Everyone is going to have to face the fact that the leader of the free world after January 20 of next year could very well be Donald Trump. I have done what most people do when faced with a terrible reality: I’ve tried to rationalise it. I’ve told myself that perhaps the GOP will just put some okay people around him, and when faced with huge, world changing decisions, Trump will bow to their superior knowledge. This isn’t much of a relief – these boffins surrounding Trump would no doubt be unbelievably right wing – but at least it feels better than someone who has no policy or governmental experience whatsoever in the White House calling his own shots unaided.
But that security blanket is disintegrating rapidly as the long list of vice presidential candidates is released. Worse are the rumours about who the front runners are. There is the delightful Joni Ernst, an Iowa Senator whose infamous campaign video has her saying to camera that she “grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington I’ll know how to cut pork”. And just in case you thought the Freudian overtones in all of that were incidental, she closes the spot with the line, “Washington is full of big spenders – let’s make ’em squeal”.
What is worse is that Ernst is one of the saner and least bad possibilities for the role. The favourite appears to be Newt Gingrich. The ex-Speaker of the House is one of the more luridly unpleasant people in American politics. He is taken to using the word “moderate” in a pejorative sense and has flown the flag for every genuinely terrible idea to have come out of the American Right at some stage over the last two decades. This is why he’d be such a catastrophic choice for vice president: in Trump you already have a person with no real ideological core, only an immense self-regard instead, and then you would go and pair him with someone who thinks anything that comes out of the American Right must by definition be okay, and that this forms the core of his world view. In other words, you could have two people running the United States of America whose only mission statement is “make stuff more right wing somehow”.
The only amusing thing about Newt Gingrich running on the Trump ticket is that, like Trump, Gingrich has been married three times – so the need to seem wedded to Judeo-Christian values as defined for years by the American Right would be made into an open joke. As a social liberal, there would be something pleasing in all that. It’s the only bright spot to Trump-Gingrich I can come up with, however.