Eh, yes and no. Thompson's appeal was always wildly overestimated, I think, but he has sufficient name recognition that it tends to cloud what the collective perception of his viability is. What it really is is that the authoritarian cultists, who have clung to Bush like the flimsy reed that he is, are finally starting to figure out a couple things.
One is that Bush is not -- was never -- the daddy figure they craved; he simply enjoyed playing dress-up and telling the same hackneyed anecdotes over and over again. Another is that their current prospects consist of a corrupt Count Chocula lookalike who sings the same note and whose own kids can't stand him; a war hero whose declining fortunes track his precipitous fall from straight-talkin' maverick to crazy uncle; a rich guy whose religious mythos read like a pioneer version of Scientology; and an assortment of single-issue clowns who would carry about a two-district radius in a national election. Really, Romney's only viability is his sheer wealth, which leaves Mike Huckabee as their most palatable candidate.
It makes sense they'd place all their hopes on Fred Thompson, and it makes sense that he'd disappoint at least the first time out. I would really keep an eye on how the narrative arc develops in the commentariat after upcoming debates; they are just lazy and unimaginative enough to foist some retarded Comeback Kid story arc on us, while drooling over how tall he is. Saves them from talking about the inescapable fact that Thompson simply promises more of the same, but with more height and better oration.
With or without Thompson, this thing should be a blowout for the Democrats, not that they'd know what to do with it. They can't even disempower a preening twat like Lieberman; what the fuck are they going to do with five more Senate seats and a preznit whose first order of the day is to show the rest of the world what they can't even forcefully demonstrate to the minority-party droogs across the aisle from them -- that they're tough and won't take shit from no tinhorn dicktaters 'n' such.
That would still be better than getting stuck with a man of Thompson's phlegmatic indifference, not to mention the rest of that bad lot. But let's not pretend that a solution is at hand, that a Preznit Hillary would automatically reverse the dangerous unitary executive trends the Cheney junta has initiated. Everybody thinks they could wield more power with the greatest of wisdom. Indeed, a Democratic administration would be less likely to use such power to harass internal dissidents and other such enemies of the state, not to mention kidnapping nationals and furriners and spiriting them off to some hellhole where either the PMCs do the wet work, or the Syrians or Egyptians or whoever just break out the pliers and get serious. But it's like making "not a drunk-driving child-molester" the only job requirement for a school bus driver.
But again, that's not a solution, that's not a guaranteed reversal of potentially catastrophic trends. It's just a temporary dialing down of the heat, at a point in time where Republicans probably figure they could use a break anyway to regroup while the noise machine keeps the victors on defense. Just let the Dems take some heat for a few years while they try to fix Junior's fuck-ups, and come back with a smooth Jeb! run in '12.
And of course, just because it should be a blowout next year doesn't mean it will be, not with gutless incrementalism and focus-grouped tough-guy ploys being the likely order of the day in the eventual Democratic nominee's playbook. I recall this feeling of inevitability back in 2000 when, despite "Clenis fatigue", despite the media mean girlz snotty campaign on Gore and his earth tones, despite the Naderistas' god-awful nerve at thinking that they had a right to be heard in the discussion -- despite all that and more, it was supposed to be a slam-dunk for an intelligent, loyal career politican over a wet-behind-the-ears reformed cokehead and drunk black-sheep son of a one-term preznit, an incompetent speaker with a frat-boy mean streak, whose most notable tasks up to that point had been trading Sammy Sosa for a sack of magic beans and mocking a woman whom he was about to execute.
But something funny happened along the way then, and beyond the media bullshit, beyond the Naderistas, all that, a sizable bloc of reg'lar 'merkins decided that the election was a choice between Eddie Haskell and a drinkin' buddy who had quit drinkin'.
emphasis in original
Mm-hm. Heard that one before. Mencken only scratched the surface when it came to chronicling the willful stupidity of the electorate. The modern Republican party figured out how to commodify it. Good teams don't just squeak past bad teams 21-20, they pound the shit out of them, 41-3. If 2000 didn't teach us something significant about "suspension of disbelief" and all, nothing will.
I think Thompson's a joke too, and I don't see him making it through or even deep into the primaries, but I also do not take for granted that there aren't just enough people to vote for him or any other cartoon character just out of sheer spite, if nothing else. At this point, that's all they've got, but they've already proven that sometimes it's enough.