We’ve nearly reached the “dog days” of August, only about a year too early.
In a regular election year, there is a pause, a deep breath taken after both parties have concluded their conventions and presented to America their nominees. Apart from rabid devotees of one man or one woman, most citizens with voting histories lie back and wait. There is a tendency to relax for just a few more weeks before squatting down in the sand and pulling apart the bones discovered on a plateau somewhere that will (or won’t) indicate whom to choose, which way to go.
In 2015, this lying back and waiting may be dubbed “The Big Pause.”
Which, after all, is what the Republican National Committee envisioned. It wanted time to winnow the field and then to triumphantly present their candidate by spring of next year with their party united and in no doubt about their man or woman. They wanted to be able to have a front runner for six months, a machine that could destroy any and all late challengers.
They may get their wish. Or maybe not. Mr. Trump’s presence in the lists, at least at this moment when he is being treated “fairly,” has decimated the best laid plans. Polling as far ahead as he is – whether or not the respondents to the pollsters are having fun or are deadly serious – The RNC has its overwhelming personality on whom they may be able to count for the rest of the year. Do they want him?
Answers to that question are legion. The “old guard” most certainly does not. “The rest of the party – youth, middle-aged, rich, richer, or richest – are threatening to upend the powers that be. Not to mention the “man in the street” who is clearly enamored of straight talk, anger, ego, and a complete lack of knowledge about governance of any kind. Trump is more than a wild card. He’s a wild child. Used to getting his way, unused to criticism, flexible to a degree that makes his party uneasy. He’s a child to whom no parent ever said “no.”
So, incidentally, is Scott Walker. Full of bravado and never having been disciplined or caught lying about picking up gum off a store counter, Walker comes across as a smart aleck who thinks he’s cute, and who is the one kid in his gang you can count on to blame someone else for his failures. Worse, he is a man without a sense of history. Whether he’s going after the labor movement which was born in Wisconsin or the state’s really excellent system of higher education, and which incidentally, is fiscally sound in addition to being highly regarded, Walker prefers to juggle, throwing $250 million into the air as a tax cut or using it (in a smooth reverse) to build a new sports stadium in Milwaukee. It’s all the same to him. The figure – 250 million – can be moved hither and yon and end up probably not being spent in any fashion on whatever he’s been promoting. Even better, he has neither international know-how nor military knowledge. So, like Trump, Walker’s way – uninformed though it is – becomes a matter of ego and we, as citizens, are left on the sidelines to
watch another president learn on the job. This is not a happy scenario.
Nor would it be with Ted Cruz. A nakedly ambitious man with neither foreign policy experience nor military sense, a man of no consequence in the Senate where he is not highly regarded although he can be dangerous to the nation (see his efforts to close down the US government), Cruz is hiding behind evangelicism, a curious posture for an astonishingly well-educated man. But it plays well on the hustings. Caught in the glare of a question he cannot answer, Cruz falls back on God, his father’s history, his own love of Jesus. Cruz is the epitome of an opportunist who has bullied his way into a vacuum in the Republican Senate, much as the late Joseph McCarthy did in the fifties. Chances are everything that Cruz says is as accurate as what McCarthy tried to sell.
And what of the “adult” Jeb Bush? Here’s the guy the establishment depended on and who, for the life of himself, cannot hold it together. One day he performs well, the next he’s at a total loss. Should he uphold his brother’s “pre-emptive war” philosophy, or criticize it? Can he step aside from his once-popular “Core values curriculum” in schools for changes that need to be made, or will he stand pat on his record? Did he actually preside over a Florida miracle, or was he lucky as hell to get in and get out before 2008?
Where Bush is different from his competition is his reluctance to learn to speak in the manner voters apparently now want to hear: loud, brash, self-centered, as full of truth as it is of lies?
Ben Carson, adept or not, needs to awaken. Chris Christie has the patter down perfectly, but suffers a bit from behaving like Willy Stark in “All the King’s Men.” Santorum is washed up. Carly Fiorina is clearing her throat, raising her volume, and may be able to siphon off base votes, which hurts the RNC rather than helps it. Lindsey Graham who is quick-witted and sly is also boring. He may have expertise on military committees, but little else to recommend him.
We could go on. But we don’t know even now whether the field is still open to other new candidate/ nominees or not.
The “dog days” serve a useful purpose. We can all lie in the grass and roll around in the sunshine, waiting to see what happens, or who rises to the top.
This week the Republicans swarm the Iowa State Fair. They’re all still sculpted in butter.