Newt Gingrich’s cartoonish appearance this weekend at John Hagee’s big round church in San Antonio highlights a new phenomenon that seems to be dominating the early race for the GOP Presidential nomination. There is a surprisingly large pool of “Presidential hopefuls” who plainly have no intention of becoming President. It’s not just that these figures have little chance (think Kemp or Gramm in different years), but that they aren’t even really running.
We’re looking at a wide open contest against a very weak incumbent and the race seems to be drawing only a handful of authentic challengers. There’s Romney, Pawlenty, Barbour, maybe Daniels. And? You can hardly see the real candidates because the camera lens is crowded with characters drawn to the limelight. The race for President is descending into some madcap reality show.
You don’t get the impression that any of these daffy characters give a crap about the job. Do you think Sarah Palin wants to be President? Really? And Newt Gingrich or Mike Huckabee or Herman Cain or Donald Trump or Michele “crazier than thou” Bachmann? When you’re bringing in this kind of cash just for talking about politics who needs a day job? Especially the toughest job in the world. No, thanks.
There have been prominent candidates in the past who pressed a campaign that had no possibility of success, but they usually had policy motives. Jesse Jackson, Pat Buchanan, and Ron Paul all ran surprisingly successful nominating campaigns that succeeded in moving their political parties. But the old Jackson/Buchanan/Paul gambit seems to be evolving in our time into pure entertainment. Along the way it threatens to suck the oxygen out of the actual race for President.
Here’s an idea for campaign reform. Ditch the Iowa caucus which everyone knows is boooring. Kick off the nominating cycle with a special 2-hour episode of The Celebrity Apprentice with guest hosts Karl Rove and James Carville.
Follow it up with a grueling, six-week contest on American Idol (Huckabee does the whole Lee Greenwood catalogue?). Weigh the candidates’ foriegn policy credentials on The Amazing Race. To test toughness and grit throw in a few stints on Wipeout. Reach out to suburbia with guest appearances on Real Housewives of the Swing States. Then make the climatic final selection on a nailbiting, all-politics Dancing with the Stars extravaganza! An advertisers dream. Politicians finally get serious…about ratings.
Now that’s how you engage the modern American public in the political process and that’s the kind of race that this field of candidates is best suited for. I wonder how long it will be before this wacky vision becomes a reality.
Want to guess who will end up being the Biggest Loser?
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