The evolving 2016 presidential campaign is not gripping, at least to me. Hillary evokes no enthusiasm. Yes, she represents a significantly lesser evil and we have to elect her, but the best she draws from me is a dutiful sigh. And the Republicans are dangerous, disgusting, and clownish.
But things are flying about in the 2016-horserace that I suspect may eventually have meaning. Consider these tidbits:
And obviously, the corner Republicans have painted themselves into is not merely about climate change. In deference to their fearful, aging white male base, they cannot present realistic responses to any number of issues on which polling now shows them out of step with a majority of the electorate: immigration reform with a path to citizenship for our undocumented residents, raising the minimum wage, marriage equality and protection for employment and housing rights for LGBT people, and even Obamacare which has lately polled positive support.
Meanwhile, the Supremes have given the green light to billionaires to buy whatever political influence they wish by directly supporting candidates. The same Republicans who can't offer anything most of us want in the way of policy are scrambling for the spoils.
Now here's a new wrinkle: Jeb Bush is planning to outsource the entirety of the part of his campaign that engages with the electorate to his Super PAC. Mail, TV ads, get-out-the-vote ... all passed off to paid professional consultants. How smooth. This innovative arrangement would get rid of any limits to the contributions of plutocrats and even avoid the minor annoyance of reporting who is paying for the campaign. The candidate presumably would just travel about a bit, tooting his horn, while most of the work went on without his participation.
Note that all the noisy and fractious apparatus of political party leaders and local honchos would thus be bypassed. Also bypassed, ideologically motivated citizen participation. This setup certainly would make a campaign easier to manage.
But consider this, from Walter Shapiro, a veteran journalist/observer of U.S. presidential politics:
It seems to me that a party which has driven itself into an unpopular cul-de-sac would be ripe for a billionaire breakaway like this. Which Republican plutocrat will be first to decide that he could run the United States better than any of these hired clowns?
Like Perot, who ran a strange one-note candidacy against the deficit, such a plutocrat could break the ideological logjam within which Republicans have enmeshed themselves to promote whatever personal hobby horse drove his investment in the process. Disaffected voters might flock to such a person -- at least for awhile. Would traditional party loyalties overcome the excitement of what seemed a possible alternative?
I don't see anything like this is 2016; our plutocrats are placing their bets and parties and candidates still matter. But in 2020? Or 2024 if our democratic process still seems as stuck as it is today?
Republicans seem far more vulnerable to this fate than today's Democrats. The donkey party is mostly pretty united around a quasi-populist domestic agenda. Now if Hillary ginned up yet another war, all bets are off. Off -- except perhaps hindered because the Democrats as not currently as well supplied with self-centered billionaires. Republicans on the other hand seem to have a large supply of very entitled plutocrats.