The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has begun to notice that Donald Trump isn’t going away anytime soon in the polls. Which poses a bit of a writing quandary.
There is no denying that Trump stump commentary generates a lot of traffic — I mean, just tremendous, quality clicks. But this incoherent gasbag has been blathering on for more than two months now, and there’s only so much one man can say about his shtick. Say that he brings out the ugly side of American politics? Done. Comment on his feuds with conservative media? Done. Observe that he’s not really a populist, not really? Done. Point out that his bare-bones policy statements make almost no sense whatsoever? Done and done.
There’s only so many ways that I can say that Trump reminds me of nothing so much as that old man at the deli talking to nobody in particular about how the country is going to hell and how it was better in the “Mad Men” days when you could properly insult minorities and play grab-ass with the secretaries.
So instead let’s turn this around and ask a question of the rest of the GOP field and the political media that has reported on them. For this entire calendar year, I’ve heard how the current crop of GOP presidential candidates “showcase[s] the party’s deep bench of talent” or that “the Republicans are sitting on the deepest bench they’ve had in decades” or how “a direct comparison with the last Republican primary, in 2012, reveals how strong this bunch of candidates is for the 2016 nomination.”
And, to be fair, this seemed to be a fair analysis. There are no fewer than nine sitting and former governors of big states in the field. If that was off-putting to tea party types who don’t like governing, there were plenty of anti-establishment candidates like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz to get behind. I’ve heard a lot about how the GOP field is younger, more diverse and more politically talented than the Democrats.
And yet, after all the declarations, we’re at a political moment when Trump is clobbering all of these talented politicians in the polls — and doing so by honing the lessons he learned from reality television.
It’s late August, so obviously things will likely change by the time Iowa starts to caucus. But remember, the whole point of this deep GOP bench was supposed to be that it would thwart the absurdity of the 2012 cycle, when Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann were front-runners for a time. And yet in this cycle, it’s gotten to the point where William Kristol has morphed from praising the current crop of “strong candidates” to fretting that “the rest of the field isn’t what it should be” and encouraging Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to enter the race.
So here’s my question: What does it say about the deep GOP bench that none of them have managed to outperform a guy who has no comparative political advantage except celebrity and a willingness to insult anyone who crosses his path?