With new announcements being made almost every week, the announced Republican presidential primary field is up to about 11 or 12 candidates at last count, with five or six more set to announce. That’s getting close to 20 altogether, quite a few individuals who think that their experience, background and thought process qualifies them to be President of the United States. Obviously, as usual, there are those who have attracted some attention because of their complete lack of political experience, like Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, but in reality who don’t really have a chance to win the nomination. There are others (whose names I won’t mention) who are way too far out in right field, or even beyond in some kind of la-la land, from whom the novelty of ideas will eventually lead to the total collapse of their campaign. And in the great American political system that we’ve allowed to develop, there are some extremely smart, visionary, gifted leaders who don’t stand a chance because they don’t have their own private billionaire to pump cash into their PAC.
But I still think there are too many candidates.
It seems like the Republicans have not learned that a large, crowded field eventually wears supporters down, and they lose the necessary energy they need when the general election rolls around. Or, like last time, the right side of the party has moved too far to the right to win a general election, though it is large enough to have an influence in the primary. In the long run, and in the analysis after the election, Romney didn’t lose because he didn’t motivate enough conservatives to get to the polls. He lost because, in order to motivate conservatives to turn out, he moved too far to the right, and lost the support of independents who were not necessarily enthused about supporting the President, but picked him by an almost 2 to 1 margin because they were less enthused about the alternative. The other side already has plenty of material for their ad campaign, from the spitting contest that is already happening among the GOP candidates.
The Democrats, on the other hand, seem to be trying to avoid the appearance of a coronation. Money will be an issue for any of their candidates except Hillary Clinton, who will raise huge amounts and not have to spend much to win the primary. She will have the advantage of the largest war chest going into the general election, and since money does make a difference, she is the strongest candidate in the field right now. With the trend of larger voting blocks showing up and voting Democrat in presidential election years, she has a significant advantage.
There have already been some big surprises. Republicans seem to have recognized that the name “Bush” is not inclined to draw votes or represent the party’s position. It was amazing to see the entire field openly critical of W’s decision to invade Iraq, leaving his brother alone to defend his position and then, another amazing occurrence, do a flip flop and criticize the move himself. Bet that made for some interesting dinner table conversation in Houston. And in spite of all the rhetoric about ISIS, and what the US should do, most of the GOP field have put forth plans that are right along the lines of the President’s own proposals, but are careful to couch theirs in different terms. I heard one candidate, when asked, “What would you do differently from the President?”, say that he would do everything differently, and then outlined a plan that is basically exactly what we are doing now. Well, I guess every now and then someone has to make you smile, or insult your intelligence.
More than anything else, the nebulous rhetoric about having to “take America back” and about restoring “values” seems to be the top tier issue in many of the campaigns, but nothing practical or substantial as a genuine plan, based on factual information, to really fix something that’s broken. With the stock market at its highest point ever, business profits up to their highest historical levels, unemployment evaporating like a rain puddle in the Arizona desert, and even a level of increase in savings and prosperity trickling down into the middle class, the tone of most campaigns is still negative. The gloom and doom predictions and prognostications have failed to materialize, sapping the credibility of those who preach them. And yet, a presidential primary race with more than a dozen candidates keeps harping on the same themes, which displays their own ignorance, and the contempt they have for the intelligence of the voters.
For about half of my life, I taught high school students in history, government and economics. I taught them to ignore the rhetoric, and the political bending of the facts, and think for themselves. It would be a great way to test their knowledge now, to see if they can discern, through all of the fluff and garbage that gets tossed out, which candidate is actually on to something, and then to discern whether they have any kind of a chance at winning the nomination. My bet is that we are in for more of the same old, same old.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.