The thing I find most amusing about the political season is the apodictic certitude with which pundits and even lesser mortals deliver their dicta. “Bush/Trump/Walker/Rubio/Christie/[insert name here]” cannot win because [static broadcast in which only stray words are intelligible but the tone is positively Teutonic in confidence]. It works the other way, too: So-and-So is the only one who can win because [recitation of poll numbers, psychological portrait of the electorate, or simply bare assertion delivered in preemptory tones follows here].
Naturally this phenomenon is not party specific. Lefties feel free to indulge in pronunciamenti about Republican candidates (and Donald Trump) and vice-versa. The certitude of tone is as reliable as the reliably fallible nature of the prognostication. Naturally, it is the distance between those poles — the width of that juncture — that accounts for the comedy.
I hasten to add that my pointing out the machinery of this comedy by no means suggests that I do not indulge in it myself. Opinions delivered in existentially stentorian tones are impressive at least as much, probably more, to the utterer as to his audience. Try it yourself. A mirror will do almost as well as an audience. “Carly Fiorina [or whoever] is the only one who can win the nomination, unite the party [say something about the base and women here] and has a chance of countering Hillary’s war-on-women rhetoric.”
Feels good, doesn’t it? Repeat it a few times and not only will you sound convincing but you’ll even come to believe it.
Which doesn’t mean, it is worth pointing out, that you cannot also believe 8 or 13 other, conflicting things at the same time. The human mind is a marvelously plastic thing, able to jump from certitude to contradictory certitude in the twinkling of an eye. [Literary types may wish to quote Walt Whitman here about being large and containing multitudes.]
I mention all this because now, in the immediate aftermath of Scott Walker’s surprise announcement [you were surprised, weren’t you?] that he was putting his campaign in abeyance, we can be sure that there will be a fresh crop of certitudes about what happens next. Here’s my contribution to the harvest:
1. Further withdrawals Now that Scott Walker has led the way [Perry’s withdrawal didn’t count because, Oops!, he was never really in], there will be enormous pressure for further withdrawals. Ding, dong: Mike Huckabee, are you home? Avon is definitely calling. It’s calling for you, too, Rand Paul, and you as well John Kasich. Do yourselves, your party, and the country a favor by bowing out gracefully. The exit is narrow, however, so Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal will just have to wait. Christie, of course, will have to go by himself. Did I forget to mention Rick Santorum, Lindsey what’s-his-name and David, no, George, isn’t it? Pataki? Yes, I did.
2. Trump tumbles I expect this to start happening quite soon. By Halloween or at least by Thanksgiving. The Donald will start shedding numbers the way his casinos shed assets and he will gradually [or maybe not] drift back to his natural position as what Spy magazine memorably described as a “short-fingered vulgarian.” Suddenly his bluster will seem what it has always essentially been: rude, vulgar bluster, neither conservative nor liberal, merely distasteful. Meanwhile, his “positions” will get more and more scrutiny and the large mass of supporters who loved him for thumbing his nose at the corrupt political establishment [and three cheers for that] will tire of his antics and look elsewhere. In the end, his claque will consist of people like James Carville who love Trump because he [almost] makes Hillary look plausible.
3. The denouement It will not, I can reveal here, involve that with the familiar arboreal surname. No, it will be Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or Carly Fiorina. If I were a betting man, which I am, I’d say it will be . . . But no, that will take all the fun out of it for you, Dear Reader, and besides, I was wrong way back when when I confidently predicted that Mitt Romney would win. Of course, he thought so, too, but that only goes to show you how delusional this season can be.