Who Needs These Bums, Anyway?

2016 features the sorriest bunch of candidates in more than 150 years.


Iowans held their caucuses (cauci?) Monday. Not that it matters. Iowa does a lousy job of predicting final winners even in normal elections, which this isn't. Besides, the results left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths—as, it seems likely, the rest of the election year will do

And well it should. Americans are looking over the sorriest bunch of candidates to run for president since, maybe, the 1856 three-way contest pitting James Buchanan against Millard Fillmore and . . . um, that other guy.

On the Democratic side we have Hillary Clinton, who is generally regarded as a scheming, manipulative liar—a woman so self-serving and smarmily disingenuous she makes a used-car salesman look like Thomas Merton. And that's just the opinion of her supporters. The undecideds think even less of her, and Republicans who hear her name have been known to spontaneously combust.

Then there's Bernie Sanders, a man of the hard left, the kind of socialist who thinks every American should have gainful employment—but nobody should be an employer, because that's not fair. He's so authentic he doesn't even pretend to like you, let alone running for president. He's just doing it to get some things off his chest, such as how the rent is too damn high. No, wait, that was someone else. ATM fees! That's it. Sanders thinks ATM fees are too high. Because of the millionaires and billionaires.

On the Republican side there's Donald Trump, whom a lot of people seem to really like because he's tough and brash and tells it like it is—even though he's about as coherent as a Skid Row bum reciting Dylan Thomas on Quaaludes. Trump is the farce part of Santayana's remark about history repeating itself. Or at least we hope so.

Trump's chief competitor is Ted Cruz, who comes across in public as a third-rate televangelist. He must come off even worse in private, because he seems to be thoroughly detested by everyone who has ever had the slightest contact with him. The word most often associated with Cruz is backpfeigengesicht, a German term that, loosely translated, means "a face begging to be slapped."

Republicans do have Marco Rubio—who appears to be smart, sane, and not evil, and many people think he will make a great president someday when he gets through puberty.

A bunch of other Republicans are running too, most of them polling around 1 percent or less. Don't want to peak too early.

Then there's Gary Johnson—a former Republican and two-time governor of New Mexico, an entrepreneur who grew his company from one employee to more than a thousand, the sort of guy who relaxes by climbing the world's seven tallest mountains and running 100 miles through the Rockies in 30 hours. But now he's running as a Libertarian, which means he would be lucky to pull even with Mike Huckabee, who has dropped out.

All of this might seem discouraging to anyone looking for a president who can rouse the nation to heroic feats of national glory. The sort of candidate whose speeches can make women swoon and grown men cry—who can make them forget their petty personal troubles, their small dreams and humdrum lives, and devote themselves to vast collective enterprises that are so much bigger and grander.

But why should anyone want a candidate like that?

After all, America was founded on the notion that people should be free to pursue their own happiness—not to fall in line behind someone else's. Granted, the right kind of policies can make the pursuit of happiness easier. And somebody needs to have a hand on the tiller when the country is staring down the Nazis or the Soviets. It's good to have an FDR or a Reagan around when you need one.

The trouble is that people can grow dependent on great leaders. Just look at the GOP, which is still mooning after Reagan more than a quarter-century later, like the Washington Redskins wishing they still had Joe DiMaggio. (Not sure if that's the right sports reference, but you get the idea.)

And isn't that a trifle sad? The idea that we're helpless to set things right again unless we find another Reagan or Kennedy or FDR? If it's true, that's quite an indictment of the American people.

Say this much for the current crop of presidential contenders: Nobody (except perhaps some of the more deluded Trump fans) is looking to November's winner to wave a magic wand and solve all our problems. Which means we'll just have to solve them ourselves. And despite what our would-be saviors say, some of us think Americans are still up to the job.

NEXT: Ted Cruz Falsely Lays Claim to Reagan Mantle

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  1. Iowans held their caucuses (cauci?)

    For fuck’s sake! Not every English word ending in the suffix “-us” is derived from Classical Latin, much less a 2nd declination noun!

    And speaking of the 2nd declination, don’t get me started on that fucking hypercorrection “syllabi”.

    1. Isn’t caucus derived from the Algonquin word for adviser?

      1. Isn’t caucus derived from the Algonquin word for adviser?

        That’s one possible etymology. At this point, no one really knows for sure.

    2. Iowans held their caucs


      1. In expectation of…

    3. Are you seriously telling me that that the plural of ‘bus’ isn’t ‘bi?’

  2. The libertarian moment is here!!

    Oh, wait, never mind.

    Again I am so glad Reason was on the case every time Rand wasn’t libertarian ENOUGH.

    1. Ponnuru does a light tapdancing on the libertrian moment’s grave over at NRO. It’s not really meanspirited (just depressing) and isn’t heavy on the facts but his summation is accurate: those fucking millenials aren’t really as libertarian as a lot of folks have been crowing about.

      1. As David Harsanyi noticed a few months ago, millennials are socialists who want to buy legal pot.

        1. “millennials are socialists who want to buy *subsidized* legal pot.”

          1. Hey, how can you possibly be against subsidized legal pot? Your principals seriously need to be more flexible.

          2. And anal sex. (penis in vagina, not so much; there really needs to be a law against that)

  3. the sorriest bunch of candidates to run for president

    Going back to 2012, I’m not sure that bunch was much better:

    Barack Obama

    Mitt Romney

    Ron Paul

    Fred Karger

    Newt Gingrich

    Rick Santorum

    Buddy Roemer

    Rick Perry

    Jon Huntsman, Jr.

    Michele Bachmann

    Gary Johnson

    Herman Cain

    Thaddeus McCotter

    Tim Pawlenty

  4. The Joe Dimaggio bit is nice.

  5. he’s about as coherent as a Skid Row bum reciting Dylan Thomas on Quaaludes.

    That’s gold. I’ll have to remember that and use it without attribution.

  6. “Say this much for the current crop of presidential contenders: Nobody (except perhaps some of the more deluded Trump fans) is looking to November’s winner to wave a magic wand and solve all our problems.”

    I whole-heartedly disagree. Most of my fellow millennials expect Bernie Sanders to do EXACTLY that, just like they expected Obama to solve everything. Part of me wants Sanders to win, so maybe my friends will get it through their thick skulls that electing the “right” person for president won’t solve a damn thing. We’ll still be just as poor and squeezed for what little wealth we have to subsidize the comparatively richer lives of generations X and the Baby Boomers.

    1. Oh right: Bernie wins, a GOP Congress blocks almost everything he tries, overrides vetoes, and you think Bernie supporters are going to accept that and change their minds?

      About the only thing Congress wouldn’t be able to override would be appointments. Cabinet officers would get a rough ride but be approved sooner or later. Judges, ha! and especially Supreme Court justices — I wonder how many vacancies there would be before Bernie or Congress gave up.

      1. I suppose I’m making the assumption that Bernie Sanders does get some legislative initiatives through congress immediately following a successful presidential campaign. Once his policies fail to make millennials’ lives (economic prospects) any better, maybe a portion of the generation might change their views on the effectiveness of politics. Here’s to hoping…

    2. There are plenty of Hillary voters on that train also. Just listen to what Lena Dunham has been saying lately (or not, if you’d prefer to keep all your brain cells). Maybe not to the extent Bernie cultists have gone off the deep end, but still. It really is a far more prevalent attitude on the left in general. They want a messiah.

      But if you’re hoping that a failed Sanders presidency is going to snap any of these people back into reality then you’re sadly mistaken. There’s a long list of villains who will get the blame for any perceived shortcomings resulting from socialist policies. I mean, these same people have hundreds of excuses for why the Soviet Union and Venezuela didn’t work; you think they’re gong to simply admit that Bernie had unworkable ideas and move on? The answer will ALWAYS be more socialism and more power.

      The only way to snap even some of these people out of their delusion is to block them from power and then use the free market and free ideas to actually, demonstrably make things better. That’s how Reagan did it, and that’s why he was so successful. People actually saw things get better, and understood it was because we had a leader who was actively trying to get government out of their way.

      1. At this point, it may be in our best interests in the long run if Bernie wins and the GOP gets ousted from congress. That way all the failures (and the next recession, regardless of whose fault it is) will get pinned on him. You are right about the true believers always finding someone else to blame, but most people will make the same knee jerk reaction in the opposite direction; God willing, by the time that happens, the GOP will have shrugged off this populist nonsense and the classical liberalish wing of the party will be moving up again.

        But if Trump wins, the credibility of any idea associated with the GOP will be shot even more so that after the Bush admin. Doesn’t matter how little it has to do with Trump. I’ve heard enough leftists actually associate that pseudo-socialist Trump with the(pro-immigration, anti-tariff) Koch bros and laissez faire capitalism to know that they they’re just plain making stuff up now. Trump could declare himself a Leninist, and they’d still blame all his fuck-ups to come on the free market. That much is already written.

        Don Boudreaux made this argument convincingly, that it’s probably best if a Democrat wins, since at least that way the failures will at least be blamed by many on the actual ideas behind them.

        1. You make an interesting point. I’m under the impression that the U.S. is heading for an economic crash soon, and I’d rather Sanders get the blame for that (even if its not his fault), simply because his policies would wreak much more substantial damage a few decades down the line.

          1. Not to mention the American people need a potent reminder just how disastrous socialist policies always turn out to be, sooner or later.

          2. I agree but I think that no matter what happens, the free market will take the fall. You could have Bernie in the White House and Dems in both houses of congress and whatever happened would be blamed on the GOP minority and their radical free market ideology (that they don’t have irl). It doesn’t even have to make sense. It’s like North Korea blaming the US for drought.

      2. I know its probably unrealistic. Most people frame their political and economic policy preferences as core beliefs, which, in general, are impossible to change even when using real-world evidence and data.

        1. In other words, you’re saying, the pain in my head will lessen considerably after I stop banging my head against the wall.

  7. “Trump’s chief competitor is Ted Cruz, who comes across in public as a third-rate televangelist. He must come off even worse in private, because he seems to be thoroughly detested by everyone who has ever had the slightest contact with him”

    He is hated by the crony capitalist in congress, that is a plus in my book.

    1. Yeah, it kinda matters who hates him, and why.

      1. Pretty sure he’s actually just an asshole who tries to wear being shunned as a badge of honor.

    2. A pretty poor article that sounds like a hit piece from the Democrats…. anyone doing any basic research would find this guy has excelled educationally and professionally…

      You can feel free to dislike his positions but to call him a “third-rate televangelist” is dishonest.

      Makes me think the problem is with ted and other people is they cannot wrap their heads around his positions and his intelligence…. Since as we are told over and over the two smartest people in the world are Clinton and Obama…

      Funny how nether have his list of accomplishments educationally or prorfessionally.

      1. And, in Cruz’s defense, he’s running for an election, so of course he’s going to act like a moron; Americans vote for third rate televangelists, they don’t vote for intelligent, thoughtful individuals.

        And it is clearly one-sided. Bernie Sanders just sounds like a senile old man complaining the grocery store cheating him out of coupons or bitching about how back in the good old days aspirin only cost a nickel. And Clinton’s entire campaign is whining about how men don’t treat her right.

        If these people are geniuses, they certainly are putting in their best efforts to hide it,for fear of scaring off the lowest common denominator.

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  9. It’s Backpfeifengesicht

  10. You forgot to mention how disturbingly ugly Cruz is. Seriously, does nobody else see it? We can’t/won’t elect somebody that horrendous looking as president in the Internet Age. And he’s biracial… WTF happened?!?!?!?

    1. You are a perfect progressive…. deciding someone’s intelligence based on their looks….

    2. I always thought he looked like a character out of Doonesbury. Something about the eyebrows and eyes.

    3. Christie’s and Clinton’s asses are Yuuge!

  11. Fine you want to hate ted Cruz that is your business but according to my research he was cum laude from Princeton University and magna cum laude Harvard Law School and unlike the Democrats he might run against he has a pretty good professional resume which includes.

    Solicitor General of Texas from 2003 to 2008, 5 years) an adjunct professor of law from 2004 to 2009 at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, where he taught U.S. Supreme Court litigation.

    But just a basic review of his Wikipedia page would have pointed that out…

    I mean I could care less one way or the other but this sounds like a Democrat Hit Piece more than a REASON article.

    Hate the guy for his positions if you want to but to write him off as some dumbass is poor reporting…

    So maybe, we really don’t know, he is not a nice guy…. or maybe he is hatred because his skills are far greater then those he is forced to work with in Wash-DC…

    You know a little research will really help when writing an article….

  12. A. Barton Hinkle, folks! He’s here all week. Please tip your waitress.

  13. “It’s funny ’cause it’s true!” But seriously, we need more presidents like Warren Harding, who’ll play poker in the Oval office, and little else other than that.

  14. “Republicans do have Marco Rubio?who appears to be smart, sane, and not evil, and many people think he will make a great president someday”

    Yes, he is indeed the Republican Obama. Just a little more hawkish with a bigger hard on for the Drug War.

    1. “Republicans do have Marco Rubio?who appears to be smart, sane, and not evil, – BUT – many people think he will make a great president someday”

  15. “Republicans do have Marco Rubio?who appears to be smart, sane, and not evil, and many people think he will make a great president someday when he gets through puberty.”

    He looks like a plump 12 year old when he smiles.

  16. I kind of like Cruz, but his Trump is right (as he often is) – a Cruz win would be *sure* to bring a lawsuit challenging his eligibility to be president. I think it’s an open question. We really don’t need another election decided by the courts. He never should have run – or he should have done something to resolve the issue before running.

  17. The quote you’re thinking of can be attributed to Marx, not Santayana.

    1. Glad to see I’m not the only super-nerd who noticed this.

      1. Me too. Your comment was mine as farce.

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  19. Hinkle says that we shouldn’t depend on “great leaders”, but then he still seems to implicitly lament the lack of great leaders.

    Why not analyze the election from the perspective of which candidate would govern least? Would Trump, Sanders, or Cruz be least effective in getting legislation passed? In increasing regulations? Which one would be most effective in alienating Congress? In vetoing legislation?

  20. Trump/Sanders….

  21. Despite the title, Gary Johnson is actually portrayed accurately as a well qualified and right thinking candidate. The real problem is ourgent rigged political system that makes it impossible for 3rd parties to compete.

    That’s why the LP needs to band together with the other 3rd parties to push for electoral reforms like Instant Runoff Voting and Proportional Representation. We need to get behind an initiative here in California to change one house of the legislature to PR. The Libertarians, Greens, AIP, and others would immediately get about 5 seat in the Assembly and abdominal that would soon rise to 15 to 20 when people realized that they no longer had to worry about wasting their vote and voting Libertarian actually lead to Libertarians getting elected. In short order we would remake the political landscape in America.

  22. I’ve already shared the opening analyzing the four leading candidates. Pretty much spot-on for each of them, especially for those of us who aren’t a supporter of any of them.

  23. That bad huh? Must be that libertarian moment, the rise of independents, and all that stuff.

  24. The funny thing is I can’t remember any presidential election where the usual bunch of editorialists didn’t berate all the major candidates who had a marginal chance of winning.

  25. What’s truly sorry are the lot of journalists who are covering these candidates.

  26. Seriously? Worse than Obama-McCain?

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