And then there were fourteen. Scott Walker has "suspended his campaign," which is American polispeak for dropping out while retaining control of what monies remain in the coffers. Oscar Wilde once described an English country fox hunt as "the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable." The bon mot conjures the current race for the Republican presidential nomination. Warren Goldfarb was surely right in characterizing Walker as the most loathsome of the aspirants to the title, though some might think his powers of discrimination a tad too fine.
Something very strange is happening to Republicans this cycle, and I have been spending a good deal of time trying to puzzle it out. The "noted pediatric neurosurgeon" Ben Carson has lately taken to telling all who will listen that a Muslim ought never to be President unless he forswears the central tenets of his religion, which prompted Donald Trump to snark that "some say we have already had one as president."
If we remain at the level of appearances, dealing first, as Aristotle says, with things known better to us rather than things known better in themselves, we might naturally suppose that the Republican Party has embarked on a coordinated campaign to offend, one by one, every segment of the American electorate that is not old, White, and bigoted. The party long ago lost the Black vote, resulting in Democrats getting share of the African-Americans so large that the remainder looks like a counting error.
In this cycle, the Republicans began by doing whatever they could to offend unmarried women. That accomplished, they moved on to Hispanic-Americans. This task was assigned to Donald Trump, whose assault on Latinos and Latinas has dominated the public discourse, allowing no other candidate to get a deep breath of the political air.
But Trump's efforts were so successful that after a while it became clear nothing more needed to be done. The Hispanic vote was locked up for the Democrats for at least a generation. The Republicans looked around for another minority group to offend, and noticed Asian-Americans -- not so rich a target of opportunity as Hispanics or African-Americans, but growing in importance, and worth a bit of attention. So Jeb Bush was dispatched to toss a casual insult at them, in hopes that they would take offence and depart for the Democratic Party. This left Dr. Ben Carson pretty much out in the cold. Uncle Ben had been passed over for the juicy plum of dissing the Hispanics, and had even been denied access to the Asian-Americans, so he did what any enterprising candidate would do, he bustled about and found -- Muslims. Muslims are not a large minority, but one takes what one can get in the insult business, so the good Doctor wasted no time assuring that no alert, self-respecting Muslim would ever vote Republican. I guess that leaves Marco Rubio with the Satanists.
What on earth is going on? I have a theory, and like all my best theories, it is rooted in the experiences of my youth.
When I was a boy, there were a number of daily fifteen minute radio serials that aired around dinner time. [The Lone Ranger was an exception -- it was on for a half hour three times a week. I used to listen to it as my sister and I did the dinner dishes.] My favorite was Captain Midnight, which featured a decoder ring one could write away for. With my decoder ring, I could decipher the sequence of numbers announced at the very end of each episode, which gave the cognoscenti secret information about the next show. Among the other shows was The Shadow. This was an early superhero program, the central character of which was Lamont Cranston, also known as The Shadow. Each day, the announcer would proclaim, in a sepulchral voice, "What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows." Lamont Cranston, we were told, had "traveled in the Far East," and there had acquired the "ability to cloud men's minds." For the youngsters among you, think Obi-Wan Kenobe in the original Star Wars movie, drawing upon The Force with a wave of his hand to confuse the troopers who stopped him and Luke as they came looking for a transport ship to take them on their journeys.
What is going on? My theory is that Barack Obama is a Jedi knight whose command of The Force enables him to cloud the minds of Republicans and drive them mad. After seven years as President, he has, without visible effort, reduced otherwise rational Republicans to gibbering idiots hell bent on making their party unelectable at the national level.
What will become of Obama once he leaves office? I see him as turning into Yoda, ostensibly living in obscurity while in reality training generations of Democrats in the secret tricks of driving Republicans insane. As he ages, he will begin to stoop and put the second halves of his sentences before the first halves.
Who will be next?