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A few brief thoughts in advance of tonight’s Rebublican debate

August 6, 2015

In essence, the candidates will be making a pitch to the Republican “base” i.e. their core supporters, in the hope of getting nominated as the Republican candidate in US presidential election of 2016. The Republican base consists of three main elements:

  • Fiscal conservatives (i.e. rich people who hate taxes, welfare, and workers having rights)
  • Social conservatives (i.e. Christians who hate gay people, abortions, and women having rights)
  • Massive racists (i.e. “real” Americans who hate coloured folk, foreign folk, and either of the above having rights)

There is, obviously, some overlap between these groups (the modern Christian right has its origins in attempts to preserve racial segregation, for example). There is also overlap between the candidates; they all deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change, all are creationists (accepting evolution is guaranteed to lose the Christian vote), and all oppose gay marriage and ObamaCare (the twin bogeymen of the right).

Currently, Donald Trump is leading in polls, having made a big play for the “massive racist” vote with his comments about Mexicans. Trump appeals to fiscal conservative too since, as a rich man, he will hate pretty much the same things as they do. It is less clear how he will fare among social conservatives; his characterisation of communion wafers as “little crackers” demonstrating that he still has some way to go to demonstrate his Godly credentials.

Trump has captured the popular imagination of Republicans with his capacity for off-the-cuff inflammatory rhetoric. Other candidates have struggled to say silly enough things to compete, although Mike Huckabee’s suggestion that Obama was “marching Israelis to the door of the ovens” was a commendable attempt. Another honourable mention must go to Ted Cruz for his suggestion that the Commander In Chief is actually working with Islamic terrorists to destroy America. All this has achieved is to raise the bar for crazy paranoid statements – attempts at introducing rationality will be met with suspicion and hostility by the more rabidly bonkers elements of a base raised on Fox News.

The candidates, therefore, have a very difficult needle to thread. On the one hand, they have to be crazy enough and entertain the right sort of paranoid conspiracy theories to win the hearts and votes of their crazy and paranoid base. Unfortunately, such positions are generally pretty unpopular with the voting public as a whole. So, having won the nomination, they will gently have to moderate their positions in order not to render themselves wholly unpalatable to the wider electorate. The danger, clearly, is that the base (particularly the Christians) are very quick to spot betrayal over these issues, and will go out of their way to hold candidates publically to promises they made to win the nomination, no matter how electorally damaging they are. The Christian right operates under the assumption that their beliefs enjoy the support of the “silent majority” of Americans and cannot understand why candidates might not choose to support them; maybe it’s because the candidates have seen the opinion polling.

Here’s a quick rundown of the candidates.

  • Donald Trump
    • will want to maintain his stratospheric (well, higher than the others) poll ratings
    • most likely to make it up as he goes along and accidentally announce Sarah Palin as a running mate
  • Jeb Bush
    • will want to avoid mentioning the Iraq war, or his older brother
    • most likely to remind people about the Iraq war and his older brother
  • Scott Walker
    • will want to displace Trump
    • most likely to compare fighting ISIS to crushing unions
  • Mike Huckabee
    • will want people to forget about his palling around with child molesters
    • most likely to make a quip about Auschwitz and / or Obama being like Hitler
  • Ben Carson
    • will want to turn America into a theocracy
    • most likely to suggest turning America a theocracy
  • Ted Cruz
    • will want to pick up Trump’s support if / when Trump self-destructs
    • most likely to come across like a modern-day Joe McCarthy
  • Marco Rubio
    • will want to ensure he’s fully hydrated before speaking
    • most likely to lose points by saying nice things about immigrants
  • Rand Paul
    • will want to flaunt his libertarian credentials
    • most likely to whip out a chainsaw to chop something up
  • Chris Christie
    • will want to convince people that he’s not a vindictive bully
    • most likely to punch someone in the face
  • John Kasich
    • will want people to remember his name
    • most likely to be forgotten by everyone

Should be fun!

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