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home : columnists : columnists
April 23, 2019

8/6/2015 11:45:00 AM
Mac Deford: An Overview of Today's Chaotic Republican Party - and the Democratic One Too
Who's on first?
by Thomas McAdams Deford

It must be a pretty dreary time to be a serious Republican. (I haven't been one since George W. Bush got us into Iraq.)

Tonight, everyone interested in American politics will be tuned to Fox - beer and popcorn at the ready - to watch the Top Ten Republican presidential candidates go at it. But of course what will be attracting most viewers will be front-runner Donald Trump - not so much to see how he performs as to watch the also-rans quake in his presence.

To say The Donald has sucked the air out of the vast Republican field is an understatement: ask a random sample of Americans to name even half of the 17-strong (or weak) Republican field, everyone will name Trump, and almost as many will remember that George W.'s little brother is in the race, but the others....

Sure Trump is a loudmouth blowhard. But that's his appeal. What the overwhelming success of his shoot-from-the-hip style shows is that Americans are fed up with traditional politicians; that, after three decades of stagnant wages for the middle class, they've lost confidence in the system; and that, like right-wing Europeans, many are increasingly anti-immigrant. They don't want to hear the same old regurgitated political rhetoric, the same old platitudes and promises, most of which will be broken. Trump cashes in on all their frustrations.

I offended some of my Republican readership a few weeks back when I referred to the Republican field as "non-entities" and the party leadership as "troglodytes." So before I double-down on the vacuity of the Republican candidates, let me confess to being an equal-opportunity offender: the Democrats' hand isn't any more promising. In fact, taking the two together makes you wonder if most of those who enter politics these days aren't pretty second-rate from the get-go. To double-back - that's Trump's appeal.

It may seem unchivalrous to pick on poor Hillary, but she was a lousy secretary of state - John Kerry is clearly her superior - and she's an even worse presidential candidate: no charm, overly programmed, pro forma smile, rote message, and lots and lots of baggage. There were two Hope, Arkansas, politicians-in-the-making some decades back: Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton. Luckily for Hillary, she ended up with the right one. But for all the political mileage she's gotten out of being a Clinton, her unfavorable ratings are nearly 10 points ahead of her favorable ones - and the dial has been moving steadily downhill since she declared. Same with her ratings on the honesty scale: the more you know about her, the less you trust her.

Bernie Sanders is a nice fellow who, like Mr. Trump - this may be the only time Bernie's ever been compared to Donald - can take unfashionable political stands because he knows he'll never make the big-time. A socialist president in the US of A? Da-me un break, as they say in Puerto Rico.

Martin O'Malley: wasn't he once mayor of Baltimore? Wasn't Baltimore the all-American city that just had the biggest race riot in a generation?

So if Joe Biden is being wound up behind the scenes, small wonder. But Joe, who is an experienced and intelligent guy, has over the years acquired a reputation as lacking in gravitas: he probably won't bother, but if he does, he won't make it.

So Hillary it will be. And whoever floats to the top of the Republican pool will at least have that going for him.

And now, a quick review of the Grand Old Party's less-than-grand options (or at least those that I can remember).

Jeb: he has a nice smile, but he's surprisingly inarticulate: a few weeks back, he stumbled for about four days when asked the most obvious question about his brother's Iraq War (did he think the war had been forgotten?). And then this Monday, at a C-Span broadcast question-and-answer event in New Hampshire, he was no better: "stumbling through a familiar question about his father and brother," according to the NY Times. He has the charm that Hillary lacks, but it's implanted in a nebbish aura that makes you realize how much he relied on his famous father, and then brother, to get ahead politically. Do you think a Jeb Jones would have made it big-time in his adopted Florida?

Scott Walker: All he talks about is how he took on the labor unions in Wisconsin and won. But going up against unions these days - when unions control just 10% of the American workforce - is pretty much the David vs. Goliath story in reverse. His knowledge of/experience in/understanding of foreign affairs - which occasionally comes in handy for an American president - is about the same as Governor LePage's.

And the others: Ben Carson, who said that Obamacare was the worst thing in the US since slavery.

Ted Cruz: the Republican senator who, obviously trying to trump Trump, called his own Republican majority leader "a liar" on the floor of the Senate. Even in today's dysfunctional Congress, that's beyond the pale.

Carly Fiore (or something like that): wasn't she fired when she ran Hewlett-Packard?

Rand Paul: we'll have a libertarian president shortly after we have a socialist one.

Marco Rubio: nice young Cuban-American senator, mentored (and now elbowed aside) by Jeb, good speaker, hardline on Obama's opening to Cuba which ironically puts him in the minority among younger Cuban Americans. But president: way over his head.

Huckabee, Perry, Santorum: voices from an unsuccessful past.

So we're back to the inevitable: Bush vs. Clinton. Which means whichever of the two dynastic picks ends up in the White House, and stays the likely two terms, come 2025, we will have had 28 of the previous 36 years presided over by a Clinton or a Bush. And the campaign costs to get one of those two inheritors in place will have come in at about $5 billion. When Obama is running around 3rd-World capitals extolling the virtues of democracy, American-style, presumably there are some elements of it he doesn't emphasize.

Grim enough tour d'horizon of today's American political scene? Then how about a little uplifting non sequitur to brighten the landscape. I hope some of you saw American Pharoah this past weekend romping to another victory in his first race since he swept the Triple Crown in early June, the only horse to do so since Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed all scored in the 1970s. Heading down the stretch, American Pharoah was so far in the lead his jockey actually pulled him up a little - saving his strength for the next race.

It's good to know that America can still produce fantastic winners - even if they are only horses.

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