Remember the contenders for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, derided at the time as “Gary Hart and the Seven Dwarfs,” consisting of Michael Dukakis, Paul Simon, Richard Gephardt, Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden, Bruce Babbitt, and Al Gore? If these guys were dwarfs, what can one say about Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney? How about “Jon Huntsman and the Seven Genuine Dwarfs”?
I spent much of the George W. Bush presidency being—when not infuriated by that administration’s policies—genuinely embarrassed by the fact that such a shrub had even become president (notwithstanding the fact that the first time around, at least, he wasn’t even elected). And now, as I consider the current Republican contenders, even minus Mr. Cain, I can’t help feeling a genuine twinge of embarrassment yet again, that one of the major parties in what is widely recognized one of the major democracies on this planet can be seriously considering such a confederacy of dunces, ideologues and shape-shifters as potential presidents.
Admittedly, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a presidential historian. Moreover, I make no bones about my political orientation, which, depending on the policy in question, runs the gamut from left to far left. Hence, I make no claims of either scholarly knowledge or objectivity when I ask this question, but ask it I must: Has there ever been a time in U.S. presidential politics when one of the major parties fielded a comparable collection of low-quality aspirants?