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No bottom to scrape

February 3, 2016
GOP 2016-Why So Many

Travesty: collective noun for 2016 Republican candidates

Even though I’m not an American, I do, like every other person on the planet, have a vested interest in who their next President will be. The world is a dangerous enough place without a complete wack job in the Oval Office.

It wasn’t easy to make Ronald Reagan look quite reasonable, harder still to steal Richard Nixon’s longstanding position as Worst President Ever, but George Dubya Bush succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. One of the great comforts of the closing months of his second term was the certainty that the Republicans had scraped the bottom of the barrel. They could not possibly come up with a candidate worse than Dubya.

Oh, ye of little faith.

First there was the horrifying prospect of Sarah Palin being one heart attack away from the nuclear codes. And then there was Donald Trump, whose racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic rhetoric has been drawing thousands to rallies across much of the USA. Apparently there is no bottom in the Republican barrel.

I know quite a few Americans. Some live on the east coast, some live on the west coast, all of them are completely sane. This leads me to wonder if there is some correlation between salt air and sanity. Perhaps the problem is more fundamental(ist).

Two weeks ago, Iowa (pretty damn far from any salt air) saw the coming out party of the comedians’ dream team – and the world’s worst nightmare.


There was good news and bad news for the rest of the world from Iowa this week. Good news: Trump didn’t win the Republican ballot. Bad news: the misogynistic, Islamophobic, fundamentalist Ted Cruz did.

It’s a sad day when Marco Rubio (who nearly trumped Trump) is the least dangerous Republican option.

Here are some of the things Rubio believes:

  • Legalising same-sex marriage was wrong
  • Climate change is real, but human activity has nothing to do with it
  • Obamacare should be repealed
  • The Iran nuclear agreement should be torn up

Oh, and mosques and any other places where Muslims might be radicalised should be shut down.

It’s difficult to believe this used to be the party of Abraham Lincoln.

Meanwhile, across the aisle at the Democratic caucus…

You have to feel for Hillary Clinton. Like her or loathe her, she’s played by the rules. Her story arc is perfect.

The original good wife, in 1992 she helped her husband become the 42nd President of the United States by standing by her man.

She let him have his two terms before launching her own political career as a senator. (Unlike Donald Trump and Ben Carson and that Domino’s Pizza guy, she understood that some actual government experience was a good thing for a potential President to have.)

She bided her time, let John Kerry take on the thankless task of attempting to unseat Dubya in 2004 (even though her husband had succeeded in unseating his father 12 years earlier).

In 2008 it was her time. Then the upstart junior senator from Illinois, with his gift of soaring oratory and his message of hope started to gain traction and refused to wait his turn.

Obama had to give Clinton something and the Secretary of State job made sense. Performing the role would give her some much needed foreign policy experience which could only increase her viability as a Presidential candidate.

And so we come to 2015. Hillary Clinton surprises no one by announcing that she is running for the job. The boomer women who’d been in the forefront of the feminist movement, who’d supported her in 2008, who saw electing a female President as the jewel in the crown, came flocking back. It was time. (Some of them may have looked over their shoulders longingly at Elizabeth Warren, but her hat stayed firmly out of the ring.)

I mean, who else was there? Everyone knew Biden was never going to run. (I actually suspect Obama offered Clinton some backroom guarantee of this in 2008.) Warren notwithstanding, there wasn’t a single other high profile Democrat who could possibly challenge Clinton this time around. The nomination for which she’d waited so long (how patiently I wouldn’t care to speculate) was in the bag.

And then he popped up: not a whippersnapper this time, but an old fart. A proudly, avowedly socialist old fart.

clinton sanders

Clinton may initially have viewed the challenge from the maverick Bernie Sanders as a minor nuisance, but if she was paying any attention to events unfolding in the UK Labour party leadership contest, she would have quickly realised that socialist old farts have a certain appeal.

Just as Jeremy Corbyn galvanised the young and the marginalised, Sanders speaking truth to power is resonating.

Clinton (and others) can dismiss universal health care and free university tuition as pie in the sky. (The Scots would beg to differ). What they can’t deny is that a very large number of Americans want these things. (They’d also like to see some fucking bankers in jail, but that’s another story.)

Universal health care? Can’t be done, they’ve been saying since 1945 when President Truman stated: “The health of American children, like their education, should be recognized as a definite public responsibility.” (To find out who “they” are and how post-war proposals for universal health care were buried in the United States, it’s worth reading Jill Lepore’s excellent New Yorker article, The Lie Factory.)

It’s a shame not enough people were listening in January 1961 when President Eisenhower (that pinko former general) warned of the dangers of failing to rein in the military-industrial complex. Had his warning been heeded, the US government could easily afford to pay for health care and university tuition for every citizen – and could probably even throw in a house.


But I digress.

Clinton, with everything she had to throw at Iowa, beat Sanders – literally – by a coin toss. It is more than likely he will beat her in New Hampshire. After that, who knows? (As Harold Wilson famously said, a week is a long time in politics.)

Is it possible Bernie Sanders could win the Democratic nomination? Yes. (And a part of me would love to see it.) Could he be elected President of the United States in November? Anything is possible, but the odds I fear are against him. (Corbyn, on the other hand, I believe could be elected Prime Minister, despite Rupert Murdoch and backstabbing Blairite malcontents.) Do I think Clinton would be a better President than Bernie Sanders? No, but I think a Clinton presidency would be safer for the rest of the world than having any of the available Republicans in the White House.

As for that Republican travesty, if I had a vote (which I don’t), I’d vote for Rand Paul – not because I agree with him about everything (which I don’t), but because I disagree with him about a lot less than all the others. Rand Paul doesn’t stand a chance. The lunatics whom Bill Maher so delightfully refers to as the Tea Baggers hate Rand Paul, just as four years ago they hated his father.

Four years ago, before they’d taken over the asylum, they were busy at the primaries voting for anyone-but-Mitch. This time around Tea Baggers are all about Ted Cruz and if they get their way he will be the Republican nominee.

As sickening as I personally find that prospect – and as potentially horrifying as it could be for everyone in the USA and around the world – I hope their guy wins. Because Hillary Clinton would beat him. I’m not so sure about Rubio.

All of which is a bit depressing, so, to close on a more comical note, here’s a little Tea Bagger bashing.

From → Columns

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