, who is the ultimate Republican Party crush; a candidate that they are so desperately infatuated with, and stare dreamily at, but cannot accept as being real. After losing the 2008 election with John McCain, party insiders told her to start studying, gain some real political experience, develop a good relationship with the Washington press corps and work on being more consistent, and if she did this, she’d have a great shot at defeating Obama in 2012 She did none of these things, and instead became addicted to Facebook and Twitter and has become an almost laughable, winking, talking point machine.

Republicans while high off of their 2010 pulverizing of the Democrats in the 2010 Congressional races now have to contend with the fact that the country has changed without them. In a post-Obama world, where there is much economic uncertainty, the Republican brand, which still has so much residue of being white, male, Christian and against social and ethnic minorities, can only go so far. The rise of the Tea Party has shown that the Republicans can still inspire at the local level and crush Democrats whose message isn’t strong enough for those who want to see some sort of action, but whether this works at the national level remains unlikely. The Republican primary will be an event to watch with some guaranteed fireworks, but the ones who will enjoy it the most will probably be Democrats, in particular the current President.

The problems with the Republican Party may lead to a recent Saturday Night Live skit coming true. In it a mock debate is held between the slate of unofficial Republican candidates who hold power over the party, but who are fundamentally those “you wish you knew less about.” In the skit, Sarah Palin, Trump, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Speaker Newt Gingrich are all reduced to caricatures of why they are unelectable. Once finished, the moderator thanks each for their participation and closes by congratulating Barack Obama on his re-election as President of the United States.

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