The paths to the 2016 Democratic and Republican presidential nominations could not be much more different. The Democrats are preparing for the coronation of a queen, while Republicans are ready for a cattle call including every possible breed of contender.
On the left, former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains inexplicably popular given her record of myriad controversies and minuscule real accomplishments. Her high poll numbers are destined to remain an unsolved mystery (as this columnist has previously plumbed: http://www.wdrb.com/story/22086165/dyche-why-is-hillary-so-popular).
On the right, the fight resembles a multi-man Wrestle Royale bout staged in a small-town television studio circa 1970. It boasts a colorful cast of characters grappling in no-holds-barred political combat that sometimes spills out of the ring and into the stands.
Hillary is headed to Kentucky to talk to a convention of Methodist women. The Wesley brothers may be rolling over in their graves at such a spectacle, but the usual suspects among the state's lap dog liberal media will shake, swoon, and speak in tongues as if Clinton's appearance is a Second Coming of sorts.
While Clinton is cashing her outrageously oversized honoraria checks for giving bland and superficial speeches the Republicans are debating ideas and producing policy proposals by the dozen. One of them, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, was right when he declared, "The left is exhausted; our side is energized."
Ryan's committee recently issued a report urging reform of the federal government's 92 anti-poverty programs that cost about $800 billion per year. He is right when he says, "For too long, we have measured compassion by how much we spend instead of how many people get out of poverty."
Another Republican hopeful, Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida, has published a raft of policy ideas including reforms of anti-poverty programs, corporate taxes, higher education, and regulations. Rubio also found time to forcefully correct liberal Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa's erroneous conclusion that Cuba is a workers paradise.
During his 11-year tenure Gov. Rick Perry's state of Texas has created almost a third of the nation's new jobs and has done so across all pay levels. This successful chief executive wants the federal government "to focus on the few things the Constitution establishes as the federal government's role" and to "get out of the healthcare business, get out of the education business, and stop hammering industry."
The policies of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin have produced a billion dollar state surplus. He plans to return half of it to taxpayers and use some of the rest to invest in job training.
Erstwhile tea party allies Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are sniping at each other about which of them is the true spiritual heir of Ronald Reagan. Their disagreement is indicative of a very real and important decision Republicans must make about foreign and national security policy.
Meanwhile, Clinton must sit more or less idly by as the President Obama's second term disintegrates before American eyes. She can try to put some distance between herself and the administration in which she served, but not even the prospect of being the first female president can fully protect her from the politically radioactive fallout of cascading Democratic disasters.
Obamacare is daily exposed as an exponentially worsening debacle. That toxic example of progressive overreach is bad enough, but added to it are the serial other instances of hubristic incompetence like Benghazi, IRS targeting, CIA spying on a Senate committee, NSA metadata mining, the disappearing red line on Syrian chemical weapons, Russian aggression in Ukraine, appeasement of Iran, and ill-considered comedy stunts that demean the office of the presidency.
It is not a pretty picture for any Democrat going into 2016. Some think Clinton can see the ominous handwriting on the wall and despite her overweening ambition will ultimately give way to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel or New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (since the notion of Vice President Joe Biden as the party's presidential nominee is too comically absurd to contemplate).
Historical odds are against Hillary's succession anyway. Not since Rutherford B. Hayes has someone other than the vice-president succeeded a president of the same party who served two full terms, and Hayes was a controversial compromise choice after the hotly disputed 1876 election.
George Will says the GOP contest is "much more interesting when they are brawling with one another." The lively debate also signals that Republicans are healthier and hungrier than the Democrats who are slouching towards Clinton.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com.
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