A few short months ago, the presence of Donald Trump in the Republican line-up of presidential wannabes only provoked a louder snicker. Today, the shrimp in the appetizer has become the just deserts.
And what an original line-up it was, too! Sixteen of them. That's over twice as many as Snow White had to contend with. But, one by one, like the doomed visitors to the isolated manor house in Agatha Christie's famous murder story, they dropped by the wayside.
There was the brother of the worst chief executive in modern history. Jeb! was the party's "presumptive nominee," even if his laid back persona made Rip Van Winkle look like an electrifying personality. Both of his hands were extended to grab the GOP reins. In a classic case of premature presumptiveness, however, it turned out that George had driven the horse over a cliff some miles back.
The governor from Texas, who couldn't recall the name of the federal agency he wanted to shut down, was an early casualty. In fairness to Rick Perry, it doesn't really matter all that much what governmental agency gets shuttered to Republicans. The shuttering is the point. The name Perry was fumbling for was the same Energy Dept. that causes a lot of problems for Big Oil, whose support keeps men of his caliber in the governor's mansion.
Another early flameout was the governor from Wisconsin, who is wildly popular among the ruling class in his state for keeping workers in their place. The problem with both Perry and Scott Walker is that their outsized popularity only extends as far as their respective state lines. Within tight little Republican enclaves like Texas and Wisconsin, they are hailed as trailblazers and visionaries. To less GOP entrenched areas of the nation, they are brazenly attempting to roll back workers' rights to the era of the Robber Barons.
Then there was the doctor who seemed to walk out of the operating theater and enter into some kind of alternate universe. If he didn't talk too much, he was useful for bolstering the claim that the GOP is an all-inclusive political party. As long as there are people like Ben Carson and Clarence Thomas representing minority groups, that will remain true. It was, just the same, a bit unnerving to hear a physician say that he would rather see a bullet-riddled body than risk any changes to the sacrosanct Second Amendment. Don't doctors have to take some kind of oath that places a higher value on human life than on a political agenda?
A recent fizzle also hailed from the Lone Star State (I'm always tempted to include a parenthesized "God help us" when I mention Texas or the Carolinas). Ted Cruz managed to merge a profession of faith that would humble Aimee Semple McPherson with marriage to a Goldman Sachs executive. (You probably recall Matt Taibbi's spot-on characterization of Goldman as a "great vampire squid.") In an epic display of pouty pique over Planned Parenthood, the Texas zealot managed to shut the government down for a time, costing an estimated $23 billion in lost revenue.
Cruz, for reasons firmly rooted in desperation, named another also-ran as his vice presidential pick, although by that time it was, as Gail Collins noted in her column, a little like being named second-in-command of the Donner Party. Carly Fiorina was fond of touting her business expertise. She was paid $21 million by Hewlett-Packard essentially to go away after her disastrous stint as the technology giant's CEO. (I have been assured that sometimes these excessive buyouts are worth it on any level.) Historically, Fiorina may ultimately be remembered for falling off a stage.
And so the world awaits Mr. Trump's promised metamorphosis from crude, obnoxious, xenophobe to eloquent statesman, a transformation that also implies that he has been playing his fan base for suckers so far. He is going to try to find some common ground with recalcitrant House Speaker Paul Ryan. I'm sure Ryan will be regaled with exactly what he wants to hear and then Mr. Trump will go off and do exactly what he wants to do like any businessman worth his salt.
It will be interesting to watch the so-called Republican establishment attempt to swallow the bitter pill they have been handed. How many variations of the old cliché that "he's not so bad after all" will we be treated to? How many distortions will it require to convince an electorate beyond Trump's terminally disaffected old white guy clique that an intelligent, accomplished woman with years of public service is a much less desirable choice to lead the country than a man who has probably never had a thought in his head for more than 10 seconds that didn't involve himself?
Never has a blind allegiance to a political party as opposed to an abiding concern for the good of this nation been rendered in such stark — and terrifying — terms.
Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist.