Now that March Madness is behind us and the people need something else to be hooked on, let’s acknowledge that, while politics usually isn’t that thing, this year’s Republican race for president is the exception. It’s a kind of unscripted performance piece that the New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik calls, essentially, Dada.
That is, it defies rational thinking. The other day a headline in Mother Jones caught my eye: “How Texaco Helped Franco Win the Spanish Civil War.” Adam Hochschild told the story of Torkild Rieber, the CEO of Texaco and a Hitler fancier who provided Francisco Franco with the fuel the Fascist general needed for his tanks and bombers as he attempted to overthrow the elected Spanish government. Hochschild wanted to introduce Rieber as an extreme example of a familiar corporate type, so first he talked about the American Koch family.
He wrote this:
Jane Mayer’s new book, Dark Money, on how the brothers and oil magnates Charles and David Koch spent hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the Republican Party and America’s democratic politics, offers a vivid account of the way their father Fred launched the energy business they would inherit. It was a classic case of not letting “attachments” stand in the way of gain.
But did the Kochs really succeed in buying the Republican Party? Just ask Ted Cruz. Their man in the presidential race, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, bailed out months ago. Now Walker’s one of the Republican big shots we see pivoting to Ted Cruz without an ounce of enthusiasm, his impact limited to whatever boost he gave Cruz by endorsing him before Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary.
This situation reminds me of the medical process whereby doctors fight an opportunistic infection by introducing fecal matter that carries the antibodies needed to fight it.
Republicans forlornly hope Trump and Cruz will somehow wipe each other out—sort of like the storybook tigers who chased each other around a tree until they all turned into butter. The latest word about the Kochs is they hope a deadlocked Republican convention will step over those two yellow puddles and nominate House speaker Paul Ryan.
This would make Ryan—at the end of a primary season turned upside down by blue-collar populists—the candidate of invisible billionaires as well as someone who hadn’t lifted a finger to earn the nomination. Ryan would have illegitimate written across him in letters as big as the ones on the south face of Chicago’s Trump Tower.
Tuesday night CNN came up with some amazing numbers. Attempting to take the measure of voter enthusiasms, the network had asked Wisconsin Republicans to imagine their party’s leading candidates actually getting themselves elected. How would they feel about that?
If it were Cruz, 26 percent of the Republicans said they’d be “concerned” and 12 percent “scared.” That’s more than a third of Republicans gagging at the prospect of the Republican who easily carried the state actually reaching the White House. But this was nothing.
Twenty percent of the Republicans said they’d be concerned about a Trump presidency and a full 38 percent said they’d be scared. Thinking about a Trump presidency, more than half of Wisconsin’s Republicans sniffed disaster. Yet Trump’s still the most likely nominee.
Lacking words to convey this prospect, I ask you to watch this video of a disastrous Spanish train wreck. The video begins when the catastrophe is still seconds away but unavoidable. Is it anywhere close to what it feels like just now to be a libertarian American billionaire?