Too many GOP egos: Overcrowded debate stage illustrates out-of-control Republican narcissism

The overcrowded Republican field is a direct result of the politics of narcissism that define modern conservatives

By Amanda Marcotte
Published January 12, 2016 7:36PM (EST)
 Just wait until we get to do this all over again (Credit: Reuters/Evan Semon)
Just wait until we get to do this all over again (Credit: Reuters/Evan Semon)

Score one for common sense: Fox Business Channel is putting its foot down and reducing the number of hopeless candidates allowed to clutter the stage for Thursday night's Republican primary debate. Two candidates, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul, have been told that their poll numbers are too low to justify letting them take time from people who might get more than immediate family members to vote for them. (Hell, Mike Huckabee even has the Duggars, and still can't crack the main stage.)

Both candidates are handling their paltry poll numbers about as well as one might expect from spoiled rich brats who apparently have never heard the word "no" in their life. Fiorina, in an interview with S.E. Cupp for Glamour that was recorded before the debate ax finally fell, was already rationalizing her campaign's collapse by denying that it's really happening.

"I really am not as impressed by all this polling data as the media appears to be," she explains when asked about Donald Trump whomping her (and everyone else) in the polls. "When Gallup, one of the nation's most respected polling outfits, says they will not engage in horse race polling for the presidential race, because [the data is] so suspect, I think it tells you a lot."

It's not untrue that increasing obstacles to accurate polling have caused Gallup to shift resources away from volatile day-to-day horse race polling and towards more holistic surveys measuring issue attitudes. But c'mon, Carly! The chance of pulling out a dark horse victory this late in the game is laughably low. Her campaign wasn't warning journalists that polls can't be trusted back when she was flying high. Which is too bad, because that brief moment in time, back in September, when she was second runner up to Trump is exactly the volatile result, driven by trends and momentary manias, that makes primary polling the unreliable beast that it is.

Rand Paul is being even more of a pill, refusing to show up to the debate at all if he's not given the seat he wants on the main stage.

"I'm not willing to accept a designation as a minor campaign," he complained to The Washington Post.

He sure seems like he's easy to get along with! Does he apply this approach to rejection in other aspects of his life? "I am not willing to accept the designation of 'just a friend.' I have a car and my evening is free and so we are going on a date this Friday night."

And heaven help the waiter who tells him that the arbitrary thing he just ordered isn't on the menu. Rand Paul will not accept the designation of "Chinese restaurant" when a bowl of spaghetti is what he's decided he wants.

It's touching how he thinks anyone cares if the door hits him on the way out. Ideally, more candidates would sit out the debates. The fewer candidates who show up, the fewer closets the network has to pass off as green rooms. Ideally, they just cancel the undercard debate and beleaguered political journalists, who are currently the only people watching, would have an opportunity to dine at a table with a fork and knife in the 6PM hour, rather than half-heartedly taking notes on their laptops with their right hand while trying to shove a piece of pizza in their maw with the left.

The sad fact of the matter is that even though Fox Business Channel booted two candidates from the main stage, there's still a whopping seven people they're allowing on. That's three or four too many candidates, easily, and it's going to be painful watching them all vie for attention, chasing after opportunities to get their faces on the TV like junkies looking for a fix.

Politics has always been a world for people who have an unhealthy need for attention, of course. But the levels of entitlement on display in the 2016 and 2012 presidential election cycles are completely out of control. Every blowhard who thinks they're hot shit because some country club gave them an award once feels entitled to months of swooning cable news coverage, a fleet of reporters sleeping outside their hotel room waiting for His Majesty to say something quotable, and, of course, an opportunity to go on TV every few weeks or so and share their uninteresting and repetitive opinions with millions of viewers who probably just tuned in to see if Donald Trump is going to call a female moderator the c-word.

The whole thing really is another sign that the conservative mask is slipping. The old efforts to pretend that conservatism is rooted in some noble philosophy, instead of a naked desire to hoard all the goodies for themselves while doling out sadistic punishments to everyone else, are falling apart and face of naked entitlement and bigotry is slipping out all the more. This was made clear enough in a 2011 Republican debate when the crowd went nuts for the idea of simply letting people die rather than embracing universal health care.

It's even more apparent these days, when you have Republican politicians competing by bragging about who is the least willing to help orphans and who is willing to spend the most taxpayer money on cruelly deporting as many people as you can.

Narcissism isn't an unfortunate byproduct of politics on the right anymore, but increasingly the whole point of the enterprise. That's the biggest reason why major league narcissist Donald Trump continues holding down a lead in the polls, and why the only candidate who seems to run a good chance of catching up to him is Ted Cruz, whose main selling points are the self-importance of a televangelist and a willingness to say anything, no matter how awful or ridiculous, to snatch a few votes from the hateful masses.

The Republican Party's ideology has reduced itself to a bit of bathroom graffiti declaring "we rule" and everyone else drools. Under the circumstances, it's not surprising that the presidential candidates of this era are so overwhelmingly narcissistic and unable to accept that they just aren't as popular as they think they deserve to be. It's a movement that celebrates white conservatives hogging up as many resources as they can. Is it any surprise that their candidates have the same attitude towards hogging the spotlight?

Only Six Candidates Will Make The Next GOP Debate

Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

MORE FROM Amanda MarcotteFOLLOW AmandaMarcotte

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aol_on Carly Fiorina Conservative Movement Election 2016 Rand Paul Republican Debate Republican Primary