Among the many things the modern Republican party gets wrong is this: the notion that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. In other words, there’s another Republican presidential candidate debate tonight.
Tonight’s debate is about the economy. Now you may be thinking Wasn’t the last debate about the economy? Yes, it was. But nobody tunes in to watch these GOP candidates debate. They tune in to 1) see the candidates bark at Hillary and 2) to see them bark at each other. People tune in for the same reason they watch NASCAR races on television; they want to see the accidents.
The notion that’s there no such thing as bad publicity has been around for a while. Oscar Wilde, who knew a thing or two about publicity, said “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” But it was the brilliant and gloriously intoxicated, Brendan Behan who said “There’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”
But ask yourself this question: Why did Wilde and Behan make that claim? Actually, you needn’t bother to ask yourself that question, on account of I’m going to tell you why. This is why: Wilde and Behan actually had something intellectually substantial to say.
If either of those guys did or said something scandalous, it would draw people to look at their work. And that was a good thing for this reason: their work was serious. They might have been entertaining and said outrageous shit, but they were serious when it came to doing their work. Their work had substance and weight.
That’s just not true of the people who’ll be on the debate stage tonight. The candidates who are actually leading in the polls are the ones who are completely lacking in serious work. Ben Carson and Donald Trump aren’t just political lightweights, they’re totally weightless. Policy gravity has no effect on them. Carson, for example, wants the U.S. to give weapons to the Ukraine in order to keep Putin “on the run.” And Trump? He wants to build an actual, physical wall along the Mexican border. These aren’t policies; they’re the plot lines of bad movies.
The GOP candidates who actually have policies — folks like Rand Paul or John Kasich or even the Jeb! — are tanking in the polls, hovering in the low single digits. Admittedly, the policies they promote are bad policies, but they’re actual policies. But the reason their poll numbers are so wretched isn’t because they have bad policies; they’re tanking because they’re wasting their time coming up with policies at all. The modern GOP just isn’t about policies or governance.
Over the last couple of decades the Republican party has devolved into three groups. There are the folks who are filled with frustration and fear and rage, and all they want to do is howl at the moon. Trump voters, in other words. And there are the folks who want to shut their eyes, shut their minds, shut their borders, and hope Jeebus will save them. Carson’s folks. And finally, there are those Republicans who are actually interested in running a government based on conservative economic and social principles. There are probably some of them left, but nobody pays them any attention.
So tonight will be more bad publicity for Republicans. And even though there will be some discussion of who won and who scored points and who pissed the bed, it won’t really matter. In the end, it’s just noise.
The only hope any of those fuckwits have in next year’s election lies in promoting apathy among the voters and suppressing the votes of those who care enough to go to the polls.
Me, I’d rather vote for Oscar Wilde or Brendan Behan. Even though they’re dead.