News flash: The Rational Optimist blog can now call the next presidential election for . . . yes, Rubio.
We’re told Trump and Carson are “frontrunners” for the GOP nomination. I don’t know what that means when we’re talking 25% or so in polls. Last I checked it takes 50+% of convention votes. No way either guy can reach that. Especially when dividing the “outsider” vote between them. But even if those votes all went to just Trump, or Carson, it still couldn’t plausibly produce a convention majority.
There are really two contests. One is an outlet for folks to vent anger and disaffection, and mouth off for candidates who push their buttons. The ones Trump pushes are obvious. And Carson’s persona as the antithesis of the stereotypical politico is working for him. He’s also got a “magical negro” thing going, as inoculation against the idea that Republican Obama-hatred is race-based.
But the second contest is a presidential election. And when it comes to that, most voters will put aside their emotive responses to the likes of Trump and Carson, and get serious. And neither man can be taken seriously as presidential material, unless something has radically changed in the American mindset. Indeed, for all the Trump and Carson ballyhoo, voters are too timid for anything truly radical. After all, we’ve seen high levels of voter disaffection before, with Congressional approval ratings scraping 9% (and who are those clueless 9%?). Yet the Congressional re-election rate continues to exceed 90%!
So while Trump and Carson “lead” the polls, with meaninglessly anemic pluralities, the real battle is among the more conventional and serious candidates. Initially Bush seemed the man, just on general principles, and hence he’s raised a gazillion dollars. Proving yet again that money doesn’t “buy” elections. No amount of advertising can sell a product people don’t like, and Bush seems to be the lackluster Edsel of this campaign.
Marco Rubio has the pizzazz Bush does not, and is brightening as Bush fades. Rubio is attractive and articulate. And it isn’t flash without substance. While much of the Republican party seems mired in ruinous ideological fetishism, Rubio embodies what a relevant and truly progressive twenty-first century Republican party could be, tackling the country’s real problems with sensible approaches that emphasize the empowerment of people rather than government (in contrast to Democratic “progressives,” who are not my idea of progressivity).*
Bernie Sanders, for all his humorlessness, is another non-serious candidate. Admittedly, unlike Trump’s and Carson’s, his supporters wouldn’t flinch from actually making him president. But they can’t stop Hillary Clinton’s remorseless juggernaut. She’ll be the nominee.
With a presidential electorate fairly evenly divided between the parties, elections are decided by the swing voters who are actually the least engaged and informed and who vote impressionistically, with their gut, for the candidate whose persona they’re most comfortable with. They’re not ideological. And between Clinton and Rubio, Rubio has the better story. Clinton personifies the poisonous political divisiveness of the past couple of decades; Rubio might offer a fresh start.
Watch for a smear campaign on Rubio’s personal finances. But against Hillary Clinton? Really? With her history of dishonesty, scandals, misjudgments, and massive conflicts of interest? (Declaring in the recent debate her pride in the enmity of pharmaceutical companies – which have given her millions!)
Overheard from an unsophisticated middle-American conversation: “Hillary is shifty. Like a car salesman.”
So on January 20, 2017: “I, Marco Rubio, do solemnly swear . . . . “
* For example, hostility to free trade and technological advancement, and intolerance of divergent views.