Except for one, the present field of Republican presidential candidates resembles a Demolition Derby, a weird event in which junk cars ram each other until the last one able to move is declared winner. At this juncture the one who stands apart, perhaps hoping to watch the others run each other down, is Ron Huntsman. What drives the rest, and what makes people watch is material for a doctoral dissertation in psychology or mass psychosis.
Last night, David Letterman asked guest, Rachel Maddow, to describe how the country would have fared had John McCain won the last presidential election. She shot back, “At least we’d have Sarah Palin to cheer us up.”
She got laughs and shudders. Palin, who couldn’t finish out one term as Alaska’s governor, draws cheering crowds when she emerges from her wayward bus to speechify, putting on a spectacle of nastiness and idiocy that ought to make McCain, whose political judgement is questionable but whose loyalty is not, thankful that he lost in 2008. He came uncomfortably close, carrying 22 states, 46% of the vote, some 58 million people marking their ballots for McCain/Palin, sort of like having a planet- destroying comet miss by a hair’s breath.
Whatever the psychological virus, it entices grotesques like Donald Trump. During his brief stint as a pseudo-candidate, his glowering, “You’re fired!” demeanor drew crowds. Reporters asked him questions about matters that had clearly never entered his head, which he answered with a shot from the hip rarely related to the question. Cornered on the tarmac of a small airport, when asked about a rival, he snarled that his own “net worth” was ten times greater.
Perhaps there’s another genuine candidate lurking in the background, to emerge when the carnage ends. What’s happening now is a dreary spectacle, and no way to run an election in a country that purports to be the leader of the free world.