Was there anyone left in Florida last Wednesday night? Or, was the state’s entire population at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley for the second Republican primary debate? Ok, so that was an exaggeration. Only the 35% of the state’s voters, those registered as Republicans, attended. More on that soon enough.
With The Walking Dead television marathon unavailable, I devoted my Wednesday evening to the debate. And after more than four hours of watching 15 candidates squabble over issues while a 16th candidate, with an approval rating consisting of his wife and three fishing buddies, watched from his Virginia basement, I can attest little differs between the CNN “reality show” and a zombie apocalypse.
Now, no one is picking on the Republicans. The GOP is just great theatre. The Democrats have lined up their first prime-time moment Oct. 13 on CNN so they’ve simply been unavailable and, for the time being, squeezed out of the discussion. Perhaps they missed the email about an earlier start? Their server must have been down. Nonetheless, the Democrats soon will have their moment.
What appears certain to one voter, who is more concerned at this juncture with the American League pennant race, is we could put Bill the Cat up for nomination and guarantee some support so long as his name is followed by (R) or (D) and he passes a litmus test of political “values.” Yet, the one issue not fully addressed by any candidate, but has considerable influence once a voter pulls the privacy curtain on the booth, is how much money does a voter have in his or her pocket.
Unless a voter has a loved one in a war zone it’s likely nothing matters more than the economy. So while the candidates recite their resumes, mangle the facts and get into a frazzle about unwed parents, undocumented workers, legalized marijuana, states rights and parking cones, undecided voters are thinking about their businesses and payroll, mortgages and college expenses.
Didn’t Rod Tidwell say it best? “Show me the money.” Alluding to job growth and security is good, but specifics are better. No one is talking about specifics. How does the next administration plan to boost the economy? The economy has rebounded since the Great Recession but continues to grow at a slow pace. Any voter earning a regular wage knows his or her household is a layoff away from economic uncertainty.
For answers we turn to a lineup of more than 20 serious candidates, Republican and Democrat, who have formally announced bids, a handful of others who have announced but aren’t considered serious, even by their homeowners associations, and a select few who await the call to save their party’s electoral hopes. Heroes on the horizon? Democrat Joe Biden? Republican Mitt Romney? Perhaps Shane will turn his horse around. Joey and Mrs. Starrett will be pleased.
We have Republican senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) who claim to be “not of Washington’s inner circle” but technically are part of Congress, as such the inner circle, according to my seventh-grade civics teacher. We have governors Chris Christie (N.J.), John Kasich (Ohio) and Scott Walker (Wis.) and former governors Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.) who prefer to say they slashed state budgets rather than say they laid off government workers.
We should note on Monday (Sept. 21) Walker became the second candidate, after former Gov. Rick Perry (Texas), to withdraw from the race.
Lest we forget we also have businesspersons Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina who claim to be “outside political influence” but spent years exercising political influence through campaign donations. Keep in mind individuals and political action committees are limited in what they can contribute to candidates’ campaign committees. Corporations cannot donate at all to candidates.
HOWEVER, ever since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, corporations, individuals, political “education” committees and, theoretically, alien civilizations (think Stephen Hawking’s idea of aliens) can spend however much they’d like promoting whatever candidates and philosophies they like – provided, of course, they don’t “coordinate” with the official candidate campaign committees.
Got all that?
Meanwhile, we even have retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and I can’t help wonder if he’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or simply a deer who’s wandered off a protected game reserve.
And where sits Florida in this free-for-all? Right in the middle. As alluded to earlier, four of the candidates have their primary homes in Florida: Bush and Rubio, obviously, along with Huckabee (Blue Mountain Beach) and Carson (West Palm Beach). Trump, though a New Yorker through and through, also has one of his homes in the Sunshine State. Such a staggering number of candidates from one state is unprecedented (at least since the early days of the republic, when all the candidates seemed to be from Massachusetts or Virginia).
Not to get on the wrong side of the animal rescue discussion but selecting our next president is much like selecting an abandoned pet. Rescue dogs and cats have the same instincts of purebreds, and candidates, no matter their background, share similar tendencies. They dance around the tough issues. But when we look at rescues we ask ourselves why were they abandoned? We ask questions. We should consider our candidates in similar fashion.
A couple of years back our family rescued a one-year old Boxer mix through Pooch and Poodle of Florida and were told upfront she had mange. Her brown eyes and sweet disposition captured our hearts but she was still recovering and had a bald spot on her back. Katie Bug’s eyes and disposition won out. Then again she wasn’t running for president. Perhaps we might consider something other than whether a candidate is Republican or Democrat or a “political” purebred. Inbreeding is a risk.
With two debates in the books each of the Republican’s 11 (now 10) prime-time participants have said exactly what they need to say to enrage the base because if they don’t enrage the base, they can kiss the nomination goodbye. Trump simply takes it to another level and enrages everyone from women to anyone whose heritage reaches back south of the Rio Grande River.
Case in point is the moment that lasted 15 seconds but will live on well past the expiration date of the coming election: Fiorina responding to Trump’s negative comments about her appearance with “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” Not sure about anyone else but I felt a chill in the air when she concluded her statement with a definitive period.
The other nine participants – if there were seven would they whistle while they worked? – recited a litany of stances not unlike a fast-food menu. It sounds good, and at the right price, but is it good for us? And as prospective nominees they better be pro-life, pro-military, anti-Obama, anti-Hillary, strict immigration, no taxes, states rights (unless the state disagrees) and lots of business incentives. Democrats are alternatively and similarly stringent on the issues.
The rest of the field? Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (VA) sits at home trying to get fishing buddies to return his calls. The remaining four candidates, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.), former Gov. George Pataki (N.Y.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), continue to battle on the junior varsity circuit. Are any of these candidates even top five in their home states?
The Democrats will throw out a prime-time starting lineup of five contenders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Gov. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), former Gov. Martin O’Malley (Md.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and former Sen. Jim Webb (Va.). The remaining Democratic candidates are so far off the grid there will be no “happy hour” debate and we can go about treating the time as it should be treated. With adult beverages, cocktail snacks and Sports Center.
All that being said the only people getting excited today, five months before the Iowa Caucus and 16 months before the General Election, are base supporters who’ve already made up their minds. Anybody but Clinton or Anybody but Bush. The signs are the electoral standards of more than two decades. And we’re talking about supporters who get excited because Sen. Rubio said in a greeting line, “please call me, Marco.” A Taylor Swift moment. “Oh, my God.”
One would hope we’d take the time and carefully consider the candidates from both parties as they attempt to attract our attention with fiery rhetoric and political ideals – certainly not solutions – in fashions indicative of their public perceptions. Roughly translated that means pseudo analysis to complex problems with no specifics. But what should we expect? An actual economic plan? One that doesn’t involve ruby red slippers? Perish the thought.
Katie Bug? She’s now four and still has the bald spot (not unlike the departed Scott Walker). She has our support.