Monday, February 29, 2016

The Republican Party has been smacked across the back of the head with a shovel

Perhaps you've had that experience where you're in public and you hear a couple or a group of people having a heated argument, and as you listen you realize that each person is being willfully ignorant of the other(s) or worse, and that the episode will end either with a physical altercation or, at best, with the participants all storming off if separate directions. Maybe on some level you feel pity for them for being trapped at the level of unthinking emotionalism.

In these situations you feel like you shouldn't eavesdrop on people who are making a spectacle of themselves due to things that aren't their fault, such as a medical condition or a lack of education, but nevertheless you can't help yourself.

That is sort of how I feel as I follow the race for the Republican Party's nomination for the upcoming U.S. Presidential election, which has now devolved into a juvenile insult contest. Rather than debate potential solutions to the problems facing their country, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio in particular are now locked in a war of words that has often focused, strangely enough, on which of the two show more evidence of perspiration backstage during televised appearances.

Really?

It seems that with Republicans, collectively, we are witnessing a party that has been smacked across the back of the head with a shovel, having gotten caught and ground into hamburger meat in the gears of Trump's mean-spirited sensationalism. And now on the eve of Super Tuesday, with Trump solidly ahead in the polls, the party's mainstream is realizing too late that they should have upped their game months before now.

Compare that to the Democratic race.

Sure, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have criticized each other and even traded barbs on occasion, but on the whole their race has been one about issues being discussed with maturity and decorum. In other words, they have respected the intelligence of their supporters and each other, and therefore have brought honor to their party. At no point, from what I have seen, have the Democratic contenders gotten down in the muck and manure like the Republicans. (Up until the last few days it was mainly Trump doing that, but now Rubio has joined in. As I saw a commentator on CNN say earlier, when you sink to Trump's level, "the pig enjoys it and you just get dirty".)

And so following the Republican race is an intensely-fascinating form of people-watching, in terms of the shamelessness of the main participants, as well as the intellectual acrobatics and obfuscation of the pundits who rally by their side. It's like the conservative movement, as a whole, is too factionalized to properly digest someone as deliberately polarizing as Trump.

(As an aside, conservatism tends to become a religion to its adherents, and like any religion it tends to break apart into competing factions. While the Democrats are indeed more "liberal" - at least for the purposes of election campaigns - they seem to be more rooted in a sense of pragmatism. That is why you never hear Democrats questioning each other's ideological purity, unlike the GOP.)

Getting back to the scenario described at the outset, eventually you realize you've had enough. Sooner or later, any guilty pleasure loses its novelty, and you just wish the people you're listening to would either clam up or at least talk about something of substance.

And so it is with the 2016 Republican contest.