Last week as you may recall (and I know that you all do) I addressed the role of identity among the two front runners from the U.S. Democratic Party. Therefore it seems only fair that this issue I say something about the diversity among the Republican contenders in their ongoing primary. While it may seem ironic to use the words “fair” and “diversity” in the same sentence as “Republican”, their primaries thus far have been more diverse, in those ways that really count, than those of their Democratic counterparts. So much so, in fact, that I do not have the space here to give each of them the attention they deserve. Therefore, I will now content myself to address three of the more prominent candidates from this year’s primary: Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and the now-defunct Fred Thompson.
The Republican candidate arguably best known on this side of the Atlantic is former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Known to his constituency as both a tyrant and a fearless crime-fighter, his tough, almost showman-like approach to cleaning up the city was but a prelude to the drama that would later unfold.
Giuliani, like Bush, became a national hero on September 11th, 2001. It was he who most visibly led efforts to normalise the city in its wake, from being the unofficial spokesman for the city to announcing on the skit comedy show Saturday Night Live some weeks later that it was “OK to laugh again” (on the same episode in which he later appeared in drag). It is from these efforts that Giuliani draws most, if not all, of his credibility. Interviews about his policies invariably drift to “security issues”, where, befitting his September 11th forged identity, he has a notably tough stance. “The days of defense are over. Peace takes strength -and the determination- to fight where necessary” was the header to an article he published in Newsweek this last December. To me this sounds like only slightly veiled evidence of predetermined military action, ironic considering he did not serve in Vietnam after applying for draft deferment three times. If you liked Bush’s invasion of Iraq, you will love Giuliani’s invasion of Iran. We can certainly expect similar results.
On domestic policy he has much less in common with the Republican party, no doubt another reason why he likes to focus on security issues. He has in the past been pro-choice, though this position has been toned down dramatically as he attempts, most feel in vain, to win the hearts and minds of the religious right. His personal life doesn’t help matters. He is on his third wife and has many well-documented affairs, one of them culminating in the divorce from his second wife. The media-savvy Giuliani called a press conference to announce the breaking news to his constituents – including his stunned soon-to-be ex-wife.
She will not be the only one voting for another candidate this election. The traditional base of the Republican Party consists of Evangelical Christians; they helped elect Bush, the Bush before him, and Reagan before that. While they do tend to be a fiscally conservative lot (social welfare = Stalinism), their true political zealotry is reserve for more social issues in a manner that is not seen nearly as much on this side of the Atlantic. For better or for worse, the otherwise-personal personal details of a candidates life become relevant for these “moral issue” voters, and Giuliani’s personal history appeals to them about as much as mine would.
Overturning Roe v. Wade (ie making abortion illegal, or at the very least a state’s issue) is a top priority. Like the two young men who talked at me for 20 minutes on the tube this evening, they also tend to believe that Darwinism “can’t be proven” at best, and is the work of Satan at worst. Never a folk to let knowledge get in the way of their beliefs, they like their government with a generous helping of religion, even in the classroom.
Such politics have seen Darwinism removed from biology classrooms in Kansas, warranting ridicule from the national and international press (the curriculum was soon reverted). In the newer, more diplomatic approach, they want equal billing for “intelligent design”, the evolution (pun intended) of “creationism”, the latter having too much of a religious connotation despite the two words meaning exactly the same thing.
Just when the Evangelical bloc felt their luck had run out with the disaster of their last Golden Boy, galloping in on a white steed, Christian banner waving, is the former Governor from Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. A long-time Baptist minister, he has been an outspoken proponent of “intelligent design” in public schools. Some of his more notable remarks include describing homosexuality as an “aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle”, and attributing part of his success in politics to divine intervention. Despite holding the same post, and coincidently having been born and raised in the exact same small town as Bill Clinton, Huckabee is a conservative’s conservative, at least on those “moral issues” that matter so dearly to so many.
Despite his apparent zealotry, he has managed to show himself as a man whom it’s difficult to dislike. The affable Huckabee is easily the most huggable candidate still in real contention (sorry Kucinich) and possesses the often deceiving frankness that endears him to the common people. Unlike his would-be predecessor, however, he has the added benefit of being halfway intelligent and well-spoken.
Perhaps because of the latter he has toned down the religious fervor that lies beneath, having more or less secured a place in the hearts of America’s Christian extremists (of which there are frighteningly many) while still appealing to a wider audience that might not believe that the rotten aspects of human nature originated with a mischievous snake in an apple tree tree. At least, however, we can know where Mr. Huckebee and his base constituency stand. To quote John Goodman in The Big Lebowski,: “Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos”.
Among the six most prominent candidates who’ve held national attention this primary, I’m still not sure what Fred Thompson was doing there. Now relegated to the dustbin of presidential could-have-beens, Fred Thomspson has dropped out of the race after an abysmal finish in South Carolina, not to mention each state leading up to it. A former Senator, Thompson was best known for his role as an actor on a popular TV show. A one-page article in The Economist mentioning that fact 4 times (“‘as an added bonus he even played authority figures such as federal prosecutors and even presidents'”). Thank you, Economist, for treating the presidential elections of the United States like an audition for a high school play.
To give an idea of his cowardice and ideological impotence: having been challenged to a debate by Michael Moore on the issue of health care, he chose rather to respond with a Youtube video of him sucking on a Cuban cigar (these are illegal in the US) and encouraging the film-maker to enter a mental institution. This man wanted to be president.
At 24 years his junior, Thompson’s “most prized possession” is his absurdly attractive trophy wife, no doubt attracted to the man for his handsome good looks and sensitive personality. Let her be his only consolation as he spends the few years remaining of his life wallowing in the obscurity he so richly deserves. If I sound a little cruel, perhaps Mr. Thompson would like to challenge me to a debate, or at the very least make a Youtube video for me.
This has been a year full of dissimilar choices for the Republican Party, and that’s just the half of it. Next week: Do Not Vote for These People (Part II of II).
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This post was written by Richard Maidu