Who can possibly govern a country where the name “United States” is an illusion? There is little united about us, not when it comes to politics. In both parties, we have candidate lineups that make the WWE look authentic by comparison, except that the wrestlers are not as weird as the candidates.
How else should we describe the bizarros in that latest tag-team match, otherwise known as the Republican debate? Actually, the star of that circus was the clown who didn’t show up. Donald Trump, the modern reincarnation of P.T. Barnum, turned the latest show on earth into a three-ring spectacle. We had what we like to call the undercard, featuring the candidates whose ratings barely are above asterisk. Then there was what was supposed to be the main event, except that it became just another undercard when Trump trumped all the players simply by staying away.
What a strategy! Let’s face it: The Donald is not The Debater. He doesn’t do all that well when facts and policy are involved. He’s not a substance kinda guy. But he is an amazing self-promoter, and he doesn’t need or want any other guys around the spotlight. He demands the stage for himself. When he does share it, it’s with someone who makes him look sane by comparison. Are you feeling used, Sarah Palin? Although come to think of it, maybe she’s using the Trumpster.
People, this is a GOP freak show. Trump rules the midway, and he overshadows the others, who range from smarmy buffoons to religious fanatics, outright liars to one or two who barely have a pulse. Several are all of the above. It’s the stuff of parodies. We all know how “Saturday Night Live” is having a continuous field day, but what’s really strange is that Tina Fey can’t match the real thing. The fact that Sarah Palin is still a star among hard-line conservatives means that on the right a lot of people are just not right, as in not all there. Or they’re consumed by hatred and fed up with being even slightly rational.
But the left isn’t let off the hook, either. Let’s look at the Democratic choices: Bernie Sanders and the former prohibitive favorite Hillary Clinton, who’s definitely not so prohibitive anymore. As a candidate, she’s one of those who can always be counted on to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In 2008 and now eight years later, she seems her old robotic self and still appears to have that long-standing difficulty with the truth — an on-again, off-again relationship with honesty. Whether that’s fair or not, she may be squandering her chance to make history as this country’s first female president.
She is being given fits by an opponent who shouldn’t be a serious contender. Bernie Sanders has the correct targets. Few no longer doubt that we live in a system that is stacked to protect and reward the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Sanders’ Siren Song is pretty seductive: Health care for all, government run, free college tuition, crack down on the banks, etc. It’s a socialist approach, and Bernie Sanders proudly embraces that label.
The problem is that Americans do not. The simple fact of the matter is that if the Bern was the Democratic nominee, the Republicans would burn him alive.
There are reasons why so many are flat-out disgusted with our political system, but the biggest one may be the dismal choice of politicians. There’s no one to root for, only against. Donald Trump, in his latest successful effort to game the game, decided to go away for the night. Now if we can only get the rest to go away.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.