The point was made some time ago by the likes of John Oliver and John Stewart (and many other John’s, Joan’s, and [insert another generic name here]) that getting hyped up about the 2016 presidential campaign well over a year in advance of polling day is a nonsense.
Yet the irrepressible clamor of a bored and starving press is making it very hard to remain in the present moment. To consider the things that are happening in peoples lives right now and take some time to explore solutions to problems without having the selfish motive of political advantage. Registering in polls (there are many more actual candidates you may have never heard of) there are seventeen contenders on the Republican side, which is actually sixteen without former Texas governor Rick Perry who dropped out over the weekend, and seven Democrats. Curiously Joe Biden is rated at number three in the polls behind Senator Bernie Sanders and perpetual front-runner Hillary Clinton, despite the cloddish Vice-President not yet having announced that he is running.
There’s actually a ton of candidates and so the media has done a Microsoft Excel and filtered the list. So many people crowding the stage makes for a dismally unfocused show, especially when the players mix up their cues and try to get through the stage door at once. Fortunately the political theatre (which is to be found just inside the entrance of the media circus) is equipped with spotlights, and the beams discriminate without mercy.
One is on Donald Trump. It cannot be denied that the grins of mirth on behalf of pundits that spread all over when the heavyset billionaire took to the stage may have become slightly fixed and painful. I was certain that the crowd would tire of the clown and his opening act would terminate with no serious prospect that Donald Trump might get the Republican nomination. I think the theatre metaphor has been stretched enough, but let me let it go by saying that I might have misjudged the audience if not the clown.
Watching him and the reactions he elicits from audiences and fellow candidates should give one pause to consider why Donald Trump is managing to store that most coveted substance in election campaigns; momentum. It could simply be that he is a greater showman, and hence of more interest to the media which wants to make a profit. But does this present a false picture of reality? Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and the sole female Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina thinks that the media and the voters are on two different wavelengths.
Of course, just because the other candidates are being squeezed out of contention is not in itself a bad thing. Nor is it a trustworthy basis on which to criticize. There can only be one winner after all, and one either stays afloat and waits out the Trump storm, or one has enough of a share in the polls be able to attract lobby groups and sell out like Faustus. The alternative is folding, like Rick Perry just did (it is rumored that he was so low on funds he couldn’t pay his campaign staff). He suspended his campaign with a speech in St Lois espousing the fundamental basics conservatism as he sees them, managing to butcher a quote commonly attributed to Margaret Thatcher. It usually goes: “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”, but it actually originated before the iron lady’s time and may have been uttered during a British Parliamentary debate in 1944. The message is a bit mixed when it comes from a candidate for president. It should be “The trouble with Presidential elections is that candidates eventually run out of other people’s money.”
Still, the slightly updated strain of conservatism (I love the irony) finds favor with many, and although that voting bloc is no longer kingmaker in US general elections, they are an essential component of a Republican victory.
So the political autumn begins with one candidate falling back to the obscure ground. More will follow. How long Trump stays in the game is indeterminable. He’s made a point of the fact that he is stunningly wealthy and is seeking no donors. In doing so he makes everyone else look squalid as they rattle their tins in exchange for their positions. Trump is beholden to no-one, and the self-made idea he represents is nothing if not American. The part that endears me to him (don’t read too much into that) is that he doesn’t appear to take this at all seriously. He says what he wants, how he wants, and is running rings around the competition.
He alone is having just as much of a laugh at this as the late night comedians. As I said at the start of this post; John Oliver and John Stewart ridiculed the media for buying into election hype so early on. In a ridiculous world Trump may be seen as the sanest choice.