I suppose that in a perfect world, Americans would not be consigned to a choice between P.T. Barnum and the villain Ursula from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” when they went to the ballots this November. Then again, in a perfect world, Americans would have retained the reins of government rather than abdicating their civic responsibilities and allowing the nation to descend into oligarchical socialist rule with all that this implies – the slim pickings in the area of presidential candidates being but one aspect thereof.
During the primary season, some commentators pointed out the drastic circumstances that gave rise to the face-off on the Democratic side between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. While Clinton may be a known quantity despite the tonnage of political baggage she carries, Sanders was an outright communist, which alarmed many given the substantial following he had amassed.
On the Republican side, there was the pantheon of largely establishment operatives. A lot of people are still trying to fathom how GOP nominee Donald Trump managed to overcome this lot with relative ease. (This belies current polls which reflect a close race between Clinton and Trump in November, but that’s another issue.)
In analyzing this phenomenon, let us take a look at some of the establishment Republican presidential candidates of the recent past, winners and losers, hopefully garnering a clearer picture of how we got here.
In 1988, we were given George H.W. Bush who was practically anointed, being the vice president under a phenomenally successful president. In these cases, the electorate generally presumes such a candidate will, if elected, follow in the footsteps of his predecessor in terms of policy. This “Bush 41” did not do, raising taxes, compromising the Second Amendment and throwing up on the Japanese prime minister, something Reagan wisely avoided.
In 1996, the GOP de-mothballed longtime Kansas Sen. Bob Dole to run against Bill Clinton. Dole, unlike Reagan despite his age in 1980, was clearly a politician who had seen better days.
“It’s the RNC. We need you to run for president.”
“But I don’t feel like it. I’m tired. I was really thinking of retiring soon.”
“Well, you’re probably gonna lose anyway, but your party needs you, so shut off the Britney Spears record and get dressed.”
With Dole being decidedly two-dimensional, a clear moderate and his creepy proclivity for referring to himself in the third person, it’s hardly a mystery why he lost to Clinton, who by then was a seasoned pro with decent polling numbers.
George W. Bush – “Bush 43” – wisely held to what earns Republican presidential candidates wins. He sold himself as a fire-breathing conservative, even though he was anything but a conservative. Second in federal spending only to Barack Obama, Bush also expanded the scope of the Community Reinvestment Act; this factored largely in the 2008 global financial implosion, from which Americans are still suffering.
Senator and former “war hero” John McCain was definitely another “seen better days” guy, and it’s likely that he, like Dole, was perceived as a candidate who probably didn’t have much of a future outside the Senate, and so was an appropriate sacrifice (to lose in a presidential race). There’s a certain irony in this, since the Obama administration later managed to handily exploit McCain’s influence in its bid to expand Islamist influence in the Middle East through the creation of ISIS.
In 2012, we were offered former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee, running against the incumbent Obama. How Romney got to be the nominee was puzzling, since he was at the bottom of my list in 2008, and again in 2012, as well as being at the bottom of the list of every conservative I knew in 2012. Having spearheaded the progenitor of Obamacare in Massachusetts, Romney was clearly no conservative. Apart from some controversy over his being a Mormon (which in theory ought to have little consequence), Romney was little more than a good-looking white guy in a suit, and I believe that this was a fundamental liability at that time.
So now we have Donald Trump as the GOP nominee. Trump is obviously not a part of the Republican establishment machine, although it isn’t clear whether or not he’s been allowed to get there by the GOP establishment in some obscure strategy to secure a Clinton win. Leaving that possibility aside, Trump is an outsider who has – at least at face value – terrified the establishment right and left with his ability to relate to those who have suffered mightily at the hands of ruling elites. This suffering to which I refer cannot be underestimated. It is not a matter of some folks being perturbed at the slightly higher tax rates that got Bush 41 ousted; we’re talking about 94 million people out of 186 million sidelined in the workforce. Anyone who cannot assess the significance of such numbers is not capable of cogently evaluating our present situation.
Still, there seem to be conscientious Republicans, conservatives and libertarians who see more significance in Donald Trump having donated money to both Republican and Democratic interests over the years than the fact that Hillary Clinton committed serial treason in her role as secretary of state, or that she and her husband have had a decades-long, profitable relationship with the enemies of this nation, or that through the Clinton Foundation, the two have made hundreds of millions of dollars criminally compromising our foreign policy. These people, though perhaps well-intentioned, often display the same myopic self-righteousness and subjectivity in their arguments as dedicated liberals.
This is obviously disturbing from the viewpoint of evaluating the potential outcome of the upcoming election, but more importantly it calls into question the character of some whom we count as brothers and sisters in arms.
And as we learned during the administration of Bill Clinton, character does indeed count.
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