}

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The classier clown leaves

Today Lindsey Graham became the fourth clown candidate to leave the Republican Clown Bus, ending his doomed attempt to win the Republican nomination. While he never stood a chance at winning the nomination himself, his departure could help those who oppose Trump to coalesce around someone else—could, but won’t.

Graham was far classier than the other candidates is his treatment of Democrats. His criticism was never as personal as the others, and he’s well-known for his friendships with Democrats—even those with whom he has absolutely no political positions in common. That’s heretical for a Republican politician.

Also unlike typical Congressional Republicans, Graham recognised that “elections have consequences”, as he put it, and he voted for all of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. In 2013, he voted for the deal to end the government shutdown, despite the fact the frothing base of his own party was apoplectic about that. He said of Republicans who’d shut down the government over silly partisan minutiae, "We're a right-of-center nation. We're not a right-ditch nation," which is a good quote, if a flawed assessment of the nation’s political character.

Graham was willing to criticise his own party’s voters, too, telling Boston Herald Radio, “There’s about 40% of the Republican primary voter who believes that Obama was born in Kenya and is a Muslim. There’s just a dislike for President Obama that is visceral. It’s almost irrational.”

Graham was by far the most hawkish of the Republican clowns candidates. In a field full of armchair generals, he was the only one to actively promote the idea of US troops invading Syria. Graham wanted to make the Republicans more hawkish, too, and he claims he did so. But as Zack Beauchamp pointed out on Vox, that idea is pretty absurd:
“…if it seems implausible that a candidate who was polling at 1 percent had such a profound impact on the race, that's because it is. The hawkish shift in the GOP field is the result of actual events in the world: things like the rise of ISIS and the Paris attacks.”
Harsh, but fair: Graham was always polling too low to make the main Republican debates, only ever making it to the Kids’ Table debate. Someone who has such little nationwide following was hardly in a position to influence anyone—neither voters nor his fellow candidates.

His departure, however, could help the Republican Party by clearing the field. Graham despises Donald Trump ("You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell," he told CNN), so getting out could help make it easier for voters to begin to coalesce behind an ABT—Anybody But Trump—candidate.

Tempering that bit of hope, however, is that at 1 percent support, he doesn’t have a lot of support to offer anyone else, though his endorsement might help in his home state of South Carolina, the third contest. For that to matter, however, more candidates would have to drop out—but who?

Putting aside all the nobodies and never-weres—Pataki, Gilmore, Santorum—there are some more obvious big names: Jeb! (just don’t say) Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie all have egos far larger than their states. Neither Kasich nor Christie can win the nomination, but dropping out would most likely help Jeb! (just don’t say) Bush the most, and he desperately needs help after running one of the worst presidential primary campaigns ever, but could also help Rubio, currently a distant third in the sweepstakes. If Kasich, Christie and Jeb! (just don’t say) Bush all dropped out, it would help Marco Rubio the most.

Next, there’s Rev. Dr. Ben Carson, Carly “former secretary” Fiorina, Rev. Gov. Mike “The Huckster” Huckabee. All of them have been at the big debates, which has only reinforced their vastly over-inflated opinions of themselves. If Carson and The Huckster drop out, they’ll help the Canadian-born Rafael “Ted” Cruz. Fiorina’s support, such as it still is, would probably go to Trump, I suspect.

That leaves only Rand Paul, and, well, let’s just say there’s no one else in the race quite like him. His far-right positions match up with the other clowns candidates, but never entirely with any particular one. A lot of his support is ornery, so it could go to Trump, Carson, Cruz—any of the antiestablishment candidates, or maybe all of them. But with him polling so low, his departure alone wouldn’t make any real difference, and wouldn’t necessarily help stop Trump.

What all of this is leading to is a choice between Trump, Cruz,and Rubio—and I cannot possibly think of a worse scenario: Not one of them is worthy of a vote for anything whatsoever, and NEVER for US President.

So, Graham’s departure may or may not help stop Trump, but it could end up helping candidates who are despicable and awful in their own right, utterly unredeemed by the fact they're not Trump.

But Graham's departure also means the loss of a more restrained, genteel, even, style of politics, where the political need not be personal. The remaining Republican clowns candidates could learn a lot from him.

To be sure, I disagreed with Graham on pretty much every issue possible—especially his warmongering—and there’s no way I’d ever vote for him. However, I never thought of him as an idiot, as all the front-runners are, and damning as that may sound, it’s really quite positive. The Republican field is filled with dangerous extremists, proto-fascists, and far-right religious nutjobs, but Graham was none of those things. His party’s campaign will be the poorer for his departure: He was by far the classiest one they had.

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