As the GOP Presidential primary limps to its final stages, battered and bleeding from partisan infighting, speculation is turning to the presumed nominee, Mitt Romney, and who he will choose for his VP running mate. Possible candidates have been mentioned, from Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey to Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina. Other possible candidates include Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
It is well established political wisdom that the VP pick goes a long way in increasing a candidate’s electability. And all of the above mentioned candidates have strong suits, from attracting women votes, to shoring up the conservative base. All of which will, theoretically, increase the far off odds that Romney will be able to win the presidential election.
Yet, all of these possible picks face a dilemma. The dilemma being they are actually elected officials.
That’s correct; the problem with Republican politicians is that they are politicians. For the GOP base has become a political body that has little to no interest in actual statesmen. As an alternative, the GOP has become a party ran by celebrities and pop culture icons.
One needs look no further than at the current party for evidence of this. The Republican leaders are not John Boehner or Eric Cantor. The rank and file of the Republican Party do not look to John Kasich or Scott Walker for leadership. Instead, the TEA partiers and the other consorted conservatives look to celebrities for their leadership.
Today the GOP’s undisputed bosses are men like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck. These men, who have zero accountability to voters, are the king-makers. They’re the ones who decide if and when a candidate is legitimate. They are the ones who sell the talking points, and in recent years, I would argue, they have begun to dictate those talking points, authoring their own views into the party platform until the GOP has morphed into a party of celebrities.
How else do you explain the fanatic fervor that accompanies Donald Trump every time he hints at a possible run? It’s odd that for a country supposedly concerned with job creation, one of the major political parties would show excitement over a candidate whose most notable accomplishment is firing people on national television. The way that this is explained is by acknowledging the fact that the rank and file of the GOP knows nothing of statecraft, want to learn nothing of it, and abhor anyone who may possibly be familiar with the subject. Instead, a celebrity is wanted. One that will echo exactly what they want to hear, and sell them the same old shit they don’t need to buy (to steal a phrase from the marketing world).
Ask Sarah Palin. The ex-Governor of Alaska has seen nothing but success, and continued popularity, for abandoning her position in the government to become the long-lost Kardashian sister, systematically tweeting her way into the fabrics of mainstream media, all the while complaining about it.
But this fixation with celebrity affects more than just the GOP. Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, and all of the other elected Republicans have their success judged on how much they are able to achieve. The way they achieve things is by working with other elected officials. This requires rationality, compromise, and statesmanship. Yet Roger Ailes & Co. has the exact opposite to contend with. For them success is measured, not in tangible achievement, but in the ability to scream loudly in an ideologically pure vacuum. In fact, they probably do better financially when the country is at a standstill, the base uncompromising, and the country spilt with hyper-partisan tensions. This guarantees a larger audience.
Ultimately, Mitt Romney would be best off choosing his fading rival, Rick Santorum, for the VP slot. But even Santorum, the darling crusader of the Religious Right, comes with a price. His votes for earmarks, as well as his on-again off-again support for the auto-bailouts have left him with a “questionable” conservative history. In fact, all of the remaining Republicans are experiencing the same problems, Romney with his support of health care reform, Gingrich with accepting climate change, Santorum with spending, and Paul with his positions on national defense. The reason they are having these problems is because all of them have actually held elected office, and therefore have not been able to adhere to ideological purity demanded by celebrity leaders.
Whoever ends up with the nomination and whoever ends up joining that nominee are going to have to contend with this. As with all reality television, it should prove entertaining for the rest of us to watch, being simultaneously engrossing and marginally disturbing.