Back in school, when evolution was taught, we had the familiar chart on the wall of the science classroom showing our ancestors walking behind homo sapiens, the tallest and most advanced (homo erectus was always a favorite of we seventh-grade boys).
In their debates, the most recent one Wednesday night in Republican-heavy Planet Boulder, the Republican presidential candidates are moving in exactly the opposite direction. No substance. No serious policy proposals. No attention to the most pressing issues.
Consider: This is the party of the intellectual Theodore Roosevelt, the brilliant autodidact Abraham Lincoln, and the man who organized and prosecuted the liberation of Europe, Dwight Eisenhower, a task that required not only military but political and diplomatic genius. Even Barry Goldwater talked about issues. Nixon, despite his dark side, was a policy wonk. Reagan wrote extensively on political philosophy.
Not one of them could win a GOP school-board primary today. At this rate, especially if the Republicans lose the next election, the candidates for 2020 will resemble life from the primordial soup.
Not one is qualified to be president. None (including John Kasich) has shown the chops to be any office holder of quality outside of Dogpatch mayor, although our democracy offers slots for many mediocre place-holders. And yet it doesn't seem to matter.
The New Yorker's John Cassidy is no doubt correct in writing that substance is not their friend.
Their tax cutting and supply side voodoo are thoroughly discredited. The Obama economy is doing fairly well, especially considering the disaster he inherited from the last Republican president. It has been lopsided. But, as Cassidy writes, "Tackling rising inequality isn’t exactly a Republican strength. Almost all of the candidates’ tax plans are extremely regressive: they would benefit the well-off more than everybody else."
And yet people other than political journalists and those drawn to linger at bloody car wrecks watch these debates. No matter what the Republicans say or do — aside from addressing reality — they can count on the 47 percent Mitt Romney won in 2012. As a starting point.
This is the overwhelmingly white, suburban/rural, largely but not entirely older "base." They are fanatics who vote (n.b. Hispanics). Add in enough low-information voters and you can win an election, particularly through the Electoral College.
Shame on the television personalities who play journalists, and the real journalists who engage in false balance at the expense of the facts. But our society is so polarized, I'm not sure the Fourth Estate can fix it, especially with most of the best parts in trouble and others owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Unfortunately, we can't afford a Warren G. Harding now — and none of these candidates are as qualified as Harding was. In 2000, things looked so stable that some people decided to take a chance on George W. Bush, and see how that turned out. How much worse it will be in 2016.
The Republicans can't save themselves. They are an entirely different party than even in the 1990s. So the pressing question is whether the Democrats can find a way to win, not only the presidency but from statehouses on up. They can't count on their devolved opponents to fail.