Were it left to me, I’d probably retire the “clown car” analogy for the crowded 2016 Republican presidential contest. Like the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” line employed by those who sought to dismiss Hillary Clinton and the other contenders for the 2008 Democratic nomination, I think it diminishes the real competition that is going on—and the real distinctions between the candidates.
But the “clown car” line is going to be amplified as Donald Trump grabs for the wheel.
Trump’s candidacy begins as a punchline, and it’s hard to imagine how it will end as anything other than that. After teasing the country for years about entering politics, Trump finally declared Tuesday that this is no longer a joke: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially running for president of the United States…”
Because Trump is Trump, his campaign will be characterized as political theater of the absurd.
Of course, that is not necessarily disqualifying these days.
Presidential campaigning has, for all intents and purposes, and with a few honorable exceptions, become political theater of the absurd. So Trump fits right in—not merely to the Republican race but to the broader 2016 competition.
* The presumed front-runners for the nominations of both major parties are the wife of one former president and the son and brother of two former presidents. Both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, no matter what their other strengths, begin the 2016 race with the presidential-level name recognition that most other candidates can only dream of. But Trump does not have to dream. He is a son of privilege whose determination to grab the spotlight has, over many decades of publicity grabbing, gained celebrity that is proximately presidential.
* It is quite likely that the eventual nominees of both major parties—and the various and sundry political operations and “independent” political enterprises associated with their candidacies—will each end up spending well in excess of $2 billion. (That’s up from the $1.2 billion for Team Romney and the $1.1 billion for Team Obama in 2012, but America is suffering from exceptional political inflation in this Citizens United era.) Claiming a net worth of $9 billion, Trump says he is the “most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far”—with a “Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney .”In the new age of money in politics, that is certainly some sort of “qualification.”