A Country for Old Men 

American Bald Eagle in front of flag looking fierce
Eagle Eyed

4 April 2024

A Country for Old Men

by J.R. Thomas

One more old man, anyway…  to add to that terrible twosome.  Last time though, we promised an update on the results of Super-Tuesday, thoughtlessly run just as the Shaw Sheet went to press, so first, let’s do that. 

It was hardly a shock result.  Mr Biden needed 1,968 votes to control the Democrat Convention in August and won everything he had entered, to give him 2,610 votes, thus ensuring not so much a convention as a coronation, and giving him the summer off to rest and learn his lines for the serious stuff in November.  Rather to this column’s disappointment, Dean Phillips, who really did seem a viable alternative to Sleepy Joe, dropped out of the race, having better things to do with his time and maybe hoping to be back next time.  But Marianne Williamson, who we have occasionally mentioned here, privately announced her decision to drop out after a poor result (4%) in New Hampshire; then decided she wouldn’t after this was leaked to the media; was trounced again in South Carolina with 2.1% of the votes and dropped out; but then scored 3% in the Michigan race and decided to join back in again.  That’s the sort of inspired decisive leadership the US needs, Ma’am.  At the moment Ms Williamson has no delegates (zero; nil) so we continue to cautiously put our money on Joe Biden to be selected as candidate.

On the other side of the OAP home, Mr Trump did rather better than we forecast, or maybe we were just letting our hopes rule our heads, by also exceeding the required number of delegates by the end of Super-Tuesday – 1,686 to 1,215.  He also won all the state contests except for Washington DC (surprise, surprise) which Nikki Haley won, giving her 94 delegates in all.  So it’s all Donald’s to play for, and Ms Haley retired, more or less gracefully.  Will she be the big man’s nominee for Vice President?  Anything is possible and it would be a very popular choice.  Mr Trump has a reputation for being vindictive to those who oppose him; but actually he is a more skilled politician than many commentators will admit, so he may see the strength in such a ticket.  Whichever way, we suspect Ms Haley will reappear in national politics at some point. 

But let’s move on to the other GOM running.  That’s Grand Old Man, as Mr Gladstone became known. Here we use the expression in an intensely satirical sense.  Step forward Robert F Kennedy, Jr, the baby of this race if he does run. A mere stripling of 70. Now; let us first say that we can really only see one reason to vote for Mr Kennedy as President, and that is that he is neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden.  That may strike you as a good reason to mark a ballot paper “RFK, Jr” and there is merit in the argument.  In fact, though, we’ll add some other reasons why a vote for him might be justified.  He has an independent mind, and agree with him or not at the time, he campaigned against compulsory vaccination for Covid and mandatory mask wearing (he is against all compulsory vaccination).  He has been a major and successful force in campaigning against pollution. He is intelligent and made a career as a lawyer with some success.  Without running through a long list, he has often been willing to join in fighting for unfashionable minority causes, with or without obvious merit.  He is a man of great energy and originality.

But… there has of course to be a “but”.  There is also a great deal of inconsistency in his positions – we do agree everybody can change their mind; it’s a strength, not a weakness; but he is a man driven by emotion and that sometimes seems to have over-ruled his reasoning.  He has swung about quite wildly; he is a campaigner for causes, not the most consistent of politicians, not a party man.  He is eccentric. His speaking voice is damaged, and in any case he is not a great speaker.  He is regarded as pro-Russia and pro-China – because he is an isolationist.  All that leaves him in the tricky position he is now in.

With his pedigree, son of Robert Kennedy, nephew of a President, a member of one of America’s most famous political dynasties, he could have worked his way slowly up the Democrat party machine and be in with a very good chance of being the official candidate.  But he has never enjoyed the political smooching required; he is not given to the necessary compromises and deal-makings that most rising politicos have to go through, and there is an arrogance about him. Most of all, as we have said, he is a campaigner; not a machine man, not a party man at all.

It was a surprise a year ago when he announced that he would stand against Mr Biden for the Democrat nomination. It was almost pointless, unless Joe should fall over, literally or metaphorically. Too late, Bob.  He soon saw that and then hinted he would run as an independent.  But that takes money and backing he does not have.  So he has taken a further step, and announced that he would accept the Libertarian nomination if it should be offered.  The Libertarians, not, never, and no way to be confused with UK Liberals, are the third force in US politics, a party for unrestricted individual freedoms (except [enter your personal favoured exclusions]), and their voter support has been rising for 20 years and more.  They are not serious contenders to win, but there are states now in which they can throw the vote to one or other of the big beasts.  They are expected to do well this year as a a forum of protest, but bizarrely have not yet found a candidate.  The governing body, if one can conceive of libertarians with a governing body, thought a well known name such as Mr Kennedy might help their visibility a lot; and of course some of his campaigns (anti-vaccination) are great Libertarian causes.  But a lifetime as a Democrat and his anti-pollution, anti-power company campaigns are mostly certainly not, and the party membership are very clearly saying no.

So Robert has yet to find a home and whilst his name recognition is high (how Americans do love a familiar name on the ballot paper) and he has some support in opinion polls (mostly it has to be said from people who cannot name any of his policies apart from on Covid) there is still an opportunity for a kindly billionaire to have a lot of fun this summer and fall. Don’t bank on a place at President Kennedy’s inaugural ball though.

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