Four years ago this month, I took a look at the field of Republican candidates for the office of President of the United States and ranked them, from the one I would be least likely to vote for to the one I would be most likely to, if it came to that, (i.e., if a series of microstrokes robbed me of all sense and sensibility, because at this stage in the GOP’s evolution that’s the only reason I would vote for a Republican as President).
Now it’s 2015 and it’s time once more to do the same sort of ranking. Note that once again this election cycle I would rather take a refreshing shower of hot lava than to vote the GOP into the presidency, and so you should be aware my selections and rankings come from that point of view. Which is to say: Brace yourselves, this is not going to be pretty.
In order of the least likely (i.e., I’d rather feed my fingers to bears than to vote for this jerk) to the most likely (i.e., I won’t be happy about it but I don’t think he’ll entirely trash the joint in four years, please don’t take that as a challenge), here are my choices:
14. Mike Huckabee: As near as I can tell, what passes for Huckabee’s presidential campaign is in reality a months-long audition for Pat Robertson’s gig on The 700 Club once Robertson finally but clearly reluctantly shuffles off this mortal coil to the Hell that awaits terrible people who think they’re in with God. If so, good luck, Mr. Huckabee! You’ll finally become the smug and awful bigoted fossil you’ve always aspired to be!
13. Rick Santorum: Sadly for Santorum, there’s only room for one smug and awful bigoted fossil at the bottom of the GOP polling charts, and that’s Mike Huckabee, because he’s got seniority. I rank Santorum slightly higher than Huckabee in my preferences, but that’s like ranking “puke on your shoe” slightly higher than “bloody puke on your shoe.” It’s still puke on your shoe.
12. Ted Cruz: You know, I can appreciate Cruz’s painfully obvious sense of manifest destiny when it comes to him and the presidency, and the fact that that every step of his life has been a direct and calculated step to that goal. Good for him! It’s nice to have ambitions. However, it also hasn’t escaped my notice that at every step of the way, the thing that most people apparently have to say about Cruz is “wow, what an asshole.” I can’t help but think that’s kind of a telling fact. Even his fellow GOP senators think he’s a real prick and don’t want anything to do with him.
Leaving aside that everything that comes out of his mouth is at best meretricious claptrap that would shame even Newt Gingrich, and the fact he has no real legislative record to speak of, I think it would be good for his growth as a human being to learn that being a complete douchenozzle at every available opportunity won’t, in fact, get you the highest office in the land. Humility, Mr. Cruz! It’s well past time you tried some.
11. Donald Trump: The GOP establishment would like you to believe Trump was their summer fling, who in September didn’t take the hint that it was over, followed the GOP back home, and now drives by its house every hour to peer through the window, and texts at 4am asking if the GOP wants to go to the local Waffle House just to talk.
But in reality, it’s terribly unfair to Trump to suggest this has not been an entirely consensual affair. Fact is, the GOP has been actively looking for a populist demagogue for years, one it could control with money. The GOP’s problem is that Trump has money — as he’s very happy to tell you, as often as you would like to hear and then again a few dozen more times after that — and he’s apparently perfectly happy to go full fascist, when the GOP knows you never go full fascist, you just hint and wink. But Trump’s looking at his supporters and seeing that they, at least, are ready for him to go full fascist, and Trump didn’t get where he is in American culture by being subtle, now, did he?
And here we are: With a billionaire would-be oligarch who the GOP can’t use its only real lever — cash — to control. And maybe they’ll wash him out in the primaries, and then maybe Trump will run as an independent and take his tribe of hopped-up jingoists with him — or maybe not! Maybe he goes all the way with the GOP. Some summer flings just keep on going, whether they should or not.
10. Ben Carson: Carson’s problem is that running for president isn’t brain surgery — which is to say it involves a whole bunch of things he appears to know absolutely nothing about. While the idea of Chauncey Gardiner, MD, is compelling as a literary character, the idea of Carson’s brain grinding horribly into neutral in the middle of a legitimate crisis fills me with an unholy terror. Trust him with a scalpel? Sure, probably. Trust him with The Button? Oh, let’s not.
9. Carly Fiorina: Well, she’s only the second-worst businessperson in the race, I’ll give her that. But my thought is that when someone promises to run the country like they ran a company whose stock value declined by more than half and also ditched 30,000 workers while they were in charge, I should take them at their word, and run the other way.
8. Rand Paul: Every time I think of Rand Paul, I imagine that on his bedside table is a copy of Atlas Shrugged, the pages of which are stiff and stuck together and smell vaguely of corn chips. Then I shudder for five whole minutes and try to think of something else.
7. Marco Rubio: Rubio is these days apparently emerging as the GOP favorite for the nomination, which undoubtedly pisses Jeb Bush off to no end. Well, okay: Rubio is generically handsome and seems pleasant and is what passes for smart in the GOP these days, and I’m sure he will be perfectly happy to jump through whatever various hoops his handlers require. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Thing is every time I hear him talk I get the impression of a fellow who is trying very hard not to let others know he is ever so slightly in over his head and not quite managing it. Hilary Clinton’s gonna gnaw on him in a debate like he’s a chew toy. Can’t we put him back into a cool, humidity-controlled cellar for a couple more election cycles until he’s aged up a bit? No? Well, fine, then, GOP, do what you want, I’m not the boss of you.
6. Chris Christie: Angry dude with a demeanor of a schoolyard bully who may or may not be above pulling shenanigans involving a bridge to annoy people he doesn’t like, and is apparently of the opinion that five-year-old Syrian refugee orphans are a clear and present danger to our country. Bless his heart.
He should not be president; he’d stroke out within the first six months, I’m certain of it. For all that, there is worse in the current field of candidates — much worse, in fact — and this is where we are here in 2015.
5 (tie). Jim Gilmore and George Pataki: Former governors, perfectly competent and utterly colorless and have no chance because “competent and colorless” is not what anyone wants these days. I mean, I would be okay with it, obviously given the rest of the field, which is why these guys are as far up as they are on my list, obviously. But the GOP isn’t going to ask me.
This particular spot, by the way, marks the dividing line between “Things could be worse” and “Check out the Canadian immigration Web site to see if you could get in” on this list for me. I’ll also note that currently none of the remaining candidates on the list are polling above 4% nationally. I am not an actual GOP primary voter, is what I’m saying.
3. Jeb Bush: I feel kind of sorry for Jeb Bush, because for years we’ve been told that he was the “smart” one, and his campaign has just been so flabby and disappointing and tired, and as for Jeb, if this is what passes for smart in the Bush family then we’re all just going to have to admit that our standards for smart when it comes to politicians, or at least Bushes, are too damn low (search your heart. You already knew this to be true).
So why is he so high on my list of GOP candidates? One, please see the rest of this list, which makes the 2012 GOP clown car look like the friggin’ Athenian Agora, and two, because Jeb may be tired and listless and doesn’t actually give any indication of running for any other reason but familial obligation, but he’s also got infrastructure, i.e., two previous presidential administrations worth of resources to pick and choose from to keep the nation going despite him. I mean, shit, even W. couldn’t sink the country, and he put real effort into it. Jeb literally could not be any worse. His people will see to that.
On the other hand, if Bush lets a Cheney within 700 miles of him or his proposed administration I swear to God I will literally shove all my money into a Hillary Clinton SuperPAC. Don’t make me do it, Jeb.
2. Lindsey Graham: Apparently a decent human being, has a record of reasonable bipartisanship and is what passes for a moderate these days, and his current polling in the field is at, like, 1%. Which makes him almost perfect for the likes of me. I suspect he’ll get some nice speaking gigs out of this run. Good for him.
1. John Kasich: He’s cranky and too conservative for my tastes and he’s got a hard-on for defunding Planned Parenthood here in Ohio (not to mention an attempted union-bust which required a citizen initiative to smack back) and he said a genuinely dumbass thing about opening a government office for Judeo-Christian values like he’s never heard of the Establishment Clause before and has shamefully said he doesn’t want Syrian refugees and yet I look around at who is running in the GOP field this year, and Kasich is one of the few I trust not to run the whole country into the ground either through incompetence or ideological rigidity, or both.
Part of it is that at least some of his crankiness is directed at his own party and its current slate of candidates, which appear to strike him as fumbling doofuses. He’s not wrong. Part of it is that he hasn’t been entirely horrible for Ohio, and occasionally signals that there’s an actual working brain inside of that suit. Which sounds like faint praise, and it is, but look: This is 2015 and we’re grading on a very serious curve, here. Kasich is the best we’re getting out of the GOP in this election cycle. So of course he’s polling at 3% nationally and I wouldn’t give him much of a chance in the primaries, just like my 2012 first choice, Jon Huntsman. I’m sorry, John Kasich — by choosing you, I’ve probably doomed your candidacy.
Be that as it may: If I had to vote for one of these folks, he is the one I’d vote for. May God have mercy on him. May God have mercy on us all.
(All photos borrowed from Wikipedia and used via Creative Commons license.)