Saturday, August 01, 2015

Get ready for a year-long GOP rendition of the Mahabharata

I usually stay away from wasting spending my time blogging about the presidential election issues.  But, sometimes, like in this one, I yield to the temptation ;)

Next week, the Grand Old-People Party debates begin.  It is going to be wonderful theatre from the first minute of the first debate of the primaries next week all the way to the convention in mid-July next year.  Not that we have not been entertained until now; the Donald has pretty much made himself the entertainer-in-chief.

All the theatrics aside,on a substantive level, I am disappointed that Rand Paul has faded away already.  He contributed a great deal to the national (and international) discussions on the unconstitutional and secretive security apparatus, the presidential wars without Congressional approval, and a lot more which most other wimps senators did not want to address.
Even as his campaign struggles, many of his issues are doing surprisingly well—in fact, that’s a big part of the reason why Paul has struggled to define himself. The formerly indomitable Ex-Im bank has been vanquished, though perhaps it will return in another form; the N.S.A. has been reformed, though lightly; a “diplomatic solution” seems imminent in Iran, though of course people disagree about its effectiveness; criminal-justice reform has bipartisan momentum, though it may yet meet with resistance; politicians wishing to hamper companies like Uber are meeting stiff resistance, though they will keep trying. These are all tentative, partial, and temporary victories—but then, politics rarely offers any other kind. Rand Paul is struggling in the polls, but Paulism looks pretty healthy.
Paul could/should have easily convinced many in the GOP that he is a man of ideas and principles.  Yet, he has already fizzled away.  What gives?
The presidency is the Mahabharata of politics, an epic piece of theater for which serious stamina is required.
You have to love a sentence phrased that well, right?

That essay argues that the likes of Rand Paul never can make it:
what voters truly want are candidates with permanent front-stage personalities — people with a polished public persona, who actually believe their performing selves, to the point that they play those people even in private. Bill Clinton, for instance. He believes himself at all times, even when he’s lying, and he’s the same fellow in a stadium of 40,000 and a private card game of four. Reagan was the same way (indeed, his private self was so elusive that poor Edmund Morris had to fictionalize the biography he ultimately wrote of him, even though he’d gained unprecedented access to Reagan’s aides and diaries). Even Obama fits this definition. He's just as measured in private as in public, and just as professorial. He didn't earn the nickname "no drama Obama" for nothing. ...
If front-stage characters are whom we elect, Rand Paul, the polar opposite, would inevitably have to go.
My favorite Libertarian-Democrat public-intellectual, Camille Paglia sums it up well:
As a libertarian, I find myself agreeing with Rand Paul on so many different social and political issues. Unfortunately, however, Paul lacks gravitas as a physical presence. The U.S. presidency has a highly ceremonial aspect.  The president isn’t merely a prime minister, a political leader–he’s the symbolic embodiment of the nation. Therefore, physical attributes and vocal style are very important.  Despite the cartoons that caricature and ridicule him as a befuddled boy with big ears, Obama has always known how to handle himself as a candidate and then president. He projects a sober, unflappable confidence and presents himself with elegance and grace–all of which produced his success early on, when Hillary was the frontrunner in 2008.  Many Americans were so sick of Bush, with that lumbering cowboy stance of his.  And remember that terrible moment at a European summit when Bush came up behind the seated Angela Merkel and grabbed her by the shoulders?  She jumped out of her skin.  What an embarrassment to the nation! 

I am with Paglia about the Republican candidate that the liberals are not worrying enough about: Scott Walker.  Let us see if he will have the gravitas to brush off the rest.


Ramesh said...

Yes "gravitas" is an asset but its value is overemphasised. Rand Paul is fading away because his brand of libertarianism is not embraced by a majority of your country. He is on the wrong side of the majority in every issue you praise him for - including presidential wars and the NSA apparatus. It doesn't matter that you (and I) agree with him - most of your countrymen don't.

And on the substantive issues of economy , healthcare, etc he doesn't have a proposition that appeals. Hence the fade.

Donald will entertain for a while (I hope for a long while so that I can be entertained ) and will disappear. The serious GOP candidates will eventually rise up.

Sriram Khé said...

It is downright scary to think that most Americans do not seem to care a bit about the warmongering and government snooping. No wonder we get the republic that we deserve!

I agree with you that on many other substantive issues, Rand Paul is on some crazy exoplanet. Which is why I would not have voted for him even if he had become the GOP candidate. (For that matter, most of my voting has always been only protest votes; rarely ever have I found anybody worth voting for!) But, Paul could have made the primaries a lot more engaging, content-wise, than what the Donald is doing.
BTW, did you check out the awesome cover in the New Yorker?
Cover Story: Barry Blitt’s “Belly Flop”

Anne in Salem said...

The editor of The Statesman Journal yesterday posted a rhetorical challenge that each candidate be asked questions from the citizenship test at the debates, positing that most would fail. I am pretty sure Rand Paul would do well; I am equally sure many others, including Trump, would fail miserably and embarrassingly. Given how poorly the general public would do on the test, I am not sure anyone would care that the candidates are so ignorant of the Constitution and US history. Very sad. Could you imagine the uproar if we required all voters to pass the citizenship test before voting?!?! Every -ism imaginable would be charged - racism, sexism, ageism, elitism. It would produce a much more informed electorate, which can only be good.

Regardless, I think most people vote with their pocketbooks - who will cause me the fewest taxes and/or give me the most benefits - rather than on ideals and principles. The one exception may be those who vote on one particular issue, be it abortion, death penalty, immigration, or whatever strikes their passion. Both options (purely financial or one issue only) are incomplete and irresponsible, but I think it is the reality.

Sriram Khé said...

Ever since I watched Coriolanus, I have a tough time not viewing the debates along those lines. ( That Shakespeare was one awesome dude! I will leave it there as an exercise for any interested reader ;)

I agree with you that most voters would fail the basic civics/Constitution test. In fact, if we administered to "native" born citizens the test that people like me took to go through the naturalization process, we will have very few voters in every state! Remember this post ( about the dismal, depressing reality of sheer ignorance and apathy?

Trump is all about Trump. The fact that he is drawing a seventh of the GOP members is shameful. You--yes you--have some serious explaining to do on behalf of your party faithful ;)

And, yes, the reality is that voting based on principles and ideas is not anywhere on the minds of an overwhelming majority. Single issues have come to dominate our voting patterns. And, yes, the personal benefits ... To paraphrase that dead cigar-chomping British White Supremacist whom Ramesh adores and idolizes, we are stuck with all these because all other forms of governance that humans have tried out suck even more!

Anne in Salem said...

Did you ever notice the similarity between the words vote and veto? Hmmm . . .

Anne in Salem said...

I can't even begin to explain the popularity of Trump. I can't explain the thought (ahem) processes of those who support him. Perhaps it is entertainment vs deep thinking. Was Reagan so ridiculed when he began his political life?

Sriram Khé said...

Latest on the Donald:
"Trump receives the backing of 26 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters -- up from 18 percent in mid-July and 11 percent a month ago."
That's some thinking voters among my fellow-citizens!!! :(

Most read this past month