My favorite reality television series -- the U.S. Presidential Primary Season -- is about to begin with this weekend's expected announcement of Hillary Clinton's candidacy.
This political extravaganza combines "American Idol," or an open-microphone audition, with "Survivor" in which contestants are voted "off the island" if they fail to collect enough votes in electoral primary contests.
Primaries, on one hand, represent an improvement over the past because the process is transparent compared with America's closed-door deals in the past that culminated in staged, gigantic conventions.
The problem is, however, the process rewards good-looking performers as opposed to strong, credible leaders. For instance, great presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who hid his wheelchair and controversial personal life from the public, would not have passed muster.
In today's political theater, scandals and gaffes ruin chances overnight and catapult also-rans to the top. Even so, others continue to run in the belief that their electioneering enhances their region, ethnicity, religion, causes and chances of future appointments as vice-president or cabinet secretaries.
Some take one for the team. In 2012, African-American Herman Cain, a pizza magnate, was driven off the "island" quickly, but made the Republican Party look inclusive.
This time, the odds are that Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush will be the finalists. But anything can happen as was the case when Barry Goldwater and George McGovern got the nod but not the White House.
That's why this is compelling television. The Republican roster will be crowded, while the Democratic one will be Hillary and relative unknowns. So far, she faces perennial candidates such as conspiracy theorist Jeff Boss, performance artist Vermin Supreme and North Carolina football coach Robby Wells, as well as a few former governors or senators.The Republicans will be the big show. Jeb Bush will announce eventually and face libertarian Ron Paul, Tea Partier Ted Cruz and a clutch of possible brand names such as Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Scott Walker and, of course, Donald Trump.
Clearly, Jeb will have his work cut out for him, but he has more advantages than the others. He has the best track record of any as a sitting politician as governor of Florida; Florida is the most important swing state; Jeb is a formidable debating opponent because he has the toughness and tongue of his mother, Barbara Bush. And, last but not least, he has a clear-cut edge in what's being cynically dubbed as "Hispandering" or appealing to America's large Hispanic voting bloc. His wife is from Mexico, he speaks fluent Spanish and he has called illegal immigration "an act of love" because it unites families.
(Hispanics represent 10% of all voters and three-quarters voted for Obama twice. And Florida represents 23% of the nine swing-state votes where the election is won or lost. The other eight states where most campaigning will be conducted (and vice presidential nominations sought) are Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire.
The whole world loves to watch America's favorite sport and this time there is some Canadian content for those of us living north of the border:
• Both Jeb and Hillary have supported the Keystone XL pipeline.
• Jeb Bush's eldest child, Jeb Bush Jr., is an American businessman married to a Canadian of Iraqi descent. Their child is therefore a dual citizen.
• Ted Cruz was born in Calgary and his candidacy, backed by legal opinions, maintains that he can become President of the United States even though he was not born there, on the basis that his mother was a U.S. citizen at the time.
• Hillary Clinton's family came from Ontario, two generations ago.
The issues will change based on who's in front or most eloquent. If Hillary and Jeb go down to the wire, then immigration won't be much of an issue because they basically agree on most points. The same applies to security concerns. But foreign policy, and George Bush's boondoggles, will haunt Jeb even though Hillary voted to invade Iraq. And the economy could play both ways. If job and economic growth remain strong, as predicted, Hillary benefits. If not, Jeb may cash in.
Whatever the outcome, the 2016 contest will be fun and informative. My money is on Hillary who, with the help of Bill and chauvinist slights, may be able to divide and conquer the R Team. On the other hand, I would never count out a Bush with a centrist bent either.