22 July 2015
The Republican gold rush
Republicans love to praise the market and the multitude of choices it offers us, but it's hard to find many who are really thrilled to have so many people running for the party's 2016 presidential nomination. The news that John Kasich had become the 16th declared candidate inspired little more than exasperation. It exasperates some because it means Donald Trump can be declared a front-runner with what's really a rather small base of support. Others simply can't understand why so many people are running. It's seems simple enough to me. A wide-open presidential campaign is a Republican jobs program. It brings in money and gives people work -- and unlike Democratic jobs programs, the workers are getting paid by voluntary contributions. Whether donors big or small get any more of their money's worth from the candidate of their choice than the taxpayer does from Democratic programs is a matter of chance. But donors are encouraged to think of their giving as free speech rather than gambling or investment -- hints of the latter are really to be avoided lest they create the appearance of corruption. They probably don't think of money spent on a losing candidate as money wasted -- and candidates depend on that. If you think about it, it's kind of like backing a play the way it was done in The Producers, and yet it's all perfectly legal. Who knows whether some of these candidates are simply delusional about their chances or simply see a chance to make a lot of money for their cronies? More so than in the Mel Brooks movie, the people who throw money away giving to political campaigns are suckers rather than victims. The real risk isn't that they'll get ripped off in any sense by hopeless candidates who quit early, many of whose campaigns are comparable in intellectual content to Springtime for Hitler, but that, as in the play within the play, someone will prove so outrageously bad that the show becomes a freak hit. If that happens, neither the producers nor the investors suffer -- but the rest of us might.