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The Campaign Circus

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“God bless Donald Trump. This campaign has been a masterwork of performance art. He couldn’t be doing a better job to illustrate just how absurd our election process has become.”

Texas_Vinyl said that in the Comments section of an article about Trump vs. Rick Perry. These days, it’s Trump vs. Everyone and Anyone. Texas_Vinyl is right of course, but every campaign drops into crazy talk. There’s a debate raging about if Trump has damaged himself politically (certainly he has financially). But even his crazy is beside the point, in the long game.

IMO, the problem is not the tenor of our presidential campaigns, but their length. The British manage theirs over the course of a few weeks, which seems to fit the rutting-season craziness that breaks loose. This country instead mimics the rutting season of humans, which is all the time—including the attendant drama.

Capitalism also plays a role of course, in the lucrative industry that campaigns have become. Advertising, polling, reporting and opinionating all have evolved into massive income streams. Who knew that you could actually market bullshit? Oh wait, lots of people.

Here, the next campaign starts even before all votes are counted in the previous one. I recall watching Bob Dole complain, moments after victory was declared on election night 1992, that Bill Clinton had won with a mere plurality (43%).

Love at First Primary

“You know the difference between Democrats and Republicans?” said Bill Clinton in a 2003 speech. “In every presidential election, Democrats want to fall in love. Republicans just fall in line.” This quote begins a FiveThirtyEight.com article that claims the two parties have it backwards this year. Using endorsements from other politicians as a measuring stick, the article claims that more early endorsements equate with the party “falling in line.” My problem with this reasoning is that it fails to distinguish between politicians and voters.

Another article in FiveThirtyEight.com suggests that at least some of the pushback against Hillary’s inevitability comes from the news organizations who need a competitive race “rather than a coronation,” to drive their own ratings. So money is behind even that. As more than one wag has asserted over the years, “Everything in Washington is for sale.” Apparently even the press coverage.

2012 was definitely about the money. Republican voters didn’t “fall in line” behind Mitt Romney, he purchased them with the millions that he spent on ads against any competitor who managed to stick his head above the pack. Economic whack-a-mole. It is sick as hell that money spent on political advertising (IMO mostly innuendo and outright lies) can actually buy an electorate.

Actually, Romney bought a nomination. Obama raised more money. There was of course more to it than that, but Obama could easily have been a one-termer had he raised significantly less money. The election could have been seriously close if not for Romney’s string of gaffes culminating in the infamous 47% video.

Even Republicans now seem to know that: they are currently testing attack ads that portray Hillary Clinton as “Mitt Romney in a pantsuit”!

I disagree with FiveThirtyEight’s contention that Republican voters fall in line, but not in love—passion elected Ronald Reagan twice. It can be a real pitfall. Passion elected Obama, and he has since disappointed a lot of liberals who attributed passions and opinions to him that he does not possess. He’s a moderate liberal. More than a few serious libs are angry with him for not fulfilling their fantasies. (This despite the many liberal actions that he has taken.)

And as far as Democrats merely falling in line behind Hillary, she has an 80% approval rating from voters in her own party. If she’s so sadly inevitable, why do 4 out of 5 like her? I’m not a Democrat any more (a story for another time) but here’s why I approve: IMO she’s an impressive fighter who will give as good as she gets from the Republicans. Which, again IMO, has to happen before Washington can be functional again.

Obama’s own evaluation of political passion has proven overly optimistic during much of his presidency: his ability to get others to go along with him didn’t work with Republicans in Washington. Their opposition reached historic proportions during Obama’s presidency. A lot of pundits started playing taps on Obama’s presidency.

But now that he’s a lame duck who needn’t worry about angering his critics, Obama is in fact scoring victory after victory at a time when those pundits assumed he’d just fade away. He’s winning because he decided to fight instead of compromise.

That attitude-to-outcome relationship is what makes me like Hillary in the Oval Office. Poor Tucker Carlson will have to buy himself a steel chastity belt.

Money, as usual, leads the way for candidates: you need lots of it to run. There are two very different ways to raise it — and to no one’s surprise, both Jeb! and Hillary have the most. They got it from a small number of large-ticket donors. The other way, not surprisingly, is from a large number of small donors; Obama did both.

Back at the circus, the latest outrageous claim is that Democrats recruited Trump to run in a clever conspiracy to ruin Republicans. Now that is a clever conspiracy theory, and I’ve got just the place for it: the upcoming X-Files reboot.

Finally…

I find myself in the strange position of defending a politician I don’t respect: John McCain—and I’m not alone. In 2008, I was right there with Keith Olberman’s “Old man shouts at cloud” caricature. I will never forget that he visited the pestilence named Sarah Palin upon all of us.

John McCain absolutely did heroic things during the Vietnam war. Being shot down and captured was not heroic. What he did during his captivity most certainly was. Despite horrific torture that would maim him for life, he did not betray his comrades or his country. He even volunteered for more captivity (and torture) when offered a way home that would have been a political victory for his captors.

Whatever else I might think about John McCain (and about war), I have no doubt whatsoever that he is a war hero. To paraphrase Jon Kerry on the subject: “Where was Trump when McCain got shot down? At a party?”

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Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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