Friday, 6 November 2015

Politics as Theatre

Where Do the Floppy Shoes Fit?
It's been said that politics is a sort of show business for unattractive people; not sure who first came up with the aphorism, but it's been recently been on display in the theatrics around the coming 2016 elections in the US.

Donald Trump, erstwhile real estate developer, "reality" television icon, and general big mouth has been drawing an awful lot of attention in a somewhat quixotic bid to become the Republican Party nominee for president.  Mr Trump does what he does best, which is draw attention to himself, making statements that are decidedly impolitic.  It seems to me unlikely, at best, that he has any chance of being his party's nominee, or if, indeed, he actually wants to be, but he's selling a lot of cheap hats and likely, drawing a lot of people to the coffee, pizza, and ice cream shops at his property on Fifth Avenue in New York.

There is even a meme going around the social media sphere about "things that look like Donald Trump," including a bird, an ear of corn, an Eastern European truck overloaded with hay bales, and oddly, a doughnut with the filling exploding from the top, presumably following some time spent in a microwave oven.

My personal favourite is a cat with a terrible comb-over:

Presumably, the feline does not have access to the same resources as Mr Trump, so its "hair" is excusable.

Another favourite target (right now) is former surgeon Ben Carson - formerly the head of paediatric neurosurgery at The Johns Hopkins University - not exactly Hollywood Upstairs Medical School (with apologies to Dr Nick Riviera).

Dr Carson is being lampooned mercilessly around the blogo- and twitter-sphere for outlandish remarks about the pyramids, stick-ups at Popeye's Fried Chicken restaurants, and, more substantively, whether he would support a Moslem candidate for president.

Ben Carson is a gifted surgeon (he performed the world's first - and I believe still, only - operation to separate conjoined twins joined at the skull).  That does not really qualify him to be president, which many have already pointed out.  Skill in one field does not translate into another - Gary Cooper was a great actor; he was pitiful as a baseball player, as anyone who has seen him "swing" a bat or throw a ball in "Pride of the Yankees" can attest.

It all adds up to a running trope that the Republican primary is a sort of "clown car," which the Washington Post's Dana Millbank has declared this to be so months ago.

Pace Mr Millbank, the issue is that the Republican field is just too large:
There are far too many candidates (so many that there are concerns they won’t all fit on a debate stage), and to gain attention they are juggling, tooting horns and blowing slide whistles like so many painted performers emerging from a clown car.
Now, I've personally referred to the race as a clown car, and I do not disagree that there are candidates (Donald Trump, or Ben Carson) who plainly come across as unqualified and unprepared.  That adds a certain air of slide whistles and floppy shoes, as Dana Millbank says.

But really - is the alternative really better?  Is the fact that the Democrats have really NO reasonable alternative offered up to Hillary Clinton what Millbank and others want?

I watched the Democrats' (thus far, only) debate.  With respect to Bernard Sanders - who is running, I think, a principled but doomed campaign - this is a coronation.

And the dauphine is really an awful choice.

While people are laughing about Ben Carson's comments that the pyramids of Egypt were actually grain silos built by Joseph, no one is laughing about Hillary Clinton's blatant dissembling about the recently revealed Trans Pacific Partnership.  The pact - perhaps the single greatest actual accomplishiment of her time as Secretary of State - and surely overshadows ANYTHING she accomplished in the senate - she is now rushing to denounce it.  When asked why she called it "the gold standard" as Secretary, she offered the defence that she "hoped it would be the gold standard."

Does anyone believe this?  

She is decidedly not being asked many difficult questions, and when she avoids them, there is no push back.  When asked "What would be different about you as president compared to Mr Obama," her answer was that she would be a woman.

Yes; Mrs Clinton is a woman.  And yes; Mr Obama is a man.  But if that is the alpha and omega of what she brings in terms of new vision, why on earth would anyone vote for her?  It's blatant pandering; "Vote for me because I am a woman."

Ben Carson, who has no chance of election, is a bit nutty about the pyramids.

Mrs Clinton, who is the odds-on favourite to be the next president, is lying about the trade deal.

Which is actually more of a problem?

The Republican nomination is a bit of a clown car; there probably are too many debates.  Too many candidates.  And as Dana Millbank points out, they often appear to be engaging in outlandish behaviour to draw attention.  Mrs Clinon, however, appears to be doing whatever she can to avoid any attention at all - no press Q and A sessions, carefully managed and scripted meetings.  

While one can laugh about Donald Trump's hair or debate "undercards," there is something far more sinister about what is going on on the Democrat side - where Mrs Clinton is basically eliding to the nomination with wink and nod from the press.  

The Republican clown car is comedy.

The Democratic coronation is tragedy.

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