In 2014, I finally read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, the satirical novel about World War II experiences and time traveling. In the classic 1969 book, the main character is thrown into the future and sees a bumper sticker that says “Reagan For President.”
I thought: “Vonnegut is a psychic genius! How could he have known?” It’s simple really. Reagan had sought the Republican nomination in 1968. Shame on me for not paying attention to presidential politics when I was one year old.
This week, and I don’t know why it hit me so hard this week, I have been a little preoccupied with all of the unforeseen things currently going on in our political world. In politics, countless people say “I told you so” or “I saw that coming.” But for the first time in my career, I can’t find anyone, and I mean anyone, who will dare whisper anything like that.
Here’s a short list of highlights for the sake of context.
Everything about Donald Trump’s campaign can be labeled unpredictable. It’s as if blatant instability is what he thinks America wants in a president. And who could have predicted so many Americans would apparently agree.
Hillary Clinton, in her predictable position as the Democratic nominee, has been dogged by an email investigation. This probe has cost the American people a small fortune to afford Republicans the luxury of being able to say that the person they already trust the least is untrustworthy. But without this issue, all the campaign would have left is the daily reminders of The Danger of Trump (formerly known as the nightly news).
Finally in Indiana, dominoes has become the most popular game in Republican politics.
The last year for the state GOP has been particularly chaotic. Admittedly, the first game of dominoes was predictable, as I wrote in 2015. When Sen. Dan Coats announced his plan to not run for reelection, some version of what occurred there was immediately certain. Even the battles for the vacated House seats were largely predictable. And after all of the dust settled, I don’t think the party hurt itself much. The nomination of Trey Hollingsworth in the ninth congressional district being the obvious exception.
It is this latest curveball that has been thrown at us that I think will be hardest to hit. The potential for Gov. Mike Pence to be nominated as the Vice President is great theater, no matter the outcome. The intrigue that revolves around Trump, in all of his reality TV splendor, and “The Apprentice” style “veepstakes” seems to be going on a little too long and a little too publicly.
The unforeseen drama though is that many politicos in both parties are now getting comfortable with the fact that even though Pence might get the VP nod, he may not be the Republican’s best candidate for governor anymore.
The reason why so many high profile Republicans (Speaker Brian Bosma, Congressman Todd Rokita, etc.) want to replace Pence on the ballot in case he ends up on Team Trump, is because they think they can win. But more importantly, the assumption is that the party’s chances improve with more than just one or two of these other candidates. Democrats are predictably quiet about all of this, which is likely because they felt like they were already beating Pence before Trump rocked the boat.
The list of scenarios to replace Pence for the gubernatorial nomination is long, but the most interesting scenario isn’t being discussed at all: how do Republicans regroup and rally around Gov. Pence’s reelection bid, after so blatantly making it clear that he is not their top choice?
That is a political dilemma, the likes of which I have no comparison.
The closest thing I can come up with is President Richard Nixon, who lost in 1960 against President John F. Kennedy, then went home to California and lost the 1962 governor’s election to Democrat Pat Brown, before returning to win the White House in 1968.
The Sixties were also chaotic times, and we all know how Nixon’s career played out. I never thought I would compare today to the Sixties by saying those were “also” unpredictable times.
I was awake in the middle of the night this week and saw a commercial for psychic services. I don’t frequent those scam artists. Although these days, their predictions are as believable as they have ever been. Next time, I might write down the hotline’s number.