Many people think that politics should be kept out of entertainment. When the presidential candidates are more outrageous and intellectually dishonest than reality stars, they are totally in the entertainment domain. Since the traditional entertainment world is a snoozerama right now, I will turn my attention towards amateur punditry.
The obvious person to start with is Donald Trump, for whom 2015 is his Helen Mirren year, although his art of the douche is less honorable than her art of The Queen. As celebrities and public figures become increasingly scripted and appease-y to the bland (but increasingly absolutist) mainstream, Trump’s eagerness to go for the extreme jugular is a spectacle welcomed by many as the Gospel Truth. Even people who are repelled by his egomaniacal xenophobic conspiracy-theory rhetoric and hotheaded frat boy delivery can’t take their eyes off him.
Unlike 2008 when Trump had no tolerance for the derision hurled at him after his overly prolonged birther campaign aimed at Obama, he has developed a much thicker skin, taking his public troll number one reputation in great stride. He combats his adversaries with meaningless, but emphatic hyperbole of a New World movie villain emerging like an orangutan-haired hydra, stooping to a shocking new low every day.
Unlike earnest worry wart liberals, I do not think Trump’s monopoly of the airwaves or winning the Republican nomination would bring about Doomsday and not only because Doomsday is more plausible than his nomination. (I find the prospect of the President coming down to two dynasties- the Clintons and the Bushs- more disconcerting.)
Although Trump’s campaign has been resoundingly negative, he is really the only one (other than Bernie) who has inspired euphoria in people who were formerly apathetic or jaded towards politics, however misplaced and twisted it manifests itself. In spite of himself, Trump is the 2016 Obama for society’s outliers.
As somebody with a weakness for colorful eccentrics, I thank The Donald from the bottom of my heart for inspiring weirdos for coming out of the woodwork. I love co-founder of “Women for Trump,” Paula Johnson, an unassuming-looking Yankee woman with the voice and neurosis of Gladys Kravitz.
My absolute faves are the North Carolina Born-Again Republicans “Diamond” and “Silk” who “Stump for Trump” with Televangelistic zeal on their YouTube vlog The Viewers View. These ladies have the best comic timing and repartee since Craig Ferguson and Geoff. Like DT, they’re brash, unfiltered, hilarious, and shameless self-promoters. I haven’t seen this many women flock around one man since Charles Manson.
The only person close to Trump’s level of loony, off-the-wall rhetoric is Ben Carson, who proves that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a brain surgeon. Unlike a manic Trump, Carson registers on camera like he had an unfortunate dose of anesthesia that has resulted in an irrevocable side effect of narcolepsy (perhaps this is his relatability to the millions of overmedicated Americans). He does have his peculiar charms, namely comparing everything he doesn’t like to Nazism or slavery in the laconic, but sincere tone of a John Wayne character. Possibly the only person who lied about being Dexter when he was more like Dexter’s Laboratory, Carson, who has transformed into Howard Beale without probable cause, acts as if he might stab a “liberal bias” journalist.
Carly Fiorina’s American success story of an everywoman who rises from secretary to CEO is your typical pat biopic that leaves out the interesting details (namely her patrician diplomat family, her Stanford alumnus, and that she was a Stepford wife in Italy for a year).
Her Eliza Doolittle-like transformation on the campaign circuit is an astonishing feat. When she ran for governor in 2010, she looked like a frumpy, aloof NYU economics professor who couldn’t defend her appalling fire-happy HP record and subsequently lost to Barbara Boxer big time. In just a few years, she gussied up with a corporate Barbie MILF makeover, and spoke fluent Conservative Politicalese with the speed of a savant. With O. Henry irony, her presidential polish has resulted in apathy from many Republicans banking on a “maverick.”
Jeb Bush isn’t so much low energy as much as he’s a tightly controlled shill. In spite of his best efforts to be the vanilla inoffensive candidate for the Establishment, every time he responds to a tough question, stuff happens. He’s exactly like his bro, except he doesn’t do the trust fund baby dork dance as well and won’t tell a joke all the way through. If we’re destined to have an unbridled Republican asshole, gimme Trump.
Ted Cruz isn’t only a dead ringer for character actor Pat Buttram with his squinty doughy face and hammy Southern twang, he is the Mr. Haney of this race, which has been Hootervillized with an elitist makeover. Like Haney, Cruz comes off like a dumb country hick, but under his shtick he is a devious political operator and a real threat for the nomination. Just as scary as his ideology is his “dummy doll” laugh.
When the roster of candidates are like rejects from The Gong Show it makes sense that the GOP would stand by the next, next, next, next best thing, Marco Rubio. Because he doesn’t advocate for the slaughter of all the relatives of terrorists or claim that the Pyramids were grain storage sites for Joseph, many assume he’s the voice of reason. Perhaps the most mealy-mouthed of them all, Rubio has hinted at declaring war with China and has a Tetris style immigration plan that keeps undocumented people in limbo for years. No matter how much his camp tries to push the boy wonder image, most people are hip to the fact that he’s old goods in a new package.
For the past 20-odd years, Hillary Clinton has been a magnet for a collection of hysterical, often sinister conspiracy theories. She brings a lot of this on herself with her guarded WASPy secretiveness and her political incestuousness. Like a stubborn old dog, Mrs. Clinton pathologically does everything behind bolted doors. Her most profound moment was when she told Black Lives Matter activists that you have to change laws before you change hearts, but alas it was, you guessed it, behind closed doors.
She is more detestable than the average bear politician because of her extreme disingenuousness. She is as adept at personability as Hyacinth Bucket (“Bou-kay”) is at poshness, though unfortunately Hillary lacks Patricia Routledge’s genius comic timing. She does herself no favors with her belligerent attitude that it’s her manifest destiny to be the first woman president. The excruciating irony is how the DNC and older affluent Dems are berating the progressives’ “irresponsible” support of Bernie claiming that Hillary is the only realistic candidate. They seem to forget that she lost big time back in 2008 and everybody had to plead with the kicking and screaming woman with a “Mr. Gorbochav, tear down the wall” inevitability. Oh yeah, the first two words that spring to most people’s minds are “liar” and “unlikable.”
Common wisdom attributes Bernie Sanders’ surge in the polls to championing substantial structural changes from the 1% to help the 99%. But he also benefits from the Betty White effect, which makes elderly white people more lovable to the millennials on social media (even Martin Shkreli felt the Bern). With his mad scientist hairdo and gruff New York accent plus his record as a Senator consistently on the right side of history, Bernie has normal people and capable politician street cred.
Martin O’Malley is the political equivalent of actor Jay Harrington. Both men are handsome, intelligent, and personable. But both have been overshadowed by shiftier, less rational, more idiosyncratic co-stars, and their significant contributions to their “shows” are underrated. In my world, O’Malley would have a real shot for the nomination and Better Off Ted would still be on the air.
There are still a stupid amount of people running who haven’t got a shot in hell, because they didn’t take the wise strippers’ advice from Gypsy. Let this be a lesson to all prospective candidates, you gotta get a gimmick.