A friend was bemoaning to me how the cable news stations pretty much only seem to be covering Donald Trump. And while it's true, the reality is that I understand the coverage of Trump, after all he’s great copy. A reporter's dream. And he's not only leading in the early polls, he's lapping the field -- several times over. What I don’t understand, though, is the press's irresponsibility of ignoring actual politics, only the flamboyance. I’m sure it’s justified in their minds by saying, “He has 28% of the poll, and so-and-so only has 4%.” But their job is to report on the news, not what is popular. Reporting on what is popular is why Entertainment Tonight was created.
By the way, if Senators Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul and Governor Chris Christie -- all significant voices of authority in the Republican Party -- only have a combined paltry 3% in the polls (or thereabouts), that is news.
Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton was crushing everyone in the polls and had wrapped up most of the money. One day, another friend of mine was in misery over lunch about how the Democratic race was over, and there was no chance for anyone else. (It wasn't that he hated Hillary Clinton, he didn't, but he preferred others.) I explained that it was still far too early, but he dismissed me -- he had been talking with friends of his high in Democratic circles, and they said she had all the money, and there was nothing else anyone could do. The race was over. I didn't agree, but no matter, that was it, as far as he was concerned.
Needless to say, the early polls and experts didn’t work out very well. Hillary Clinton didn't get the nomination, and Barack Obama has been elected president twice. So, it's clear from the past that making plans based on popularity polls in August, while people are on summer vacation and five months before even the first actual primary vote is not a great way to prognosticate. Of course, there are two big differences between then and now: 1) Barack Obama was a substantive, galvanizing opponent. There are no substantive, galvanizing Republicans in today's field, and the very few that at least have substance are deeply low in the polls and without a sense of vibrant mission to excite the base, and 2) Democrats weren’t nuts-o crazy and saying how they don’t believe in government and then going out to prove it.
The first point is the most meaningful, but it's the second point that's so shocking -- and telling.
Right now, Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are the two top polling Republicans, with 40% of the response. Consider that for a moment, for as long as you can without your head spinning. If you then throw in Carly Fiorina, that says that 45% of Republicans right now say they prefer someone to be President of the United States who has absolutely zero experience in politics, They prefer a construction mogul TV host, a doctor, or a failed corporate CEO to lead their party, and then the world. If anything explains the state of GOP politics today, there it is. And anyone who thinks that is a Good Thing, it only proves the thesis. Imagine going in for open heart surgery and half the people ask for a doctor who’s never been to medical school.
Then again, given how many Republicans give so little credence to science, maybe that’s the wrong analogy to use.
There is no meaningful explanation for why 45% of Republicans support three people to be President of the United States who have never held elective office and therefore do not have a grasp of how politics works, even at the lowest level of dog catcher or Mayor of Wasilla, never mind even close to the level of Chief Executive of the United States, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and leader of the free world in international diplomacy. Being President of the United States is absolutely nothing like running a company. You can't fire someone who doesn't do what you say. You can't give an order and anything you want gets done. You can't outsource the fire department or teachers or road repair. Forty percent of the country at any time is working against your efforts. You are only one-third of the balance of power in the country, the other two branches having just as much authority as you. And the rest of the world doesn't have to pay the slightest attention to you. And being an accomplished neurosurgeon has even less meaning to the job.
Yet there you have 45% of Republicans, right now, saying they want people with no experience to be the most powerful person in the world. If your kid hadn't taken drivers ed, you wouldn't give him the keys to the car yet. But Republicans want to buy him a jet aircraft with a Cruise missile attached and send him off into the wild blue yonder.
To be clear, I'm not saying that these three people don't have enough experience. I'm saying that they have none. Republicans slammed Barack Obama when he first ran for being inexperienced. But he had been a United States Senator for two years, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an Illinois State Senator for 12 years. By comparison to Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina -- combined -- that's the equivalent of being King of the World.
By the way, it's important to note that being rich, famous and saying outlandish things that you might occasionally agree with when drunk does not qualify one to be President of the United States. If it did, Ted Turner would have been elected years go. Or Mel Gibson could have been granted immediate citizenship and simply been named president by acclimation. Then again, if all you want is rich, offensive and well-known, why not cut out the middle man and just vote for either of the Koch brothers?
Furthermore, Carly Fiorina ran for the U.S. Senate here in California. It was an embarrassment following her campaign here. So much so that she got pummeled by Barbara Boxer by 10 points. She is no more experienced in politics today than she was then. The only difference is that Hewlett-Packard has largely recovered ever since it fired her for being an incompetent CEO.
And I'm guessing that 100% of Republicans, rounded off to the nearest .00000000001%, didn't have the slightest idea who on earth Dr. Ben Carson was a year ago, but now 12% want him to be the most powerful man in the world because...well, honestly i don't know why because. The only earthly explanation is that they "like what he says," but if that qualified someone to be president, why not just say you want your best friend? It would have the same meaning, and at least then you'd have an inside track to the Oval Office if your pal won, rather than a total unknown stranger..
All this said, Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are not getting the GOP nomination, and Donald Trump still has a long road ahead before getting someone to actually cast a first primary vote for him, acting to place their security and their country's in his carnival barker hands, rather than easily registering your belligerent protest to a questioning pollster. But that they make up 45% of Republican support at any time in the race, no matter how early speaks volumes about today's Republican Party.
When Republicans say they don't believe in government, they mean it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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