Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, August 7, 2015

Frankenstein vs His Monster

So, no, I didn't watch the GOP debate last night, for the same reason I don't watch anything Honey Boo-Boo related: I am not the target demographic.

I've read the post-game write-ups and sifted through the sound bites, which is kind of the same as me watching the debates, because most of the people covering and commenting on the spectacle aren't the target audience either.

Carly Fiorina had a good night at the kid's table.  Bully for her.  Maybe she vaults into the top-10.  A female Mitt Romney with less natural political chops and charisma seems like a winning hand.

John Kasich impressed the sane people, which will benefit him as much as it benefited John Huntsman four years ago.  Kasich is a plausible nominee of the Republican Party.  Twenty years ago.  I mean, he defended Medicaid for helping mentally ill prisoners.

But the night was all about the Donald.  Fox, who had more or less created this monster, took it upon themselves to destroy him.  Megyn Kelly had one of her moments when she briefly wakes up from her Ailes-induced hypnosis and says heretical things, like "Maybe you shouldn't be such an asshole to women."

The question is, of course, whether this has any effect on actual Trump supporters.  Conservative pundits are trying to run the same game on Trump that they ran on Gore 15 years ago.  In Gore's debates with Bush, all the immediate post-debate commentary was that Gore had trounced Bush.  Then the post-post-debate commentary focused on Gore's eye-rolling and sighing and suddenly Bush had won.  And three years later we invaded Iraq.  Where was I going with this?

Oh, yes, most people immediately after the debate said that Trump had held his own pretty well under the onslaught.  He's a natural on TV and turning his accusers into agents of political correctness is pretty slick and has a natural appeal to his constituencies. But my guess is that the Powers That Be will start talking about how Trump lost, without really addressing the reasons why he was in first to begin with.  They will harp on substance or his past dalliances with Democratic politicians - despite the fact that his finest debate moment was when he revealed the incredible corruption at the heart of our politics.

The interesting question is whether Fox and Friends can kill their own monster.  Trump's essential appeal is to the Angry White Male of Foxworld.  He spouts racism, sexism and belligerence at every turn and when he's called on it, he gets more belligerent with a touch of butt-hurt.  His nonsensical answers, his lack of ANY policy chops and his reliance on "tough talk" over actual plans is a precise distillation of everything that Fox has been spilling into America's TV sets these last 20 years.  In Frankenstein, the Monster can't be controlled by his creator.  Will that be true for Trump?

As far as the rest of the field, Bush continues to show rust and a lack of charisma or charm.  The idea that he's the "Smart One" seems to be dying every day.  He probably thought he could lay back and let Fox destroy Trump, but Trump's supporters simply aren't going to go to Bush unless they have zero other options.  Walker was a complete non-entity and did something creepy with his tongue.  He's a dead-eyed moron with the charisma of uncooked macaroni.

Those were your establishment frontrunners.

The gathering consensus was the Rubio won the night.  He's a strong second choice for a lot of Republicans, and he likely vaulted into a number of people's number one slot.  Of course, he wasnt't challenged, his questions were softballs and before last night he was the presumed Veep pick of everyone who wasn't Jeb! Bush.  (You can't have a President and Vice President from the same state.)  Rubio has to show he can take a body-blow, and we can presume they are coming.  Certainly, if I were in the Hillary camp, I'd be digging into his many financial shenanigans.

So, if the GOP electorate acts the way pundits in DC expect it to act, we should see Trump fade and Rubio rise.

But if there's anything we've learned from the last few years it's that the GOP electorate is mad as hell and not exactly willing to take marching orders from the mandarins in DC.

Stay tuned.

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