BY R.L. SCHREADLEY
Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
This is, by almost any measure you wish to put upon it, the craziest presidential campaign season experienced in my lifetime. This should have been a walk in the park for a credible Republican nominee. When it all began a year or more ago, the GOP field was overloaded with seemingly talented and well-vetted candidates — governors, ex-governors, highly regarded senators and former senators, a renowned surgeon, a former CEO of a huge technology corporation. And Donald Trump, a billionaire developer.
Have I left anyone out? No matter.
The original field, was suitably diverse (one woman and one black). Politically correct. Moreover, the last three on my little list, were considered “outsiders,” a decided plus as it turned out, especially for Mr. Trump. Either by canny political instinct or sheer luck he tapped into the disdain and disgust much of the party’s base has for the Washington Republican establishment. Rightly or wrongly, many feel the House and Senate, Republican-controlled, have failed to deliver on promises to promote healthy economic growth, secure the border, reform entitlement spending, and restore the respect America once enjoyed from friends and enemies alike in foreign fields.
Worse, the near panic displayed by party elites within and without the government at the prospect of a Trump/Clinton match-up in the general election is shattering the illusion that democracy has anything whatsoever to do with the process of choosing a presidential candidate. It’s all a game, a fixed game.
Convention rules permit writing new rules that theoretically could strip the nomination from a Trump or a Cruz, neither one of whom is well thought of by party elites. Even someone who arrives at the convention with the magic number of 1,237 pledged delegates, could be denied victory. The convention could nominate someone else, someone who may not have participated in the primaries at all.
What this would do to Republican hopes in the November general election, much less the revered principle of “one man, one vote,” is not difficult to see. It might well split the party in two, three, or four pieces.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political fence, the all but anointed Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton, has problems of her own. By now, almost everyone believed she would have driven Senator Bernie Sanders from the race. Everyone, that is, except Bernie himself. He’s won six of the last seven states, and were it not for the huge lead Clinton has in “super delegates” not chosen in the primaries, the un-Democratic race would be much closer than it is.
Who would have thunk it? A 74-year-old Jewish senator from Vermont? A self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” promising free college for all? A lovable, soak the rich, demagogue of the old school? Everyone’s crazy uncle?
Give Hillary Clinton credit where credit is due. She’s kept Democrats “feeling the Bern” by being herself an astonishingly weak candidate whose entire public life has been mired in scandal after scandal. You can look it up. Polls (some of them) show that many in her own party do not consider her “honest and trustworthy.” You can look this up, too.
Only in America.
R. L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.