Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Well, They Went and Did It

I wake up in the morning, and I wonder
Why everything's the same as it was
And I can't understand
No, I can't understand
Why life goes on the way it does

Why do the birds go on singing? 
Why do the stars shine above? 
Don't they know it's the end of the world? 
--Herman's Hermits (1964)

OK, it's not that bad--not yet. Nothing really bad has happened yet to the country simply because the Republicans have nominated as their Presidential candidate a poorly-informed, bigoted bully who seems to be running because it feeds his ego. 

I remember feeling this way, though, in early 2001 once we had gotten past the disaster of the 2000 election and its aftermath:  Bush hadn't done anything stupid yet.  And we know how that one came out. 

We have already covered the question of whether Trump is the "least-appealing" candidate of the postwar era (or is it now the prewar era? History will tell) Due to his uncertain ideology and his relatively weak ability to lead an effective national campaign, I rated him only the third most-dangerous candidate of the last 60 years, behind Reagan and Dubya.  But that would change if the American electorate does the unthinkable and actually elects him. 

His views are perhaps unprecedented in modern times among Presidential candidates for their virulence (though Nixon may have been as bad, he was less open about it).  In terms of riding an unexpected popular movement, taking a politically inexperienced businessman candidate to of uncertain party loyalty to a Republican nomination, though, I can think of a precedent.  Wendell Willkie, a former Democrat, appeared practically from nowhere to take the 1940 Republican nomination; he ran a spirited campaign but lost the Electoral vote, 449-82.  Willkie's political career after the defeat infuriated his party; in those days, after World War II had started but before Pearl Harbor, he stood out as one of the strongest backers of greater involvement.  Unlike Trump, he had very progressive, internationalist views.  Though we remember Franklin D. Roosevelt's death shortly after being re-elected one more time, in 1944, Willkie actually died before he did 

So, that is encouraging, but of course Hillary is no FDR.  At least, I don't think so. 

Status Report:  Ship Still Sinking
Personally, I think Donald should use the word "titanic"--it would be a good addition to his vocabulary, fits well with the other adjuectives he typically uses, and it would be a delicious reference to his chosen party and its state.  The Republicans have hit the iceberg, and it has a name: Drumpf. 

George Will does a good impersonation of a rat, and so it is appropriate that he has already bailed on the party.  I have to respect those, like John Kasich and Mitt Romney, who have taken a firm stance on principle against their party's nominee, though rowing in the opposite direction of the tack the wind is pushing the boat does not work very well.  Most of the more respectable members of the party resemble those who are reaching in desperation for anything still floating after the vessel sinks under the waves. Finally, there is Ted Cruz, who has commandeered a life raft and is heading further out to sea.  I have sensed (not watching, saying "la-la-la" so as not to hear) that Cruz has released his supporters from any obligation to vote for his nemesis; he is positioning himself well for a 2020 bid to run as the True Conservative, At Last.  I like it. 


John Nichols said...

I appreciate the inclusion of consideration of possibility that Trump could win. While I find such an outcome appalling, ignoring the risk of such and assuming that the dysfunction of the GOP will inevitably lead to his defeat in November could lead to a complacency that yields a tragedy.

Cruz is an interesting case. He is mocked by detractors as being self promoting (but what politicians aren't?) when he is one of the more principle driven politicians out there. Of course, I am no fan of most of his principles. There is a measure of irony in the assessment that he is all about Ted when the speakers who mock him for that are rallying behind a man who seems to exist only to proclaim and revel in his "grandeur."

Lastly, I think Cruz views himself as an heir to the Reagan mantle. While there may be some philosophical basis for that assumption, it won't translate into Reagan-esque election performance in the long run. Reagan had an avuncular presence sufficient to capture the attention of enough of the baby boomers in a time of discontent. Suffice it to say that few of us would want Ted Cruz as our uncle. Whatever the millennials think of economic opportunity now, things are radically rosier now than in 1980.

Chin Shih Tang said...

Thanks for your comment, Mr. Nichols--always welcome.

My second greatest fear--after the one that hopefully will resolve as nothing to worry about in November--is that a downturn in the economy soon after Hillary's inauguration will doom the Democrats in 2020, whether the nominee is Hillary or someone else (such as Tim Kaine--congratulations, Senator!) Only something like this could make it possible for Ted Cruz--who I currently expect to be the nominee of the Republicans--to actually get elected, and then who knows what would be the result? Either he would be a disaster, which would be bad, or his snake oil could have a fortuitous outcome, in which case we would have to go through the 40-year Reagan regression cycle from which we are just starting to emerge.