Well, we've survived to see another year, or at least those of you reading this column have. And the good news and the bad news is that this is another presidential election year!
Now if you are anything like normal, and have anything like, say, a life, you may be a bit puzzled by all this. Haven't the candidates been campaigning for, like two years already?
Don't they seem to be on TV "debating," oh, like, four or five nights a week? Well, yes, darlings, that may be a teensy bit exaggerated, but there's more than a little truth in that.
Others of you, who really do have full lives away from the TV, who date or go to the beach or work finding cures for cancer, may be more baffled still. Why, isn't the election still a long way off, like, near the end of this year?
That's true as well. Indeed, if Lady Gaga meets Mr. Right next week, gets swept off her feet and elopes immediately, she could well have a new Little Gagette before we actually vote.
Except that's not really true either. Presidential elections, including the nominating process, have become a bit like sumo wrestling matches, which I was taken to see long ago in Japan.
The buildup to the bouts can last for an hour or longer. There are all sorts of rituals; shaking things and throwing salt, etc. But when the match is actually underway, it usually lasts a minute or two. The longest one I saw was 90 seconds.
Major party nominations are a lot like that. Less than three weeks from now, on Feb. 1, we'll have the much-ballyhooed Iowa caucuses, which are about as representative of the average voter as any event that requires people to go spend hours in the local junior high school gym on a work night in the middle of winter. Typical humans, are, you might say, underrepresented, as are the rational, sane, and employed.
Those are followed by, in quick succession, the New Hampshire primary (Feb. 9); the South Carolina Democratic primary (Feb. 20) and Republican one (Feb. 27) with the Nevada GOP caucuses in the middle (Feb. 23).
After that, there are a whole slew of states (14) that pick one or both party's delegates March 1; six more states later that week, and then four more, including Michigan, the next week.
Before that, however, everything may well be over, though primaries and caucuses dribble on well into June, and the actual nominees aren't formally chosen until July.
Candidates, in fact, will start dropping off well before the end of February. The reality is that massive amounts of cash are the equivalent of oxygen to these candidates. Lose an early primary or two, especially badly, and those who are paying for your run will step on your oxygen tubes very fast.
The process is rigged to make sure front-winners win as soon as possible, to avoid muss and fuss. Forty years ago, when America was falling in love with Jimmy Carter, his main opponent for the nomination was a now-forgotten congressman named Mo Udall. I enthusiastically supported him. Udall was funny, smart, highly competent, knew how government worked, and had good values. Which is to say, he didn't have a chance.
After losing the nomination, he said he'd learned that the entire process was "like a football game in which you say to the first team that makes a first down with 10 yards, 'hereafter you have a special rule. Your first downs are five yards. And if you make three of those, you get a two-yard first down. And we're going to let your first touchdown count 21 points. Now the rest of you bastards play catch-up under the regular rules.'"
Actually, the game has gotten even more unfair since, but hey. You never know when things might change. What political reporters and some party bosses dream about, of course, is a year in which nobody wins a majority of delegates before the conventions. If that happened, they might have to take ballot after ballot, and behind-the-scenes deals would be made.
Years ago, that's how it always worked. Sometimes it did get out of hand; in 1924, the Democrats became a laughingstock by going on for more than two weeks and 103 ballots.
Little chance of that happening again, but it would be nice to dream. The nomination process this year is fascinating largely to see whether Donald Trump can actually win.
Trump, who is preaching something closer to fascism than any major candidate in our modern history, is the clear choice of far more Republicans than anyone else.
He's got more money than God. What nobody knows, however, is if he has the troops on the ground to get his voters to the polls. Ted Cruz is said to have a far more efficient operation. You never know, but this is now probably a two-man race, given that most of the other dozen candidates have little money and few supporters.
But you never can tell, till the sumo match starts. Nor do we know for sure that Hillary Clinton, who for all intents and purposes has been running as an incumbent, will really wipe the floor with Bernie Sanders, the only candidate actually standing for democracy and what this country ought to be.
The talking heads say that's bound to happen. However, even in this age of corporate control of the airwaves, and men with billions determined to make us forget the ideals we once had, this one tarnished but shining fact still remains:
You still never can tell.
Where are the birthers when we need them?
For years, we wasted time, trees, and space on utterly stupid debates over whether or not Barack Obama was a "natural born citizen" and eligible to be president. This was slightly more absurd than debates about whether or not the earth was really flat.
Obama clearly had a valid birth certificate issued by the state of Hawaii. His birth announcement appeared in the Honolulu papers, and if you've had to pawn your map, let me assure you that Hawaii is thousands of miles from Kenya.
Nevertheless, the "birther" controversy raged on, for one reason only; we have millions of conscious or subconscious white racists who just couldn't accept that a black man could have been legitimately elected president of the United States.
However, now we have another situation on our hands. Suppose I told you that this year we have rock-solid proof that another candidate was born in Alberta, Canada, and lived there till he was almost 4. His father, by the way, was a Cuban refugee who then had neither Canadian nor U.S. citizenship.
That would be Ted Cruz, who was born a Canadian citizen and who admits all the above is true. If anybody were to ask "where's his birth certificate?" the answer is clear: Calgary.
Why isn't anyone making a fuss? Why isn't there a clamor for the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Cruz ineligible to run?
Oops; I forgot. He's white! And a Republican!