It’s been said we Americans get the government we deserve.
We get the campaigns we deserve too.
Right now, Donald Trump is the frontrunner in the Republican Party primary, much to the shock and chagrin of many. He held a rally in Dallas on Monday that drew 15,000 people to a downtown basketball arena.
Lots of folks are crowing about that turnout, as if such a thing has never been done before in Dallas.
But it has. Barack Obama did it here too. In fact, he held rallies like this one in Dallas, twice. Bigger crowds both times. Look it up.
As for Trump, and rest of the crowded Republican field, I am neither shocked nor chagrined by any of it so far. I find both Trump’s lead, and the crowded field, to make absolute and predictable sense. Just not in the way most folks seem to believe.
The conventional wisdom is that Trump’s popularity is a backlash toward liberalism, or Obama, blah, blah, blah…
But this fails to note that the whole primary is different this time. Not only is Trump leading, but a a dozen-and-a-half other candidates also still have their hats in the ring. A field like none we’ve ever seen. Stephen Colbert compared it to the Hunger Games the other night.
What we are seeing is the birth of the monster created by Citizens United; the Supreme Court ruling that allows virtually unlimited campaign spending in presidential politics.
Citizens United has turned presidential politics into the new luxury spending item for the super-rich. Each of these candidates has a super-rich backer (in many cases, just one!), gambling that they will be the winner in this horserace.
In fact, horse racing is exactly the right metaphor. It used to be the super-rich bought and raced horses, in an effort to spend the excesses they’d accumulated.
But why stop with horses, when you can now do the same thing with an actual presidential candidate?!
In a traditional year, half of these Republican candidates would have already dropped out of the race, for lack of funding. Because usually by now, funding has broadened out into larger and larger donor bases for these candidates. Those broadening donor bases are a part of what sorts out the candidates. Are enough different folks contributing to Candidate X? If so, they’ll probably stay in the race.
But this year is different. This year, all a candidate needs is one zillionaire with a gambler’s heart, willing to keep pumping in cash. And, with everybody’s poll numbers as equally bad, why would anybody drop out now?
“Somebody’s gonna break out of this pack,” all these rich-donors think. They can’t let the other super-rich guys win! So, they double-down for another ad buy in another state. They keep it going.
Donald Trump is not the opposite of this. Donald Trump is simply logical perfection of this ideal. He is both self funded zillionare and candidate.
Only with him, the American public not only gets the zillionaire’s cash, we also get the zillionare’s inner thoughts too.
All the crap that Trump says? The stuff nobody can believe he says?
Half the zillionares out there believe that same stuff. We just don’t usually get to hear them say it with their “outside voice,” because they rely on their candidate/race horse to do it for them. In subtler and more palatable tones.
Donald Trump is the perfection of Citizens United. This entire primary campaign is its logical and farcical conclusion.
Except that it’s not a farce.
It’s real. And with every day that passes, I wonder if it’s not actually changing presidential politics; and maybe forever.
We Americans tolerate the legal insanity of “Citizens United,” and so Donald Trump —and this farcical primary— are exactly the new politics we so richly (pun intended) deserve.