The Demolition Derby

The Republican campaign for president has become a farce. It was always likely that it would do so; serious candidates like Daniels, Petraeus, Bush, Ryan, Pence, and I suppose Powell and Rice stayed well clear, and the field was dominated by people who couldn't possibly run again in 2016, so there was never going to be much restraint. I was also surprised that the GOP establishment, judging by endorsements, thought such a deeply flawed, Wall Street candidate as Mitt Romney--one eyebrow away from a snitty explosion at any given time--could be elevated over their base. I guess I presumed that they had Perry in as insurance, and I wish I knew what had kept Sarah Palin out.

However--and some may think this appropriate given the forest of delusion into which the republicans have wandered for some time--things have now reached some form of psychic impasse. We have, in no particular order, a thrice-married (and twice badly divorced) 'Catholic', playing on racism and dog-whistle victimhood to proclaim himself a winner, with bags attached that a budget airline would never allow on board. We've got a 'pro-life' Catholic who seems to want to keep women out of politics, to bomb what he can't invade, and to put criminals to the sword, presumably on the "Caedite eos, Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" basis. Ron Paul, for whom I have some affection, is wandering around demanding public accountability for everyone except for newsletters he sent out marked with his name; and, well, Willard is being given a pasting everywhere, for everything except his Mormonism.

This is the bit, presumably, where I am supposed to go all European and condescend to note that American evangelicals and Christians won't vote Mormon, but that's bunk really. If they'll vote Catholic, they'll vote for anyone, and besides, it's not as though Mormon candidacies were anything new. Arizona's history, as the Goldwater and Udall families showed, is as much a story of Jews and Mormons as anything, and it was the epicenter of modern conservative movements. I wish Mo Udall had won in 1976, by the way; in retrospect, he seems to my mind the only presidential candidate better than Gerry Ford. There have been dozens of Mormon politicians and very few eyebrows have been raised, though I still recall a little surprise when I found out that Eldridge Cleaver ended up one. Divorces don't matter much either, in the scheme of things; by any measure, Anthony Eden, for instance, would have graced any state, separated or not. It's just a human tragedy.

What will now happen, given Newt Gingrich's victory in South Carolina last night, is a nasty and long slog, which the candidates somehow seem to deserve. Florida is the last primary before a slew of caucuses (caucii?), which will go on until the coordinated primaries of later in the year. The move of that state forward was meant to make it a key battleground, but what has instead happened is that Florida pushed Iowa and New Hampshire too close together. Iowa came too early, and given the Paul surge, was therefore difficult to manipulate, leading GOP bosses into a botched tie between the two acceptable candidates (it makes sense if you know how to steal a caucus). New Hampshire then followed too soon, and prevented the revelation of how weak Romney was. I was amused to learn that, in the first voting at Dixville Notch, Barack Obama won. Republicans had better get used to that, because I think that an Obama victory in the electoral college beckons.

The fact that things now go into obscure caucuses, most of which are clearly not on a unit rule, means that well-organised and determined campaigns can now pick up delegates all over the place. With Newt surfing anger, Ron Paul turning those delegates into a bloc, and Romney on the negative warpath, the eventual convention may end up divided in three-and a half exclusive and irreconcilable ways, leading to an unelectable platform, or a bolt. I suppose that a brokered convention--a perennial hope of mine--is a possibility, as is an imposed candidate, but that would seal failure as surely as Mondale's last Senate candidacy did for the Democrats in Minnesota.

In the meantime, the real world unfolds. The President seems to be resisting pressure to get into what at one point may have been an American Suez. The economy is still two inches from the brink, with three wheels on the wagon, but the Cherokee haven't yet noticed. Virtually no American statistic is reliable, and Wall Street appears to be aggressively begging again whilst the MERS scandal ticks down in the background. Nothing to see here, move along please, move along....

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