Unless you’ve been asleep for the last few weeks, or unless you just honestly have better things to do, you are probably aware that South Carolina has recently been awash with national politicians. They’re making appearances and getting endorsements; their people are mailing flyers and making phone calls. Doors are being knocked on, and deals are being made. It’s democracy in action! And it’s exciting! And noisy! And headache inducing!
By the time this piece gets published, the South Carolina GOP primary will be over and done. The primary used to be a very important indicator of who would become the eventual nominee, but today it is important simply because people say that it is.
As I write this, I don’t know who the winner will be, but I have my suspicions — and there’s no point in sharing them because by the time you read this, it will be hindsight. Got it? No? That’s OK, it doesn’t matter either way.
Well, that’s not really true. The choices on the GOP side appear to be changing how American politics work. If the GOP is progressive in any sense, it is in how they’ve cast aside the well-worn mantra of choosing between the lesser of two — or, in this case, more like 22 — evils in favor of the new mantra of choosing between the Greatest of Evils.
Is it Trump, a man who began his campaign by offering a brutally honest critique of the meaninglessness and corruption of the American political system, but who has since become hopelessly mired in tired pseudo-fascism now that he has begun openly talking about the previously coded dog whistles of GOP rhetoric? Or Cruz, who once argued before the Supreme Court that a man whose prison sentence was never legal in the first place would still have to stay in prison for 15 more years because, well, why didn’t he say anything about it sooner?
You can fill in the blanks all the way down the GOP roster, eventually landing on The Post and Courier‘s fave, John Kasich, whose only real claim to the nomination is that he’s actually better at hiding his aggressively terrible ideas from the public. He’s done this so well, in fact, that the Republican noise machine calls him a liberal most of the time.
Then again, they call President Barack Obama a socialist, so that gives you an idea of either A) The limits of their actual knowledge about politics and economics, or B) Their relative estimation of how smart you are — psst, not very. And yes, I know, Bernie Sanders actually calls himself a socialist, so he must be one. Sure, and you were an anarchist at 15 because you spiked your hair up on weekends, had a Circle-Jerks T-shirt from Hot Topic that you hid from your mom, and listened to Blink-182. Radical.
At any rate, the media has dutifully played its role — nationally and locally — by playing up all the local flavor of the South Carolina primaries (“They’re dirty!” “Politicians love the Yorktown!” “Dubya managed not to fall out of his chair at a downtown hot-chicken joint!” “That Nikki Haley is going places!”). They’ve managed to cover all the candidates’ talking points without ever really drilling down to what any of those talking points mean, outside of conservative values or whatever that might even be. Of course, even that’s boring when the real news is which GOP chimp is flinging poop today — and at whom.
Occasionally, someone tries talking about who could possibly emerge as the GOP candidate by pleasing the establishment. Or trying, again and again, to paint the GOP as some sort of multicultural party of the future just because Gov. Haley endorsed Marco Rubio and did a photo op with Tim Scott. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but diversity should mean more than just people who look different saying the same old tired things.
While the other Republican candidates are angling for who can be the better establishment candidate, the Democratic field tried to out-un-establishment each other before coming back around to working out whether it was even a bad thing or not to be a member of the establishment. And, if you’re now sick of the word “establishment,” welcome to my world. I have a list of words I’d like never to hear again after this year, and it gets longer every single day.
So, really, what have we learned? Well, not much, to be honest. But, hey, think of all that sweet, sweet money that’s been redistributed from wealthy donors to small businesses this month. If nothing else, the political-industrial complex creates jobs. Or, I don’t know, wealth. Maybe that’s worth the noise and the headaches, but I doubt it. I’d rather have candidates debating issues, like guaranteed basic incomes and free healthcare.
Then again, I’m old-fashioned.