The 5 Craziest Stories Of The 2016 Election So Far (Pt. 2)
It's been roughly two weeks since we checked in with the comings and goings of the 2016 presidential election. Seems like a thing we should keep up with -- especially seeing as how we could be bordering on electing a Nazi, depending on who you ask. Actually, no matter what side of the fence you're on, you probably think we're on the verge of electing a Nazi. That's precisely how politics works these days.
So all the more reason to pay attention, right? In the name of keeping our eyes on all the moving parts of this probably disastrous moment in American history, we divided the work among our various staff and contributors, inviting (forcing) them to participate in our first (we'll never do this again) presidential election fantasy league. You'll hear more from some of them in a bit. But first, some thoughts on a few of the candidates who barely did enough in the past two weeks to warrant mentioning -- which, at this stage of the process, is probably for the best anyway.
Candidate Reactions To Mass Shootings (Were Exactly What You'd Expect)
Mass shootings are becomingly frustratingly common these days, to put it as mildly as possible. In fact, we've seen enough tragedy in recent years that you could comfortably bet your rent money on how the reactions from people we expect to react to these kind of things will unfold. That's especially true on social media. Republicans, naturally, take the "thoughts and prayers" route:
It's gotta work sometime!
That's the kind of reaction that would normally go wholly unnoticed by anyone at all, because not only is it what Republicans almost always do initially, but it's also what almost everyone does initially. Except now all of those "thoughts and prayers" posts have become the pumpkin spice of tragedy reactions, in that it's suddenly a thing some segment of society has just taken to getting irrationally angry about.
That's actually great if you're a Republican hoping to convince your base of religious voters that their beliefs are being attacked. They just give it a fancy name like "prayer shaming," and just like that, all those angry posts from the anti-"thoughts and prayers" crowd become "proof" that religious types have been right to worry all along. Good times!
Reactions from the Democrats were also mostly what you'd expect. When your stance on guns is "There should be fewer guns," just saying that in response to a situation of this nature makes perfect sense.
We still get to keep them in movies, right?
There are some on the other side who might argue that this amounts to exploiting a tragedy for political purposes. Even if that's true, it's a thing that happens on both sides. It's just that, thanks to their dedication to protecting the Second Amendment, Republicans have to find more creative ways to convert grief and anger over gun violence into something they can use to rile up their base.
Take Carly Fiorina, for example. She took to Fox News to call out those who would dare link the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado with anti-abortion rhetoric -- a stance made all the more strange when she referred to the shooter as a "protester" a few moments later.
Surprisingly enough, hers wasn't the most shocking response from the Republican side (more on that later). Which means that her antics had no bearing on the fantasy league scoring this week. Oh, and since we're talking about people who have no impact on anything ...
Martin O'Malley Wants To Be Your Favorite Loser
Reminder: There are still technically three Democrats in the race: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and that third guy. His name is Martin O'Malley, and he did something unprecedented this week.
Call out the NRA by name?
For lack of a better term, he asked to be his party's second-favorite choice.
Making this stock photo so much more poignant.
That's not to say that he asked to be vice president; it's more that he's accepted that he has no shot at getting the nomination, and just doesn't want to be forgotten. That's a bad sign, but for fantasy scoring purposes, it has zero impact, seeing as how it's a thing that literally never happens and therefore wasn't taken into account when we were figuring out how to run this thing.
Still, a bad sign is a bad sign, and that means it's worth talking about. To that end, we asked Dan O'Brien, the Cracked figurehead who's been saddled with the responsibility of covering every move of the O'Malley campaign until its inevitable flame-out, to say a few words about his candidate. Here goes:
I was given specific instructions to eulogize or "say goodbye" to Martin O'Malley. But the last time I checked, MOM isn't going anywhere, Baby! Check your ears or eyes or whatever holes you use to consume news. O'Malley didn't say "I'm out"; he said "I hope I can be your second choice." O'Malley -- a candidate with whom I fully disagree on a number of issues, and whom I only chose because he reminds me of Carcetti from The Wire -- has decided to join the illustrious ranks of the second choices and also-rans who litter America's political history. Not everyone can be Washington or Adams or Jefferson. Some of us need to be Henry Clay. Was that not an accessible reference? Fine, he's the Deep Impact to Hillary's Armageddon. The Go-Bots to her Transformers. Congratulations, Martin O'Malley. You're fucking Hydrox.
That might have sounded rude and dismissive, but I actually respect O'Malley's moves. He's aiming for second place. You know what else used to be everyone's second choice? A little magazine from the '50s called Cracked.
Cracked Magazine: When the Internet was made of paper.
Known as "The Poor Man's Mad Magazine" at the time, Cracked's entire business model revolved around convenience stores selling out of copies of Mad, thereby forcing young irreverent comedy fans to settle for Cracked. And as I've told literally anyone who has ever considered dating me, there is nothing wrong with (and in fact, there's a certain nobility in) settling.
You might think that this strategy lacked ambition, but look at Cracked now. We're one of the biggest comedy websites on the planet, and we've been steadily growing every year for the last eight. Our staff and alumnae write books, movies, and TV shows. Meanwhile, Mad Magazine has, oh boy, almost 20,000 fewer Twitter followers than me.
That's a bummer.
Anyway, Martin O'Malley -- that handsome, eagle-faced inevitable loser. Let's get back to him. To be clear, I don't think O'Malley is going to be president, or even the nominee. Not by a long shot. I just respect that he saw the value in Cracked's strategy enough to blatantly copy it. If he plays his cards right, he can reach a level of success that mirrors Cracked's. He's still the Poor Man's Dream Candidate right now, but if he just keeps his head down and sticks around on the fringes of political consciousness for a while, it stands to reason that he (or whatever digital form he ends up occupying) will be our president. In, like, 2066 or so.
Loser: The Somewhat (But Not Very) Surprising Fall Of Ben Carson
The last few weeks have been bad times for Ben Carson. While seemingly everyone around him is saying just as much stupid shit as he is, for some reason, he's the only one suffering in the polls as a result. His sudden decline was such that it propelled Cracked columnist Kathy Benjamin into the losing spot in this week's fantasy league scoring. Here's what she had to say about Dr. Carson:
Ben Carson's support is plummeting. It is so bad that one reporter referred to his poll numbers being in "Jeb Bush territory." Ouch! Zip your pants back up, because one dick slap of that magnitude is enough. And it's not actually true; Jeb is still doing way worse than Carson. But the doctor has lost seemingly a third of his support in just a couple of weeks. What happened? Did people finally realize that he is way too dumb to be president?
Also, has anyone had this guy drug-tested?
Of course not. Trump is still walking around spouting word vomit, and potential voters are swallowing it down while the rest of us watch on, gagging. Carson's problem is that as we get closer to the Iowa caucus, it takes more to get noticed by the media. Reporters are babies and the candidates are jingly keys, and right now, Carson just isn't noisy and shiny enough.
For example, here's the craziest thing he's said recently: That we shouldn't allow Syrian refugees to come to this country because our hatred of them will turn them into terrorists. Does that make any sense? No. Does the fact that he said it after visiting refugee camps in Jordan and seeing the terrible conditions they are trying to escape make him a huge dick? Obviously. But that isn't enough to get the media's (and therefore the voters') attention when you have someone like Trump encouraging his supporters to beat the shit out of a guy during a rally.
Punching a lady in a wheelchair would get you at least 12 hours of airtime.
Carson can't just keep playing the old classics and hope it brings him new fans. He needs to really go all-out if he wants to stay the totally unqualified, borderline crazy political outsider of choice. Have any of the candidates recommended invading North Korea yet? Whatever his new extreme view is going to be, he needs to tell us about it, and fast.
Winner: Donald Trump Refuses To Go Away
It's hard to pick a real "winner" when it comes to the news emanating from the current crop of Republican presidential candidates. With racist gaffes and controversial stances on important issues coming out of every mouth at all times, it seems like the nomination process is one that mostly involves finding the candidate who can be completely insane in the way that's least offensive to the general public. Crazy is a game one candidate plays better than any other, though. And that's why he's still your Republican frontrunner (for now). We're talking about Donald Trump, of course. His lead in the polls, slim as it may be, combined with the events of a raucous rally in Manassas, Virginia, which saw him not only eject a dude for waving a Confederate flag ...
Racism? At a Trump rally? No way!
... but also sign a woman's chest like he's touring with goddamn Twisted Sister ...
... instead of just basking in the glow of being allowed to use "We're Not Gonna Take It" as his campaign song, means he's in the top spot in this week's fantasy league scoring. To bitch about that, here's Cracked columnist Adam Tod Brown:
Listen, I know the increasing severity of Donald Trump's racist antics is supposed to make me more confident that at some point he'll start losing ground to his Republican competition, but it doesn't. For one thing, he's still in the lead (at least, in most polls), and it's been that way forever. While Ben Carson's crazy talk has him sliding in the polls, Trump remains in relatively the same spot he's been in the entire time.
Can someone please do something about this?
That feels like a bad sign to me. As does this memo from Republican National Senatorial Committee head Ward Baker, which lays out all the ways GOP Senate candidates can tap into "the Trump phenomenon" to win votes if it comes to pass that he's chosen as their party's nominee. It's by no means a clear indication that he'll eventually be the Republican candidate. But it does mean that, as far back as late September (when the memo was written), higher-ups on the Republican side have been taking the threat at least somewhat seriously.
And sure, that memo is directed toward Senatorial hopefuls and not presidential candidates, but "be a less crazy version of Trump" also seems to be the strategy of just about every Republican hoping to run this country right now, and that's a recipe for disaster.
Winner: Ted Cruz Inexplicably Gains Ground
Speaking of inexplicable leads. Despite having a horrifying couple of weeks from a public relations standpoint, Ted Cruz has enjoyed a sudden surge in popularity ...
He's just as surprised as the rest of us.
... pulling into a statistical tie for the lead in some polls. So not everyone is sold on the gloom and doom of an inevitable Trump candidacy -- including comic and podcast host Genevieve Mueller. She had this to say about the unlikely rise of Cruz:
Trump is all but out of the picture now. It's just a matter of time before his stock plummets so low that he's begging for a segment on that talk show in the little box in the upper-right corner of the TV Guide channel. Both Cruz and Carson have taken leads or tied with Trump in several big and statistically important polls.
But it's been a particularly big week for our boy Teddy. In one week, Cruz reduced women's health issues to condom vending machines, and called the guy who shot up a Planned Parenthood a "transgendered leftist activist."
First off, it's not "transgendered" -- it's "transgender." But on top of that blatant disregard for proper terminology, Cruz is ignoring the very clear motive. The shooter's ex-wife has said several times that he did in fact have anti-abortion beliefs. At the very least, with such a target for his violence, its pretty ballsy of Cruz to suggest anything other than a right-wing agenda. The shooter is not left of anything.
So what about the transgender issue? If he were transgender, it would have nothing to do with his actions, so it's irrelevant. The shooter walked into a health clinic and murdered people. Those are the actions he took.
The confusion started when a right-wing website found a clerical error which suggested that the shooter was registered to vote as a woman. Cruz took this opportunity to spout vitriol about gender, instead of maybe, oh, I don't know, condemning the actions of a murderer acting on extremist ideology.
To add to this roller coaster ride of female hate, Cruz adamantly opposed any idea that maybe women have it a bit tough in this world. He called the notion that there is a serious reproductive rights struggle in this country ridiculous, suggesting that female issues boil down to if we can get rubbers.
He said "rubbers," guys. He also said "Jiminy Cricket" in the same speech, if you wanted any reason to think that he has his antiquated views because he's a time traveler. Last time I checked, you can't get a pap smear from a condom. It should be noted that I didn't have to actually check this. Reproductive rights are for all genders. We need to take care of our parts, and all Cruz wants to do is ignore what gender means, give you a nickel to get a rubber out of a dirty bathroom machine, and piss off his old college roommate.
Right, there's that, too. Cruz's former dorm buddy said in an interview last week that he'd rather pick a name out of a phone book and declare them president than vote for Cruz.
This is the new Republican frontrunner (at least in some polls). Jiminy Cricket!
Want to watch Cracked editors discuss post-apocalyptic movie worlds with scientists and special guests? You're in luck! It's going down during a LIVE PODCAST at UCB on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now!