By: Joe Kefauver
It’s no secret that the Republican Party has long been maligned for not being a “big tent” kind of operation. On the heels of President Obama’s reelection in 2012, the GOP proclaimed it was taking broad steps to be more attractive to different demographic groups and to welcome new voices to its ranks.
It’s unclear whether the 17 declared presidential candidates are a direct result of this “New GOP,” but what is certain is that the party’s “tent” of candidates, viewpoints and personalities is currently bursting at the seams.
And, what a tent-full of candidates it is. The only thing that I can think of that has that much diversity on the one hand – and yet such homogeny on the other is a good old-fashioned family reunion.
Come on, we’ve all been there. There are the awkward hugs with elderly aunts who smell funny. How about the forced conversations with cousins with whom you have absolutely nothing in common but a surname and haven’t seen in the four years since the last such gathering? Lest you think I’m exaggerating, please know that my relatives hail from Appalachia. If they gave graduate degrees for following family flow charts, I’d have a doctorate.
So, when I look at the current field of GOP presidential candidates, I can’t help but imagine it family-reunion style. I picture it taking place at a beautiful park. Distant relatives trickle in, baskets in hand, and awkwardly (and also somewhat reluctantly) greet their long-lost kin.
The patriarch of this year’s Republican reunion is, of course, Jeb Bush, the accomplished, adult, the well-bred scion of the family who is the unofficial but consensus “host” of the event. He welcomes everyone as they arrive.
Cousin John from Columbus dutifully acts as his wingman, discretely whispering the names of the invading hordes into Jeb’s ear. He greets the Jindals from Baton Rouge, and the Pauls from Kentucky who go off together and sit at a fringe table.
Jeb has a laugh with the fat guy from Jersey with the two first names who got busted for hugging the President. Chris and his family try to find a seat at one of the center, more mainstream tables.
Next comes cousin Carly from the West Coast who used to have some kind of supervisory role in some sort of a tech start-up out there. Nobody’s exactly sure what she does, but everyone seems to agree she’s a real dynamo.
Before Jeb can ask Carly a question, in comes his favorite relative, his protégé, the kid from just down the road in Miami. But, Marco has changed recently. Marco doesn’t seem to have time for Jeb anymore and avoids the receiving line altogether. He promptly plunks down at the “I totally changed my mind on immigration because it was politically expedient” table and hopes the folks at the “I have never changed my mind on immigration because it was politically expedient” table will still hang out with him. Jeb is concerned because Marco doesn’t look and sound like Marco. Jeb thinks to himself, “What’s with the newfound permanent scowl, Marco? I wonder if he’s trying to look older and more serious? Kind of looks like fourteen-year-old boy trying to grow the peach-fuzz mustache.”
Before Jeb can make his way over to say hi to Marco, in comes a guest from Virginia. Jeb thinks, “Who is he married to again?” He is joined there by cousins John from Columbus and Scott from Milwaukee who seem to be able to remember most of these folks’ names and how they are connected, much more so than Jeb does.
As Jeb clinks his glass to quiet the crowd and deliver a welcome, he finds he can’t get everyone’s attention at the outer tables. So, he just murmurs through his remarks. Jeb then looks for Father Mike from Little Rock to do the blessing but can’t seem to find him. He has to strain his neck to look at the far back of the room, and finally sees him, hanging out with Cousin Rick from Pittsburgh. The two are ranting about gay marriage.
Once the crowd quiets down, Father Mike gives a stem-winder of an invocation, placating all the factions of the family with scripture-based references to liberty, justice and Hillary’s emails.
Just as he’s finishing up, there’s a subtle thumping in the distance. It’s coming closer, quickly. It sounds like some kind of large SUV speeding up the driveway, gravel flying, with the windows down and the bass pumping. Oh no, could it be? The vehicle screeches to a halt, the doors fly open, and audible gasps are heard. Out rolls the relatives they all want to pretend don’t exist and that everyone wishes hadn’t come. It’s those crude, coarse, obnoxious loudmouths from New York: the Trumps!
Uncle Donny, a few kids, and a new wife who goes simply by “Number 6” stroll in and take a few seats near the front that have obviously been reserved for someone else. They plop down and Donny yells to Mike to finish up the speechifying so that everybody can eat.
It appears the Trumps ignored the email about bringing their own food as they begin mooching off of other plates. “Are you going to eat the rest of that,” shouts The Don. Donny yells over to Bobby from Baton Rouge (Believing he is Mexican) to clear his plate and get him another iced tea. More gasps. More cringes. More clutching of pearls.
As the reunion wears on, Jeb disappointingly looks out over the group. “Where did all of this go so horribly wrong?” he wonders. “What to do? Nobody seems to want to listen to me anymore.”
“But who will organize these things and keep the family in touch,” he thinks. “Not Donny – he really doesn’t care about any of us. Mike, Bobby, the fat guy? No way. Marco? Maybe, but will anyone come if he is the host? Scotty? Nah. How about Carly? She seems pretty organized and evidently is well versed in technology.”
“Yeah, me and Carly. Hey Carly, can I have a word with you?”