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Please Advise! Why Are Governments Falling Like Dominoes?

Once people turn on incumbents, says Dr. Steve, it seems just about anyone can win.

Steve Burgess 9 Jul 2024The Tyee

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Almost everywhere you look incumbents seem to be in difficulty. The U.K. Conservatives were crushed in the recent election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is lagging badly in the polls and just saw his Liberals lose a formerly safe Toronto seat, and U.S. president Joe Biden is facing panicky calls to step aside after a poor debate performance.

Why are incumbents having so much trouble?



Dear Ousted,

The Conservatives are out in the U.K., Trudeau is in trouble, Biden is flailing. All are helpless against the most powerful foe in politics: Not These Guys.

Incumbency is the sharpest of double-edged swords. It offers control over the levers of government and the power to shape messaging and hand out goodies.

But the other side of the blade can cut even deeper — the gradual entropy of politics. Governments make mistakes and suffer scandals and, most of all, the slings and arrows of circumstance. Shit happens, and incumbents carry the shitty can. Opposition politicians just have to exist and revel in the dissatisfaction. It’s like a slow divorce, except the day after you wake up in bed with your sleazy lawyer.

Voters are unhappy? Choose the alternative. This principle is taken to its ludicrous extreme, as usual, by Donald Trump. Somehow, despite his self-evident combination of witlessness, corruption, incompetence, megalomania, vicious depravity and incipient tyranny, he floats along as simply the other option — Mr. Chicken Fingers for voters tired of onion rings.

Observing the current political situation, Dr. Steve has been sincerely wondering why Charles Manson was never elected president of the United States. Look at his credentials:

  1. A psychopath.
  2. A felon.
  3. Frequently on TV.
  4. Not the incumbent.

Legend tells that ancient princes would drink small doses of poison to immunize themselves against assassination plots. Trump has accomplished the modern equivalent — he has immunized himself against scandal. Ever since he slithered down the escalator at Trump Tower, he's been chugging Big Gulps of sleaze, crime and racist bile so that no combination of treason, criminal activity, pathological lies and addled imbecility draws more than a raised eyebrow.

In recent weeks court documents resurfaced alleging Trump committed sex crimes with Jeffrey Epstein; his lawyer was disbarred; one of his closest advisers was imprisoned; he implied that the Wall Street Journal reporter being held by Vladimir Putin will be released only if Trump wins; and of course he recently suggested immigrants should be made to fight for sport.

The response? Shrugs. Yes, he's a monster. Yawn.

In a perverse twist (nobody does perverse like Trump), his very vileness has become an extra burden for Biden. The threat this human fart poses to democracy and the rule of law has increased the panic in Democratic ranks and heightened cries that Biden must step aside for someone capable of chewing solid food.

But here the other side of incumbency comes into play. Biden is president — he is the rightful nominee and abandoning him would only increase the potentially fatal miasma of panic and desperation around the Democrats.

Biden has raised the vast sums of money a presidential campaign requires, and that money would not automatically transfer to a new candidate — unless that candidate was Vice-President Kamala Harris. People throwing out this or that name to replace Biden are pissing into the wind. The choices are Biden or Harris. Aside from the funding issue, bypassing the first female, African American, South Asian American veep would be a disaster for the Dems.

Could Harris beat Trump? In a sane world, a flat highway skunk could defeat Trump. But sanity, it would seem, is not a feature of the universe we currently occupy. Dr. Steve has always been impressed with Harris — he bet on her to win the nomination five years ago. Alas, Dr. Steve was then forced to work as a footstool to pay off his debts.

Harris’s national political career has not been stellar, and thanks to Donny Deplorable the American political climate has been getting progressively uglier. Dumping Biden would be a very high-stakes move. If you're that concerned about Biden's age, well, vote for him and you'll get Harris too. At this stage, dwelling on Biden's fitness just serves the poisonous knot of toads seeking to load up the U.S. Supreme Court with more corrupt, treasonous Bible-bangers.

A similar calculation, albeit less pressing, faces the Liberal party. Stick with Justin, or change horses? It's a tougher call north of the border. But Dr. Steve is inclined to the same conclusion — you're probably better off staying the course. In a recent interview for The Tyee, Charles Adler referred to Trudeau as “a superior political athlete.” And he is blessed with an opponent who possesses all the charm of a barrel of eels.

The political question comes down to the merits of incumbency. Blessing or curse? These days it seems more and more like a poisoned chalice.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

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