When the primary process started, the Republican party was smugly satisfied with how things were turning out. There were a lot of candidates, a few too many perhaps, but they could look forward to a steady process where everyone but Jeb Bush, the one favored by the party establishment, would fade away and he would emerge as the winner, with a huge amount of money support. If for some reason he stumbled, there were other acceptable candidates like Scott Walker who would get the nomination. The party bragged about its ‘deep bench’ of candidates, compared to the Democrats who seemed to have Hillary Clinton and no one else.
In one of the most remarkable upheavals I have seen, the arrival of Donald Trump has shattered that orderly process. He is not only completely crushing Bush, he and the other candidates that were seen as merely window dressing are dominating the polls. The insurgents Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Fiorina have 51.3% of the support while Bush, Walker, Rubio, and Kasich have just 27.3%.
And these numbers only seem to be getting worse with time for the party establishment.
So suddenly we have seen the narrative change and some party pundits are saying that the problem is that rather than too many, the Republicans do not have enough good candidates. Conservative commentator Rich Lowry goes down the list of existing candidates and finds them ‘underwhelming’.
The rise of Donald Trump is, in part, a function of a vacuum.
He is thriving in a Republican field that is large, talented and, so far, underwhelming. There’s 17 candidates and nothing on. Except Donald Trump.
In the normal course of things, the establishment front-runner provides coherence to the field. Hence, the expectation that the field would have Jeb Bush and a not-Bush, or maybe two. For the moment, this assumption has collapsed, as the current shape of the field is Trump and everyone else.
It is still August, of course. The rules of gravity say Trump will come back down to earth. The media interest that is so intense now could burn out. His lack of seriousness should be a drag over time, and he will still have to weather more debates and presumably — should he stay strong — a barrage of negative ads.
Even if he fades, though, someone else will have to fill the screen. To this point, No one else has been big or vivid enough to do it.
Another conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin says that what is “missing so far on the GOP side is a presidential-level grownup who can seize the race, reject Trumpism and offer an alternative vision”.
Neither Lowry nor Rubin suggest any names to fill the void but others are casting around for a savior and the names they are coming up with are doozies, indicating how much Trump has unhinged them.
For example, Rupert Murdoch seems to think that the best way to fight a billionaire candidate whom you don’t like is with another billionaire candidate and he is floating the idea of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to wrest the Republican party nomination leadership from Donald Trump. But Murdoch is missing the point. True, Trump’s money gives him an edge in the money-drenched US election system but his appeal comes from more than that.
Murdoch is not the only person who is coming up with wild scenarios in an effort to stop Trump’s momentum. Neoconservative Bill Kristol suggests that what the Republican party needs is to recruit yet more candidates who might succeed where the current ones are failing. Who does he recommend?
Who could such a mysterious dark horse be? Well, it’s not as if every well-qualified contender is already on the field. Mitch Daniels was probably the most successful Republican governor of recent times, with federal executive experience to boot. Paul Ryan is the intellectual leader of Republicans in the House of Representatives, with national campaign experience. The House also features young but tested leaders like Jim Jordan, Trey Gowdy and Mike Pompeo. There is the leading elected representative of the 9/11 generation who has also been a very impressive freshman senator, Tom Cotton. There could be a saner and sounder version of Trump—another businessman who hasn’t held electoral office. And there are distinguished conservative leaders from outside politics; Justice Samuel Alito and General (ret.) Jack Keane come to mind.
My first reaction to this list of crazy suggestions was that Kristol had become unhinged. But then I remembered that he was never hinged to begin with. Remember, he is a total warmonger who has been advocating the bombing of one country after another in the Middle East. He also really pushed for Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008, a move that not only transformed that election from a close race into a easy win for Barack Obama, it also inflicted on the nation the seemingly ineradicable irritating presence of Palin.
But his suggestion of Justice Alito is one that I can support wholeheartedly. In order to run, Alito would have to resign his position on the US Supreme Court and that would rid us of one of its worst justices. So run, Sam, run!