The sorry state in which the Republican Party finds itself this presidential election year, rather than improving as the campaign grinds on, is getting even sorrier. The withdrawal a few days ago of Jeb Bush from among the GOP aspirants meant things had formally taken a turn for the worse, as far as there being in the scrum an “establishment” foil to the noxious presence of the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Not that Bush was ever any solid prospect for such a role, anyway. That the party’s heavy hitters would turn to someone carrying the Bush name, after the very forgettable tenure of George W, as their white knight to the rescue, is a measure of the GOP’s dire straits in its hunt for a viable contender.
Truth be told, the Republicans had better watch out, that this ultra-democratic, debate-laden routine they’ve opted for in recent cycles — a sort of “Y’all come” hootenanny, with a busload of presidential wannabes — doesn’t settle in as their long-term bête noir. It’s a format that has given prominence and “frontrunner” status to a guy who, the possibility of his being the eventual nominee is the party hierarchy’s worst nightmare. Earlier in the free-for-all when South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham was still in the mix, he was asked if he would support a Trump candidacy. He probably would, Graham said, “But Hillary Clinton would beat him like a drum.”
Beyond some Republicans’ concerns about the embarrassment and horror of Trump being the party’s standard bearer come November is concern in the overall electorate (minus the sickos, of course) about Trump actually getting elected — the embarrassment and horror here at home and, globally, the plunge by this country into “laughingstock” territory that would result.
As doomsday scenarios go, there really isn’t a whole lot of distance between Trump and Cruz who, at this stage, seem to be the preferred choices among the GOP’s primary and caucus voters. One character is a foul-mouthed clown who has no business being around presidential or any other level of elective-office politics. The other is an obnoxious upstart who seems determined to have his name etched in infamy as hawker of the most bilious of extremist right-wing babble. As we’ve said here before, Trump, whose recurring xenophobic and other beyond-the-pale utterances should have occasioned his exclusion from the GOP process, if the party had the testicular fortitude to act, is in unrestrained victory-lap mode, breast-beating over the box into which he has placed GOP bosses with his threat of an independent run if they balk at playing his game. And with Cruz, even given the GOP’s unmistakable conservative colors, there’s no way that the party establishment would believe his brand of extremist hysteria renders him electable.
One shouldn’t dismiss out of hand the theory that Obama’s having been twice elected president, initially as a freshman senator, was a significant motivating factor in some unlikely candidates joining this 2016 GOP field. Cruz reasoning that if an African American could get elected, he certainly can, is very easy to imagine. Likewise Marco Rubio who is now seen as the third entrant, with Trump and Cruz, of Republican voters’ top tier. While the “distinguishing” marker for Cruz in his first-term Senate stint has been how committed he is to obstructionism and indifference to doing the people’s business, the conspicuous feature so far in the Senate career of Rubio, also a freshman, is how much he has been AWOL from Senate business. The temerity of holders of shabby records like those two running for president lends weight to the contention that Obama’s election triumphs set off strange, incomprehensible buzzing in the heads of some daffy political players.
The three “mouseketeers’ who now supposedly lead the GOP assault to re-take the White House are by no means breaking new ground, in terms of the party offering up questionable stock as presidential prospects. John McCain in 2008 looked and sounded quite clueless as to the proportions of and effective fix for a looming financial meltdown, and demonstrated deeply flawed judgment in promoting Sarah Palin as a presidential stand-in. Despite the governorship of Massachusetts and a business career in his resume, what we gleaned most from Mitt Romney in 2012 was how lacking in conviction he was, as he tumbled across the ideological spectrum, trying to be all things to all folk.
There’s been a definite nosedive, however, in what now looks to be the best the GOP will be offering for voters’ consideration this year. If the “cream” that has floated to the top isn’t about to change going forward in this campaign, you wonder how long the current intra-party candidate selection process will stand.