Michael Brendan Dougherty is underwhelmed by the entry of three more candidates to the presidential race this week:
So has the addition of this week’s candidates added to the ferment of ideas? No, not really.
Besides the sheer number of candidates, the lack of new or creative thinking may be the most remarkable aspect of the ever-growing Republican field. One might think that in a wide-open contest after eight years since the last, failed Republican president, there would be more candidates proposing to take the party in at least a slightly different direction. As it is, there might be one or two out of more than a dozen that have suggested making a few substantive changes. That doesn’t apply to any of the candidates that are making their official announcements this week. Carson and Fiorina make a point of saying that they are not professional politicians, and there may be something to be said for that, but then any benefit that the party might get from these candidates is mostly lost when their policy views are indistinguishable from the rest. As for Huckabee, we have seen in recent years how his turn as a talk show host has eliminated most of the things that set him apart from the others. The profusion of Republican candidates would be significantly more interesting and more useful to the party and the country if they were likely to offer a variety of policy arguments, but we already have good reason to expect that this won’t be the case. It just means that the echo chamber will be more cacophonous than usual.
This is especially true on foreign policy. Carson may have stumbled in his interview with Hugh Hewitt earlier this year, but as far as his positions are concerned he is interchangeable with any other hawkish candidate. He may or may not know which countries belong to NATO, but he knows that the U.S. should be “strengthening” NATO. Huckabee’s goofy rattlesnake video speaks for itself. Fiorina is citing her time as a corporate executive and her travel overseas in an attempt to bolster her otherwise non-existent foreign policy credentials, but on the issues she recites the standard hawkish talking points just like any other candidate. In that respect, all three of these candidates don’t really add anything to debate except to echo what the other candidates are already saying.