The horse race started earlier this time, and political reporters are having a good time keeping up with the goofiness. On the right, sixteen wannabes are prancing around the paddock. On the left, the Clinton dynasty claims the throne as rightful inheritance of primogeniture. The media mob, meanwhile, gets to play racetrack tout nearly every day, scolding flawed performances and concocting what-if scenarios about how various miscues and errors might affect the election returns in 2016.
These dope stories are known among older reporters as “thumb-sucking.” Not much reporting is needed, because who will remember half-baked predictions fifteen months later, when the nation actually votes?
This new column for the election season, Naked Democracy, will not spend too much time on horse-race chatter. Instead, I have in mind a running inquiry into things the political order won’t talk about. I mean the big issues and ideas, the neglected opportunities and deliberate falsehoods that confront the nation. The deeper disorders are abundantly visible, but largely evaded or even actively concealed by the money-drenched campaigns. Their advisers reduce citizens to data, then carefully test-market issue content so prudent candidates will know what not to mention.
Getting naked means peeling away the folklore and cardboard characters, the distorting propaganda and trivial political intrigues, so we can see the bare bones of our larger predicament. (The column title is also an admiring nod to Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism blog.)
The soaring birth rate for GOP candidates actually reflects the breakdown of the party system. In olden days, when the political parties were real organizations of real people and not mere mail drops for donor money, regional and national party bosses used to screen potential candidates. Now the billionaires fill that role. The reason we have so many Republicans running for 2016 is that so many billionaires want to finance their own personal racehorse.
The golden-haired Prince of Trump has created his own spotlight, and he’s scaring the crap out of party regulars. The Donald took up some of the GOP’s favorite prejudices and repackaged them as woozy barstool bigotry. His harsh talk should make Democrats nervous too, because it is broadly appealing.
Trump is performing a wicked parody of America’s dysfunctional democracy, mocking a system in which candidates do their best to avoid saying what they really think. If a wannabe should accidently speak the truth, the media will punish his “gaffe.”
Who says you can’t dump on Mexicans? Or brag obnoxiously about your personal wealth? Candid Donald even admits he is a superior guy, smarter and tougher, more fun to be around. Lots of people get the joke and laugh along with him. Voting for him, maybe not. My only prediction for 2016 is that at some point Prince Trump will turn back into a frog.
But The Donald is on to something true when he ridicules the unconvincing burlesque of presidential politics. People are not in awe when both political parties have become wobbly institutions, confused and insecure and divided internally. Their core constituencies no longer trust the leaders and rebel against a political establishment that has repeatedly misled or betrayed them. The largest pool of available voters is now the people who stay home. They learned their indifference and confusion from the babble of election campaigns.