Gingering the Tail
It’s only March and already the handicapping of the 2016 elections seems impossibly dreadful. We are still ten months away from the first presidential primary, and yet it seems as if the whole obese, god-awful thing has been going on for ages; the prospect of another year and a half of shit-flinging between whatever two apes emerge to represent the only two parties that stand a chance of winning office is enough to drive one to full-time hermitage.
At this point, the race for the presidency can’t even fairly be called a horse race; horse races are more fair and less repulsive. While the election of an American president and a horse race do have in common the fact that its participants essentially represent only the interests of a small and powerful group of rich people, it’s more like a meaningless pre-season exhibition game in baseball, or the Pro Bowl. It’s just a parade of show ponies with ginger crammed up their holes to make them seem more attractive, and when it’s all over, one of them gets put out to stud to create the next generation of professional candidates.
This can be seen in the early runnings, as speculation runs rampant that Hillary Clinton, wife of a former president, and Jeb Bush, son of a former president and brother of another, will be the front-runners. This would be a delightful outcome in terms of cementing America’s growing reputation as a banana republic, and of course it would be good news for Chelsea and the “little brown ones”, but it shouldn’t eclipse the fact that this has been a terrifically entertaining week as far as illustrating what a colossal hand-job the whole process of campaigning really is.
Among other developments, we have seen the gathering of right-wing bukkake artists known as the Conservative Political Action Conference display their annual mating ritual, resulting in hopeless glibertarian Rand Paul defeating heartless plutocrat Scott Walker in a meaningless straw poll; we have seen Donald Trump emit his usual election-year gas cloud about running for office, as if he has not been a national laughing-stock for the last three decades; we have seen Ben Carson jockey for the token black conservative slot recently vacated by Herman Cain; and we have seen Benjamin Netanyahu energize the pro-Israel lobby by popping over and pressing a few of their favorite hot buttons in what looked uncannily like an attempt to position himself as a candidate for president of America. (He’s got a better chance than Trump, at any rate.)
Most of all, we’ve seen the conservative smear factory kick into high gear, brushing the dust off the old ’90s slander machines to respond to the possibility of Hillary Clinton as the presumed Democratic most-likely-to. The charges have about as much credibility as anything else leveled at the Clintons, but of course, it’s never the lyrics to the song, it’s how loud it is coming out of the speakers. The G.O.P. neither knows nor cares what Hillary’s intentions are, since she hasn’t announced any, and it neither knows nor cares what Hillary’s positions are, since she hasn’t put forth any. All they know is that she might at some point oppose them, and so the weaponry they will use to destroy her must be taken off the racks and polished. Little more evidence is needed that political races at the highest level are about winning and only about winning; since when does one ask a horse what it intends to do after it wins a race?
Of course, as with many meaningless sporting events, the winner is not always decided by which team plays well enough to win; it is almost certain that the 45th presidency will be decided by which team plays poorly enough to lose. The Republicans must avoid fielding a mean, hostile crank who is altogether too open about what his party’s real goals are (sorry, Scott Walker), but also stay away from a robotic moneybags incapable of expressing any emotion or motivation known to people who have had to work for a living. This could mean a blustering phony tough guy like Chris Christie, or a heartland know-nothing like Ted Cruz, or some bland but efficient corporate accountant currently clipping the ties of the safety net in some press-averse low-population state, but whoever it is, they can win merely by seeming less horrid than the Democratic candidate, which is why the smear guns are already being oiled and cleaned.
The Democrats can lose by responding badly to the inevitable crap-hurling; Obama was pretty adept at ducking it, which is why he won two terms despite being pretty accomplishment-lite. Most Americans didn’t take kindly to the always-on-the-edge-of-racist attacks the right launched at him; that didn’t keep them from launching them (and it set the tone for the most racist members of the political right to really throw themselves a debutante ball, resulting in a more racially polarized culture than this country has seen since the ’60s), but it kept him in a good position to roll his eyes and make them look, well, as bad as they really are. Hillary Clinton may have a similar advantage, depending on whether or not you think conservatives hate women more or less than they hate black people, but Joe Biden certainly won’t, and the right will be able to resurrect some of their favorite tropes without the ugly mess of them being entangled with race.
Hillary Clinton, for example, has already been the victim of an attempt to join her with the alleged cabal of Chicago gangster/communists of which Obama was the Donald DeFreeze; the recent rebuke of Chicago mayor and Obama crony Rahm Emanuel by Illinois voters has been cited by conservatives as ‘evidence’ that America is tired of their strong-arm Alinskyite tactics. Of course, the people who voted against Emanuel almost entirely gave their votes to Chuy Garcia, who was embraced because he was more liberal and progressive than Emanuel, who is largely seen as a bought-out tool of the rich and corporate interests — that is, too Republican. But again, it’s not the song, it’s the volume.
One thing is for certain: the Democrats will sooner go with a candidate plagued with scandal than they will an actual progressive, and no one who stands up to moneyed interests will appear on November 2016 ballots with a (D) by their name. (Sorry, Elizabeth Warren.) It will be another battle between the interests of the rich who believe in patronage and noblesse oblige, and the rich who believe in nothing but profit. We will all see another exciting race, full of mud being strewn and hot air being snorted, and eventually, a winner will cross the finish line and take a victory trot, tail lifted high in the air from the ginger up his or her ass. And the working class will trudge along after, picking up all the horseshit they leave behind.