There Goes Another Candidate: No, Seriously, There Goes Another Candidate Edition

June 11, 2008

Well, the primary season is effectively over, barring Barack Obama getting caught as a member of the National Rifle Association or John McCain getting caught with cholesterol. While this means that the election is headed for a long, hot summer of talking heads, attack ads, and trite, overused phrases referencing scandalous minutia only the practitioners of talk radio or 24-hour news networks could possibly care about, one has to stop and wonder what will happen to those vanquished in this fight. While we know that John Edwards will go back home to practice law, and Mike Huckabee is going back to Arkansas to sell used cars or whatever it was that he used to do, and Dennis Kuchinich is going back home to Mars in his chariot powered by the souls of dead unicorns, the big question mark hovers in the room: What is Hillary Clinton going to do?

Hillary, of course, has plenty of choices in this liberated world! Why, it was only a few generations ago that women had a limited number of choices for their lives: housewife, teacher, nurse, or marrying that guy so no one would know that he’s gay. If only we had had a candidate that could have represented how far women have come. But now, well, the opportunities are endless! Or at least seven bullet points long:
Hillary As Attack Dog: Vanquished opponents and former Presidents normally make good attack dogs when they’re not playing golf with oil fascists or diddling the maids at their Presidential libraries. They can lob incendiary bombs at the other nominee without much blowback, since they normally have nothing to lose beyond a sweet gig at MSNBC, something that doesn’t pop up very often on Christmas lists. Hillary can do this with particular adeptness, as she’s displayed to Obama over the past six months or so. For example, she can wail on McCain for his voting of the authorization of force on…well, never mind. She can differentiate how she voted on the Campaign Finance Reform Act…oh, wait. At least she can point out their differences in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill…er, you know what? Never mind.

Hillary As Fundraiser: The Clintons have long, deep roots in the progressive community, and having Hillary on top billing for any fundraiser will make the first-rate Hollywood moguls and second-rate music producers and third-rate Southeast Asian financial conglomerates crack open the vault and pour money into Obama’s campaign. The real treat, though, is that Hillary’s loss makes plenty of supporters feel guilty, and there are no more effective practitioners of liberal guilt than Democratic primary donors. She’ll be laughing all the way to the First Bank of the Fish Who Need Bicycles.

Ed Rendell As Hillary: While Hillary’s ambition is to claim the presidency, in her wake she has created those that supported her, and now are basically clones of her without all the baggage. Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, is one of those. While large sections of the American population have an opinion on Hillary, far fewer are aware of Rendell, and Rendell has made fewer enemies on the national stage beyond Kansas City hockey fans and cheese steaks. This could spell trouble for Hillary, since an astute look by Obama at a 1) popular governor in a 2) swing state that is 3) very close to Hillary’s positions without 4) everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line grabbing the pitchfork and foaming sweet tea at the mouth at the mere mention of her name. Granted, selling Rendell means convincing everyone that the nation needs to be a lot more like Philadelphia, so it may be a good idea to stock up on Tovex.

Hillary as Vice President: She’s on a lot of lists to be a potential vice president, a thought that is both natural and unusual at the same time. It’s unusual in that for the last sixteen years Hillary has sacrificed foreign-born children in her back yard as a nightly ritual to become President; settling for vice president seems sort of anti-climactic. However, getting to the Presidency via the #2 slot has worked pretty well in the past. Just ask Al Gore, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Dan Quayle.

Hillary As Senator From New York: Most people assumed that Hillary was elected to the Senate from the state of New York to represent her core constituency: carpetbaggers supporting abortion on demand who wanted really, really badly to run for President. All that changed when it turned out that she actually wasn’t a grandstanding hellion but a reasonably well-behaved junior Senator, a lot more responsive to the average New Yorker’s political sensibilities than Al D’Amato and a lot less likely to be wandering in downtown Albany in an unbuttoned dressing down smelling of Ben-Gay and gin than Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Granted, you could saw off everything from Schenectady westward and not have an impact on her support, but the entire world kind of revolves around the Big Apple anyway, so who cares?

Hillary As First Lady: While she won’t be the first lady of an Obama presidency, she can certainly act like one. Touring the country as the almost-winner while still retaining her cordial hostess skills may provide the Democrats with a softer side of politics. Granted, both John McCain and Barack Obama are pretty much pussies anyway, but let’s just say there are significant portions of the electorate thinks Aquafina is too tart and the band Kansas has too hard of an edge to them.

Hillary As Hillary: She won’t be baking cookies at Denver, of course. Although one has to wonder exactly what else she has to do with her time. Besides bitch-slap Gina Gershon, of course.

There Goes Another Candidate: Old Bats and Auto Workers, Unite! Edition

May 31, 2008

In an auspicious meeting of the Democratic Party, the leaders of the Democratic National Committee will meet with representatives from both of the major candidates for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to settle how the delegates from Michigan and Florida will be seated. This is, in the words of the DNC, is important, since “I can’t possibly imagine any other method that we could use so that we could drag this thing out any longer without actually resorting to suicide.”

For those unfamiliar with the situation, the DNC advised the states almost eight months or so ago that anyone who schedules their primaries ahead of an arbitrarily assigned date would not be seated at the convention. This was done, in part, to stem the primary system which was slowly creeping earlier and earlier each year as states tried to increase their influence in the nomination battle to the point where the election for 2008 started sometime around when the first George Bush was elected. It was also done to preserve the influence of New Hampshire and Iowa, the traditional inaugurates of the primaries, and of course both states accurately represent the demographics of current Democratic voters, and by all means we want to preserve that. (Cough, cough.) Effectively, those states that defied the schedule would have no official say in the nomination, thinking rather rationally that the race would be decided early December since the last time there was an actual honest-to-goodness challenge to decide on a leader was when George Washington hightailed it out of Philadelphia.

However, by scheduling their primaries early, they could have an easy symbolic say in who gets the nomination, since the election was going to be about one part votes and nine parts faction pandering and media fellation anyway.

(As an aside, the Republican Party avoided this entire mess by penalizing rogue states only half of their delegate count, exactly the sort of thing the GOP does well: come up with rational, businesslike plans for things that never need it, and ball up the things that do.)

Of course, things have changed slightly since then. With the nomination battle so close, all of a sudden the delegates from Florida and Michigan matter quite a bit. It matters, of course, because Hillary Clinton won them both rather easily—especially Michigan, where Obama wasn’t even on the ballot—and so those delegates would count towards her total to narrow the gap between herself and Obama. While she still would be behind in the delegate count, every step closer towards Barack is one less blind puppy she has to sacrifice to get the nomination.

There are two sets of opinions about the situation. (Okay, there are about two thousand sets of opinions about this, but only one will matter and that depends on the winner in November.) One is that everyone knew the rules going in, and those two states decided to ignore them. This is the political equivalent of the age-old axiom of “nanny nanny boo boo.” It’s not particularly fair to go back and change the rules unless you’re running for the Senate in New Jersey.

The other opinion is that this outcome—where one individual arguably has more support overall but thanks to a creaky, archaic system will be denied the victory—has too many shades of the 2000 election, when about three-quarters of the Democratic Party uses their endless supply of indignant rage to replace their Cialis prescription since they both roughly have the same effect.

So both sides are meeting this weekend to hash out a compromise about the wayward delegates. Some of the plans being floated are:

As proposed by the director of the United Auto Workers, he will go “talk to some guys I know” to “take care of” the problem by “talking” to Howard Dean, assuring that Michigan’s delegate vote gets counted.

Have the Detroit Red Wings fight the Florida Panthers to see who gets the delegates (proposed by Michigan).

Have the Detroit Pistons fight the Orlando Magic…oh, wait.

Have the Detroit Lions fight the Miami Dolphins (no one actually wants to see this).

Hope that one of the nominees gets assassinated by an Arabic national making the entire race a wash; thankfully, this suggestion isn’t in the least bit tasteless unless the brother of the person who actually was assassinated by an Arabic national forty years ago suddenly comes down with an inoperable tumor or something.

Awarding just enough delegates to build Hillary up, bring her right to the point of almost satisfying her, then suddenly stopping just short of doing so, in a show of solidarity for the important struggles facing women today.

Shuffleboard match (proposed by Florida)

Michael Moore will solve the entire issue by powering everything with his own sense of self-importance, the outcome of which will eventually incorporate the firebombing of the General Motors executive building.

Let Hillary’s plan be allowed, since this is the equivalent of patting your four-year-old on the head after she “helps” put up drywall in the basement by handing you the hammer.

Deciding on an effective compromise isn’t going to be the easiest thing for the Democrats to handle. It’s not simply about personalities or politics, and it’s not even about fairness or reality. It’s all about want you want to do more: disenfranchise blacks, or disenfranchise women? Yeah, good luck with that.

There Goes Another Candidate: Pennsylvania Dreams Edition

April 17, 2008

I have the misfortune of living in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Well, that’s not really fair. I rather like this state of mine, of course, what with growing up and living here and all. But it does come with one major drawback, aside from having roads that are about as well-kept as a Namibian mountain pass and a winter season that lasts upwards of a decade or so, is that we are currently in a midst of a drag-down, knock-out, piss-cutter of a primary battle for the Democratic nod for the presidential campaign.

In decades past, the Pennsylvania primary was relegated to comfortable irrelevancy. With an election all the way the hell in April, candidates knew full well they wouldn’t have to bother with pandering to Pennsylvania’s former steelworkers, cranky social conservatives, and Amish radicals. Since the national primaries tended to be front-loaded—2012’s primary actually just started last week—most nominations were all wrapped up by the time the Keystone State bothered to have a say.

Which, normally, is a good thing, since the average Pennsylvanian’s opinion is pretty much boiled down to two sentiments: “Give me my Social Security check,” and “Give me my Social Security check right now.” Sure, there are other considerations, such as guns and the NFL playoffs, but these tend to be drowned out by the sheer number of old people that live in Pennsylvania, where the average age of a newborn is about 45.

Pennsylvania’s always been a bit of a dry rot when it comes to national politics. Despite being one of the original thirteen colonies, they’ve had a rather small percentage of national prominent politicians. We’ve only had one President, and that was the blank-face James Buchanan, known mostly to historians as the guy who actually invented a way to freeze time for four years. And the only members of the current congressional delegation to be noteworthy as of late is Arlen Specter, the guy who tried to sell the fact that a bullet went from the grassy knoll to Hanoi and back en route to its deadly target, and Jack Murtha, who would have had a front-row eyewitness account of the Haditha attack had it not been for the fact that he’s been clinically dead ever since he turned two hundred years old.

Enter Mssrs. Obama and Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton is looking at a do-or-die situation in Pennsylvania, with “do” being “still having only a 50/50 shot of getting the nomination” and “die” being “drop out and make around $4.5 million per year on a speaking tour.” Under normal circumstances, Pennsylvania would be a shoo-in for her. It’s a big, clumsy, industrial state, the kind she does well in, with one foot in a decaying industrial economy and one foot in the high-tech boom, assuming that assisted living facilities are classified as high-tech. Blue-collar workers gravitate towards her, much like they did in Ohio and would have in Michigan had Michigan held an actual primary.

Hillary also has another powerful supporter in the governor, Ed Rendell. Rendell has been an energetic campaigner for Hillary, and somehow manages to translate his political capital and position into mass popularity. No offense to the man, but if anyone were to create the image of a politician from scratch that is the personification of the slouching, tie-askew, back-slapping, smoke-filled room occupying, cigar-chomping, OTB-dwelling, deal-making, fast-talking confidence man, that person would be dead after Rendell hires some guy to put a slug in his temple.

Then again, the story of Pennsylvania is really a story about Philadelphia, where Barack Obama is doing extraordinarily well. His message of hope and inspiration appeals greatly to those in Philadelphia, who have to deal with Cheez Whiz on steak sandwiches and the occasional firebombing of entire city blocks by the police department.

The biggest news around the state, though, is Obama’s contention that Pennsylvanians are bitter about their economic outlook, and so “cling” to guns, God, and anti-immigrant sentiments to make up for the loss. For many, this was seen as condescending and elitist, with Obama under the misunderstanding that if presented with high-paying, good jobs, we would all trade our guns in for Dick Dawkins books or something. It doesn’t appear as though Obama understands that the only thing to get between a Pennsylvanian and his gun is the bullet.

The candidate’s tactics seem to be a touch odd, though. Clinton’s main contention is that everyone has already gone through her baggage and sifted through a darkened attic full of cattle futures, Travelgate, and a steadfast refusal to bake cookies. Obama, for his part, finds himself defensive after it was revealed that his neighbor’s future wife once babysat someone who was a roommate with a college student who once read a book called “Vladimir Lenin: Was He Really All That Bad?”

Both senators are presenting Pennsylvanian with the same choice as they are giving the nation: a candidacy of hope, inspiration, and results, or a candidacy with a slightly different mix of hope, inspiration, and results. When the results are in, either one candidate or the other will be the victor, or, most likely, a stalemated outcome that doesn’t produce any clear-cut winner and this whole thing drags out until they’re pulling random people off the street to vote in San Juan to crown the victor. Of course, there’s going to be one clear winner: Pennsylvania. When this is finally—finally!—over, Pennsylvania can go back to being complacently ignored.

Now, that’s something worth clinging to.

There Goes Another Candidate: Don’t Cry For Me, New Hampshire Edition

January 7, 2008

The New Hampshire primary will be, hands down, the most important event in modern history. Assuming the fact that an inconclusive, grandstanding beauty contest will determine who leads this nation for the next four years.

This, of course is looking from that looking-glass known as Iowa, a complete hash of a race where up was down, right was left, and black was, ahem, white. K, maybe that last one doesn’t fit so well, all things considered. I’ll be frank and admit that I kind of forgot about the Iowa caucuses the day they were held, despite being reminded on what appeared to be two thousand occasions for the weeks beforehand, and managed to catch the reports of who won the contest on both sides, a minor miracle in and of itself what with only about 2% of the precincts reporting.

The complicated and insane primary situation we insist on perpetuating to determine our head of state is such that the national parties—organizations not known to hold particularly rational ideas concerning pretty much anything—tried to force the states to not draw out the campaign for what seems like sixteen years by penalizing their delegate count for holding their contests early, a rather creative solution that had the effect of still having a campaign that lasts about sixteen years long.

Iowa had its share of surprises. Okay, not really. The race between Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton was uncharacteristically tight; most people assumed a walk for Hillary. Unless you were from Chicago, in which it was only natural that Obama was going to win handily. Or if you were from the south, when it was unimaginable that John Edwards would lose. Or if you were from the planet Kryypzleon and thought it inconceivable that Dennis Kuchinich wouldn’t crack double digits.

The real surprise was Mike Huckabee. Huckabee, previously known primarily for his massive weight loss and his ties to elder statesman and policy wonk Chuck Norris, pitched a blend of moral values, tax reform, and Soviet-style populism that must have really sparked the imagination of many an Iowan farmer well-coached in regressive revenue schemes and the particulars of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Either that, or he promised to dump a truckload of taxpayer money into ethanol subsidies, though to be fair I have to assume that if you were any candidate campaigning in Iowa that was already promised.

Next up is New Hampshire, where it is do-or-die time for many candidates. Romney is running in his own backyard, so a substandard showing could derail his campaign. New Hampshire’s large libertarian community may come out in force for Ron Paul, but that group may be diluted by the institutionally insane community in New Hampshire, where Paul may have to split his votes with Thompson. And while Guiliani has largely ignored the state to concentrate on larger bounties, fully aware of the momentum that is fueling the likes of Huckabee, he might like to see some voters turn out that remember both 9/11 and what, exactly, should be done to Jamaican scofflaws when they run afoul of the law, or walk outside. And 9/11.

It’s also notable that there was a caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire—Wyoming held theirs a few days ago. Granted, it didn’t get a lot of publicity, and the fact that Romney won was almost but not quite a forgone conclusion given the state’s proximity to Not South Carolina, where if you have the tenacity to be a Mormon you had best have at least charted “Go Away Little Girl.” And since it held its caucus early, it was stripped of half of its massive delegate count, minimizing its already reduced influence. One assumes that they were trying to convert their tiny, lily-white, single-industry state into a new New Hampshire; this will succeed, of course, when Halliburton opens its new facility in Concord.

Also in Wyoming, the Democrats were going to hold their caucus, but he had a doctor’s appointment that day.

The unexpected results of Iowa have made a particularly bland campaign for the Democrats quite an emotional affair. Hillary was close to tears about the setbacks in her campaign. Crying in presidential campaigns is generally considered a tactical error; Ed Muskie pretty much self-imploded way back in 1972 when he appeared on the steps of the Manchester Union-Leader and wept like a scared little girl because someone said he didn’t like French Canadians. It turns out this someone was Nixon, in the form of an anonymous letter sent from the Dirty Tricks Department, which I think in and of itself would make anyone cry.

But, of course, society states that women are allowed to cry, just a little. Right? Maybe not. When Pat Schroeder, a rather shrill feminist congresswoman from the unlikely state of Colorado, dropped out of the 1988 race, she bawled like a scared little girl, crumpling into an emotional heap of hormones and wasted dreams after announcing her withdrawal. Most of America stepped back and said, whoa. How can a woman lead America against Russia when she can barely handle losing to Mike Dukakis?

And, of course, many believe that Hillary, long suspected of being an emotionless husk of a woman, is simply making a rank calculation when she turns on the waterworks. A possibility, of course, but I’m not going to ask. You go right ahead. I like my voice at this octave.

There Goes Another Candidate: Beyond Beyond the Fringe Edition

November 18, 2007

Last time, we looked at the historical impact of third parties, but let’s take a look at those candidates and organizations running in next year’s presidential election. It will be both illuminating and entertaining, the exact combination of adjectives we need in this country right now, and is certainly an improvement over the current prevailing adjectives, those being smug, incompetent, and female.

Libertarian Party: This party will most likely have one of its more successful years, thanks in part to the candidacy of one Ron Paul, current representative from Texas. He ran as a libertarian candidate for president nearly twenty years ago, garnering nearly dozens of votes and showing up in the footnotes of the Wikipedia in perpetuity. He has received a surprising amount of support from Republicans disaffected by the current leadership, libertarians who actually want to be able to win at least one election that is greater than 4th Ward City Council of Nampa, Idaho, and Democrats somewhat concerned with the certain nomination in their party of anyone who will immediately dispatch a three-prong invasion of West Point, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and Bentonville, Arkansas. On the other hand, Paul’s success is only remarkable in contrast to other third party successes; he still barely registers above five percent in polls for Republicans, somewhere in popularity between Larry Craig and an atheist Iranian editor of the New York Times. His most notable achievement within the GOP so far has been to embarrass John McCain and enrage Rudy Giuliani, neither of which is all that particularly difficult.

Green Party: The Green Party has always had a love-hate relationship with…well, hell, with everything. They love seeing hundreds of thousands of people show up at a rally, but they hate seeing hundreds of thousands of people exist. They love the creation of hybrid cars, but they hate the fact that it requires the existence of an actual corporation that makes money to produce it. They love the increasing popularity of hormone-free beef and free-range chicken, but hate the fact that actual cows and chickens are being eaten. They love Ralph Nader’s anti-corporate tirades and public popularity, but they also hate him since he obviously conspired with Sandra Day O’Conner, Diebold, and the Florida Department of State to single-handedly elect George W. Bush. Anyway, the chance of them being satisfied with, well, hell, anything is fairly remote, though one can say the same about the voters.

Constitutional Party: A ragtag collection of anti-tax crusaders and real crusaders have somehow propped up the Constitution Party for a few decades now. They generally sympathize with the same sort of anti-government sentiments as the libertarians, only with the added benefit of not having everyone in the room faint in an enveloping sense of self-importance if someone mentions God in passing, and the conventions tend to smell a lot less like pot and sex. Unfortunately, the Constitutional party expends most of their energy every four years trying to nominate the Almighty, a daunting task given the strict ballot requirements in California.

Natural Law Party: OK, strictly speaking they’re not a player in 2008 and has effectively dissolved from existence in the United States, but I just absolutely love the concept of basing an entire political party on a touchy-feely abstract concept based on equal parts transcendental meditation, holding hands and chanting te deums, and encouraging a positive energy flow to solve all of the world’s problems. I mean, besides the Democratic Party.

Independents: Plenty of candidates, distasteful of the two major parties, find it otherwise self-aggrandizing enough to run under no party affiliation at all. This has the benefit of not requiring to be chained to an unpopular platform or associated with Bible-thumping rich white oil executives or lesbian tree-hugging social workers, but also has the drawback of only being able to raise funds equivalent to a maximum of six junior bacon cheeseburgers and change. Because of this, the independent run is highly popular with self-made men and celebrities, neither of which need to sell their soul to the teachers’ union or Amalgamated Steel, since they long ago sold their soul, depending on their source of notoriety, to get venture capital or a glamorous tit job.

The most realistic independent candidate is Michael Bloomberg, a financier who spent most of his life as a Democrat, ran as a Republican, then filed as an independent, just the kind of rampant indecision we look for in a leader. Currently the mayor of New York, he did an outstanding job of holding George Pataki’s coat while George Pataki held Rudolph Giuliani’s coat in the aftermath of 9/11. Bloomberg had the misfortune of picking up pretty much when Giuliani left off mere months after the attacks, though to be fair Giuliani did his best to stick around. He’s done his best to not do anything at all; for instance, his tenure is notable in the fact that he has successfully prevented the police force from shoving a broomstick up any immigrant’s anus.

History is riddled with perpetual candidates, but one of the most notable (and crankiest) is Michael Moriarty. Not only does he have that cool sinister-sounding last name, but also he has a wonderful and curious combination of policy stances that are sure to be ballot-box gold. For instance he is against abortion and embryonic stem-cell research…but also against Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Catholics. He’s a modestly accomplished jazz pianist, former boozehound, self-proclaimed political exile to Canada and subsequent honorary mayor of Winnipeg, and most famously played lawyer Ben Stone on the television. This last fact may be his Achilles’ Heel, of course. The chance of a Law & Order actor running for the presidency is fairly low.

There Goes Another Candidate: Beyond the Fringe Edition

November 14, 2007

During any presidential campaign, any number of third party candidates may make a run for the nomination. Aside from their entertainment value, they very occasionally have an impact on our political culture, which, to be fair, is probably more than actual, elected presidents have made. Today we’ll took at the history of these parties.

History is riddled with single-issue cranks and hard-boiled extremists running for the top position in the land, many with varying degrees of seriousness. Many individuals (I almost said “men” but then I realized that a rather significantly larger proportion of individuals who run for president as third party candidates are female, and by “significantly larger proportion” I mean “more than zero”) simply run to bring a particular issue to the table; some run to spoil another’s chance at victory; some run vanity campaigns to satisfy their egos and, apparently, are very much interested in the well-being of the advertising budgets of network television and lawyers from moderately-prestigious law firms; and some run because they’re batshit crazy.

Some, of course, run for all of those reasons.

The history of third parties is fascinatingly boring. On the one hand, the causes they espouse, ranging from free love to the colonization of Mars, are brilliantly different than talking about, say, the Alternative Minimum Tax or our Southeast Asian Foreign Policy. On the other hand, they very rarely, if ever, make that much of an impact on the actual, legitimate result of an election, since close elections tend to keep spoilers away from the ballot unless your name happens to rhyme with “Dalph Vader.”

There are three significant elections that a fringe party made headway at the presidential ballot box. Way back in 1856, a little-known third party attempted to challenge the entrenched Democratic Party and a decaying Whig Party, running on the doomed platform of liberating the slaves or, at the very least, being a touch nicer to them. While the brand-spankin’-new Republican Party lost fairly badly that time—elections back then were touch-and-go affairs, where the actual votes cast by property-owning males tended to be secondary to other, more pecuniary matters—they came back with a vengeance, winning a four-way race in 1860, an event so anticipated with jubilance by the entire population 618,000 people died in celebration.

In 1912, the rather curious affair of the presidential election was handled by walrus, a drunken bull, and a cold fish. Strictly speaking, this is a fringe party in name only. Teddy Roosevelt, having spent a term and a half formulating policy centered chiefly around eating the raw flesh of bears and aiming a crossbow at the future Kaiser, retired to the safari after handing the keys to William Howard Taft, a man so large he once got stuck in a textbook of obligatory presidential facts. Taft proved to be a lackluster president, spending most of his time sleeping, which to be honest I think more presidents would be better off doing.

Nonetheless, Roosevelt, after being denied the nomination at the Republican Convention, created his own third party. It is the testament of the man that he was able to form an entire party unto himself simply via the act of existing. He called this party the “Bull Moose” party, the most absurd name I’ve ever heard for a political coalition since the Greenback Labor Party, which I am convinced was simply the whimsical creation of a confused and apparently colorblind racist. He came up with the name after a speech in which he said that he felt as “strong as a textbook of obligatory presidential facts.”

The last time a third party candidate blipped on the radar was H. Ross Perot, a computer-company magnate. Granted, he made his money when computers will strictly cardboard-and-vacuum-tube affairs, but they money was still green after all these years, so he was legitimately rich. This of course means he was officially able to purchase a spot on the ballot. It is a uniquely American thing that the population assumes anyone who is able to operate a business successfully has the management experience to run an entire country, the presumption being that the business they run has employees hired on the basis of their connections and can never be fired for any offense less than urinating in the Pope’s Wheaties, and even then; the output of the business cannot be measured except in terms of how photogenic the employees look on campaign brochures; and any decision you make on either side will immediately be considered 1) racist; 2) sexist; and 3) somehow hurting the poor, all three problems of which can be alleviated if a new bridge is built in their district.

Anyway, Perot’s main platform seemed to be a mixture of 1) I’m rich! and 2) You’re not. His campaign was an eclectic one, eschewing much of the modern campaign’s techniques. He used a series of infomercials to send his message of fiscal prudence and non-batshit-craziness to the masses, and his folksy manner reminded most voters of their vaguely remembered slightly bigoted uncle. His intermittent campaign, combined with the fact that voters are reluctant to elect a clinically insane man as president, doomed his campaign to failure. His legacy still lives on, of course; American voters have come to terms with this, and have embraced clinical insanity as a political virtue. Dalph Vader would be proud.

There Goes Another Candidate: There You Go Again, Again Edition

September 23, 2007

The Republicans this year are not a particularly united bunch. They differ on many key issues, such as immigration, Iraq, and to what degree to denounce abortion. But they are united in one solitary fact, and that is this: Ronald Reagan was the single greatest human being on the face of the planet for ever and ever Amen.

As such, many of the GOP candidates will be digging up and resurrecting the memory of Ronald Reagan to try and win the votes of those who still clasp longingly for another Morning in America. There are several paths to true Reagan enlightenment, and only that candidate that masters them all will be the nominee.

Sound Like the Gipper: Ronald Reagan was called the “Great Communicator,” and not without reason. Reagan was a master orator who could turn any event, no matter its objective insignificance, into an appeal for how great America was and the margin of victory in kicking every one else’s ass. He would wake up and have a bowl of Frankenberry for breakfast, and he’s turn to his wife and say, “Nancy, this bowl of Frankenberry represents all that is good with America. Its patriotic taste reminds me of the American Dream, and nothing, not sour milk, not soggy grain, not even the communists, can ever take that away. God bless America.” And Nancy, like clockwork, would be so moved she would immediately volunteer for the army, and Ron would laugh and laugh, ‘cause they don’t let ladies in the military!

Govern Like the Gipper: Candidates seeking the presidency tend to run campaigns much like they govern. In this case, looking at Reagan’s governing style may be an effective way to run a campaign operation. Reagan had a rather hands-off governing style. As in, he spent his time governing not doing much of anything at all. He’s walk into a room full of advisors and say “We need to end communism. I’ll be back after lunch. Let me know how it goes.” And sure enough when he got back from Hardee’s after he’d finish reading that article in Boy’s Life about thistles his advisors would present him with a plan to end communism. That’s the kind of leadership style Reagan had—forceful, to the point, and, apparently, incredibly lazy. Granted, the plans that were hatched were pretty much always some variation of “throw a tactical nuke in Brezhnev’s colonoscopy bag,” but at least something was getting done. Or, rather, the appearance of something was getting done, which in politics is just as important.

Look Like the Gipper: Let’s face it, guys and gals: Reagan looked good. He was pretty smokin’ for an octogenarian politician. Most politicians look like a cross between Bosnia and a plate of Chinese dog food. Reagan’s background as an actor certainly helped in this; Hollywood studios are reluctant to hire double baggers unless you have some sort of compensating factor, such as being the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. And let’s just take a look at the previous occupants; time had not been kind to Nixon’s widow’s peak or LBJ’s anythings. Aging well may not be genetically possible for many, but certain nominees in the past election certainly found salvation in Botox injections. Current candidates should certainly consult “image specialists.” Either that or inject dioxins into Mitt Romney’s face when he’s sleeping.

Act Like the Gipper: In politics, it always pays to emulate those you admire. Some, of course, take it a little bit further; it isn’t particularly effective if you are, say, Joseph Biden and the year is 1988, and you are plagiarizing a reasonably important political figure in Great Britain, and the amount of effort used to find out this fact and have it be publicized by a rival for the nomination is less than it would have been to write your own damn speech. But many are more adept at co-opting not only the positions and doctrines of their heroes, but their style and personality as well. Reagan’s original career was an actor, of course, so he spent his early years pretending to be someone else. Which was, essentially, himself. God bless Ron, but it doesn’t take much effort to play a straight-arrow World War II veteran with a pretty fiancé in all your movies when you are, in reality, a straight-arrow World War II veteran with a pretty fiancé. (I am assuming, of course, that Ron didn’t keep a chimpanzee around at his house answering the telephone.) Some even take it to more extremes than that. Fred Thompson, the actor known primarily for his role as the District Attorney on Law & Order, oh, and he might have been a real-life senator at one point as well, is in the front running for the presidency. If he receives the job, we’ll have an actor acting like an actor acting like a president. Too cute by half, indeed, which means he should fit right in.

Forget Like the Gipper: You know, late in his presidency, many jokes were crafted detailing Ron’s inability to remember various facts, such as whether he authorized the sale of arms to the Contras for the release of Iranian hostages or where he left his glasses. It was funny to gently prod the elderly statesman, and, hey, he’s only human and we all forget sometimes, eh? Then it turns out he had Alzheimer’s, and then we weren’t allowed to laugh anymore. Fair enough. Still, it may be a useful craft to conveniently “forget” certain facts about your history and your present. For instance, Rudy Guiliani can conveniently “forget” was his position on abortion is, at least until, oh, I don’t know, say, Septmber 5th, 2008. Mitt Romney can “forget” his religious affiliation when campaigning in West Virginia, California, and…well, hell, any state outside of Utah and southern Idaho. Tom Tancredo can “forget” that he has no chance of winning—oh, wait, that’s already happened.

Get Elected Like the Gipper: This one remains to be seen, though at least Reagan had an incredibly anti-talented co-lead in both 1980 and 1984. Hillary fans, as always, take note.

There Goes Another Candidate: Care of the Dog That Bit You Edition

July 1, 2007

A few testy gallons of ink have been spilled over the past few days over what was supposed to be a small, character-building anecdote during a Boston Globe profile of Mitt Romney. Not since Lyndon Johnson drop-kicked an innocent bloodhound into the Mekong has the mistreatment of a canine caused such a political stir.

Romney, sometime Massachusetts governor and Presidential contender, was asked for an example of his crisis management style. Instead of saying something along the lines of “I helped a troubled Salt Lake City Olympics committee overcome scandal” or “I ushered through a large-scale engineering project in my state through a fiscal crisis,” he decided that the best course of action was to retell a delightful tale about how, during a family vacation to Canada in the early 1980’s, he strapped the family’s Irish Setter to the top of the car. Then, when the animal unexpectedly got nervous about traveling atop a large metal canister at 55 mph in a small plasticish cage and responded by leaking brown disgustingness all over the back window, Elder Statesmen and Future President Mitt Romney pulled over, took a garden hose, sprayed off the dog, car, and cage, replaced the poor mutt back in his canister, and all individuals went upon the remainder of their trip, presumably canine-diarrhea-free.

Not all that surprisingly, animal rights activists and, well, most human beings reacted with a range of emotions going from “general head-shaking” to “comparing it to the Holocaust.” Also, not surprisingly, many of the other presidential contenders were asked about their own relationships with pets. Perhaps remarkably, many of the other candidates have no compunctions about detailing their stories, and subsequently a lot of skeletons were drug out, dusted off, and put proudly on display.

Before he lost nearly 110 pounds, Mike Huckabee kept a steady supply of rats in his Little Rock governor’s mansion to guarantee a fresh supply of milk for his daily breakfast of twenty-four pancakes, eighteen sausage links, and a colonic.

John Edwards bravely saved a warren of rabbits from being subjected to cruel cosmetic trials by volunteering himself instead.

When house training a beagle, Rudy Giuliani used a then-untested method of corrective conditioning, mostly rewarding the dog with corned beef hash when he was good, and shoving a broom handle repeatedly up its anus when he was bad. Then came 9/11.

While interred in a POW camp in Vietnam, Arizona senator John McCain had to eat a greyhound to keep himself from starving. In his defense, it was #4, no MSG, on the menu.

Bill Richardson owns a Chihuahua, which currently is the only evidence available that he is actually of Hispanic origin.

Hillary Clinton distrusted husband Bill’s dog, Buddy, as a diversion in attention to their marriage. She arranged the White House Travel Office, the Rose Law Firm, and Susan McDougal to have Buddy hit by a car to combat the ever-growing threat of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

On the very day that he descended from the heavens, Barack Obama healed two groundhogs, four dogs, and a leprous tabby.

Fred Thompson used to be responsible for taking Annie Parisse out for her daily walk on the set of Law & Order.

On his regular trips to Fantastica, Dennis Kucinich rides atop a snow white unicorn accompanied by a band of musical changelings.

Wesley Clark has keeps a stable full of stalking horses, which are owned by the Clintons.

Ron Paul regularly establishes cockfight rings, proclaiming it to be an educational display of the concept of “survival of the fittest.”

Joe Biden
keeps a parrot. Big surprise.

Every fortnight for the past thirty years, Newt Gingrich holds a ritual deep in the woods of Arlington where a half dozen virgin white mishas are sacrificed to Alvin Toffler.

Dick Cheney often drinks the blood of fawns for lunch, usually mixed with a quart of Valvoline.

While on a promotional tour for An Inconvenient Truth in Antarctica, Al Gore married a puffin in a moment of ecologically orgasmic weakness. The marriage was later annulled on advice from his advisor.

Sam Brownback refuses to believe that calico cats exist.

While some may dismiss all of this as unimportant distractions from the real issues, it’s not exactly a secret that character counts during elections. People want to know the human side of a candidate and, in the case of Rudy Giuliani, whether there is actually at least a human side. People voted for George W. Bush not because of his stance on the estate tax or abortion, but because he seemed like a regular guy that would not be out of place sitting in your living room, watching the football game, and not being able to figure out the proper way to swallow a pretzel without passing out. Bill Clinton’s ability to feel our pain wasn’t just a throwaway political cliché, but a genuine ability to build rapport with people by making everyone in the room feel like he was looking them right in the eye, pressing firmly on their hand in a comforting manner and slowly moving his hand up the small of your back looking for the clasp.

Though when it comes down to it, perhaps Romney’s so-called gaffe was a well-placed advantage to his campaign. By declaring the experience he has with hosing down feces, psychological manipulation, and emotionless crisis management, he’s establishing himself as the person best able to handle Gitmo.

There Goes Another Candidate: The Adjective Form of “Obama” Edition

May 3, 2007

Presidential primaries are notoriously difficult things to predict; the things start earlier than preteens girls drinking tap water. It’s easier to forecast, say, the standard deviation of my golf score in May (hint: look up to see if there’s anything higher than “triple bogey.”) The campaign for the 2008 presidential election, for instance, started in the spring of 1984. Thankfully, the media does a fairly good job of choosing the candidates for us without such inconvenient necessities as voting, and they’ve already picked a front-runner, Barack Obama. Obama is a senator and, not inconsequently, an African-American. And that’s the true question that needs to be answered up front. Are Americans truly, finally open-minded and progressive enough to elect an Illinois lawyer to the Presidency?

Right now, Obama is riding high on a wave of positive publicity. He’s appeared on the cover of Newsweek, a grand accomplishment in and of itself had it not been for the fact that last week’s cover story was how the computer was going to change the workplace for the better. (With Newsweek’s penchant for prescience, Obama will be elected president in 1952.) He’s written a best selling book, The Audacity of Hope, an uplifting tale of how a gawky kid with a funny name can rise to be a U.S. senator with only a few dashes of hope, optimism, pride in oneself, and having your opponent resign after a newspaper shamelessly crowbarred a court order to release the details of a divorce agreement that both husband and wife wanted kept sealed and is replaced by a candidate who didn’t live in your state prior to his announcement of running against you and has gone on record in stating that the U.N. is putting saltpeter in the water towers of most red states to eventually reduce the population where the black helicopters and blue helmets can take over the White House, MoMA, and the editorial desk of the New York Times, two of the three which have, notably, already been accomplished..

Obama’s upbringing seems tailor-made for a seven-minute soft-lens biography to be played at, oh, I don’t know, perhaps the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver. Born in Hawaii, his parents (his mother was white, his father, from Kenya) divorced when he was at the laughably inexperienced age of two and whose only claim to fame up to that point was only being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize six times. His childhood, of course, was not without the normal pressures of teenagers everywhere; drug use and violence occasionally peppers his otherwise white, middle class environment. (Midnight trips to Taco Bell and buying Foreigner CDs aren’t mentioned in his memoirs, but can be safely assumed.) His father moved back to Africa and was killed in a tragic accident when Obama was 21. He eventually ended up at Harvard, becoming a lawyer and a professor before being elected to the state senate.

His big-S Senate race in 2004 was largely a blowout. Obama won this race with 70% of the vote, an astounding number even if one removes all of the Chicagoans who voted five or more times. While Obama was a skilled campaigner, most will credit a good dose of luck; his first opponent resigned, and the second one came in late from Maryland, a state not heretofore known as being part of Illinois. Illinois also has a slight tradition of electing African Americans to the Senate; of the grand total of five African Americans who have been elected to the Senate, two come from Illinois. Though it should be also pointed out that two of them were elected in that glowing twilight of our history known as Reconstruction, when senators were elected by Thomas Nast caricatures representing the Sugar Trust.

The Democrats weren’t going to let a charismatic, minority candidate flounder in the obscures of an ornery Midwestern state. They chose him as the keynote speaker for their 2004 convention as the hoped-for future of the Democratic party—a magnetic, reasoned voice who seemed casually nonplussed about his ethnicity. The Republicans, for their part, chose as his counterpart the indefatigable Zell Miller, who delivered a speech calling for the beheading of several federal judges and a constitutional amendment requiring the destruction by arson of most of the eastern seaboard plus San Francisco.

How Obama handles his infant candidacy remains, of course, to be seen. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the fact that he’s only been a Senator for two years, and will not have completed a full term by 2008. Even Jack Kennedy, the low-water mark for inexperienced Senators running for President, was re-elected at least once. He also needs to fight his way through a crowded field of candidates, last counted to be approximately 18,000 former Representatives. He has yet to propose or publicize any large issues that would placate the liberal wing of the party (such as giving all illegal immigrants perpetual tax-free status upon arrival to the nation in exchange for fealty to the Democratic Party or union membership or, most certainly, both) while simultaneously endorsing those things to appease the population at large (such as shooting illegal immigrants on sight). Plus his middle name is Hussein, something I’m sure will make the required campaign visit to Dearborn, Michigan all the less awkward.

Still, there is great hope in many circles that Barack Obama’s incredible combination of charisma, accomplishment, biography, and checked boxes in the Democratic Historical Guilt Equivalency Survey will make him an incredibly attractive candidate. And yet there’s still much work to be done. In a nation still divided by region, values, history, and the degree of devotion to specific flags of dubious historical importance, there is one obstacle Obama has yet to overcome. She’s from New York.

There Goes Another Candidate: Preliminary Pre-Primary Introductory Prelude Edition

March 10, 2007

In our regularly scheduled attempt to keep the average reader up to date on the 2008 White House Race, here is the first in an installment of columns to introduce, analyze, and predict the various points of fortune to the candidates running for office, even though at this point it is impossible to predict anything with any amount of accuracy outside of “Someone will win the election” and “That someone will be beholden to either one set of corporations or another, depending on whether we count votes multiple times per voter or count dollar amounts instead of votes.”

Rudy Giuliani: Currently one of the more popular figures in the general population, though not necessarily for GOP primary voters, Giuliani appears to be in the first tier of candidates. His qualifications involve his handling of New York City after 9/11, the post-9/11 effects of New York City, and dealing with the reaction of New York City to the events on 9/11. Given his experience after 9/11, the post-9/11 New York environment is one of Giuliani’s most significant achievements, not counting the time he spent in office during the aftermath of 9/11. His platform so far is to proclaim that it is America’s duty to “repeatedly shove the broomstick handle of liberty into the anus of fanatical terrorism.”

Barack Obama: Barack Obama is currently the appointed messiah of the Democratic party: a charismatic, reasonably well-respected politician from a big, electorally rich state. Alas, Obama has one obvious socially historical handicap that may prevent him from getting elected to the most powerful position in the world: he is a Senator. Senators are notoriously bad at getting elected President; the last person to do so was John F. Kennedy, who was elected shortly after birth. He also has to overcome his reputation as the inexperienced anointed, which, given the track record of Democrats nominating congressional pages as running mates, should not be difficult to handle. Also, he’s black.

John Edwards: The former Vice Presidential candidate has much the same going for him than he did in 2004: good looks, charisma, and not being John Kerry. After the failed 2004 campaign, he helped organized the One America Committee, whose sole accomplishment in the past to years appears to be burning down a Wal-mart in Providence to the ground. As a Southerner, he can be expected to help crack the Republicans’ hold in that area, though he may also need to work to earn the votes of those suspicious of voting for someone of the age of 12.

Hillary Clinton: One of contemporary politics’ most divisive figures, Hillary Clinton is running for President, though for the sake of accuracy it should be noted that her campaign for the Presidency started approximately thirty-five years ago. Hillary’s handicaps are also her greatest assets: her years treating the First Ladyship as a cabinet position. Some people, known as the “South,” resent the fact that she usurped an otherwise ceremonial duty into a policy-making position. Other people, namely “Hollywood and George Soros,” note that this as an asset rather than a liability. Ultimately, the Democrats’ chances of winning in 2008 hinge on whether Hillary is the Democratic nominee. On the other side, the Republicans’ chances of winning in 2008 hinge on whether Hillary is the Democratic nominee. Also, she’s a woman.

John McCain: The Senator from Arizona, long the media darling of the right, recently announced his intentions to run for President. While he made an impressive showing in the 2000 campaign and has been a intermittently loyal commandant in the GOP since then, he hopes to differentiate himself this time around with the fact that he is about 1,000 years old and, with only a slight provocation such as drawing on an inside straight, could still beat the living bloody piss out of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Wesley Clark all at once. (John Edwards, too, but being able to defeat John Edwards in a fistfight is not exactly a differentiator.)

Mitt Romney: The former governor of Massachusetts and, more notably, chairman of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, is fast becoming the social conservatives’ choice for the nomination. On the plus side, he was handily elected in one of the most liberal states in the nation, ushered in one of the first state-mandated health care systems, balanced a bloated budget, and took control of the increasingly mismanaged “Big Dig” program. On the minus side, his first name is the same as an article of clothing grandmothers make as a confirmation gift. Also, he’s Mormon.

Al Gore: Al Gore has been very Nixonesque in his time outside of office. Like Nixon, he lost a bitterly close election, then chose to sit out the next election, positioning himself for a savior candidate when the front runners in the subsequent election eat each other alive. Unlike Nixon, though, Gore didn’t grill puppies for sport or buy a Chinese girl for 50 camels from Nassar back in the early 70’s. While he gained an unwarranted reputation as a stiff media bore as Vice President, then sealed an unwarranted reputation as a chronic prevaricator as a presidential candidate, he now runs the risk of gaining an unwarranted reputation as intellectual Hamlet forever disappointing his followers, a rather unfortunate hybrid of Adlai Stevenson, Mario Cuomo, and Eddie Murphy.

Newt Gingrich: Like Al Gore, Newt Gingrich has sat safely in the sidelines waiting for a golden opportunity. His recent admission of having an affair while administering the impeachment process against Bill Clinton has harmed his chances of being a credible candidate. (Though, to be fair, he has asked for divine forgiveness on this front. Or, rather confessed his sins publicly on nationwide radio to James Dobson, which is apparently the functional equivalent for Republicans.) However, while Gore has been making emotionally effective documentaries, education people about environmental issues, and becoming a master policy wonk, Gingrich has been out making fistloads of cash. It is left as an exercise to the student which one means more in politics.