US Election: Release the Surrogates! (Part I)

American presidential elections are not won at the base of either party. The dichotomy of the two major American parties has historically rested on a fairly centrist pivot, where roughly 40% of both Republicans and Democrats can be found. This loose crowd in the center, unpinned by party affiliation or loyalty, is coaxed toward one side or another, as those at the extremes jump up and down to tilt the balance. Nobody jumps harder than the surrogates and this week and next, Shay Carlstrom will look at the representatives both campaigns have sent out, beginning with Donald Trump and the Republicans.


Kicking Up Dust

Among the many aspects of imbalance in the 2016 US presidential election between the most superlatively qualified candidate in history and an offensively unqualified orange octopus, one of the most striking is that between the proxies they’ve released into battleground states just weeks before the election.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

While the Dems’ include the First Couple, Hillary Clinton’s chief rival and youth whisperer Bernie Sanders and the progressive darling Senator Elizabeth Warren (to name a few), the GOP have a cast of Falstaffian broken dreams who have defended Donald Trump through the turgid cesspool of his campaign to the point of no return—whatever credibility of office or position they held or hold has burnt up with the bridges that led them to this point. On the eve of the final debate, the surrogates need to motivate their respective voters to arrive at the ballot box or mail off their votes. Early voting in Ohio has begun, and mail-in ballots in Colorado have gone out.

Since hiring Breitbart’s Steve Bannon as his campaign’s chief executive, it seems the Trump campaign is content to occupy the insipid room it has built for itself. Rooms, however, have ceilings, and with Bannon bouncing the door and Trump either refusing or unable to leave its comfort, perhaps Club Trump (whites only) should be padded.

Trump’s share of the popular vote has held stubbornly at 40%, but this may have more to do with the still rampant mistrust of Hillary Clinton. So while there has been significant consideration of Trump’s ceiling—with fallout continuing to rain down from toxic, sexual assault allegations that now have multiple women stepping forward (including one who described Trump’s oft-mentioned hands on a first-class flight like some kind of “octopus” upon her)—it appears his floor may also be beginning to sag. He could potentially receive one of the lowest shares of the popular vote ever garnered by a major party candidate in modern American history.

With lines drawn and fronts established, the last battle of this noxious war nears; the final debate skirmish to be held, appropriately, in Las Vegas on October 19th, moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace. And with the chess board set, the generals released and every metaphor exhausted, the surrogates are kicking up dust in the purple states.


Fallen Unicorns

Chris Christie (Photo by

Chris Christie (Photo by Bob Jagendorf from Manalapan, NJ, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Political geographies in the United States are so clearly delineated (blue coasts wrapping around the Great Lakes, a red south and center, with a blue middle finger running up through New Mexico and Colorado) when the subordinate party produces a strong or popular leader, they are as precious as unicorns, and coddled with attention. Think Republicans in California (Ronald Reagan) or Democrats in Texas (The Castro Twins).

And so, when the blue bastions of the northeast—union New Jersey and liberal New York—incubate and elect a GOP leader, people take notice. This was the genesis of two of Trump’s main surrogates,  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani. Having each failed in a presidential bid, they’ve hitched their wagons to Trump’s shit-star—one desperate to climb, the other frantic for attention—as it splatters its reeking course toward political oblivion.


You Can’t Access a Burning Bridge

With a pomposity to match his corpulent physique, Christie rose like many northeastern Republicans, as a corruption-busting, no nonsense, strongman prosecutor, with ample targets in sleaze-prone New Jersey. But after a brief moment of coast-to-coast popularity that had the GOP eyeing him for 2016, the Christie machine ground to a halt like the traffic on the George Washington Bridge, after the his administration was accused of closing access to the bridge to Manhattan as an act of political retribution. Although “bridge-gate” never quite washed off Christie’s ample shoulders, he pressed forward in 2016 nonetheless, under the slogan of “telling it like it is.”

Unfortunately for Christie, the position of bombastic, mid-Atlantic loudmouth had already been filled, and after an abysmal performance in the primary cycle, he made flirtatious overtures to the winner of the GOP yelling contest, hopping into Club Trump, possibly with a VP nod in mind. Seemingly too greasy even for the Trump VP slot, with no appeal for white evangelicals, Christie became a vocal proponent of the Trump campaign.

And yet…

When asked recently about Trump’s sexually assaultive behaviors and video, Christie demurred, and failed to show up to the second debate, as the Trump ride took its downward turn, and Christie continues to be hauled up in court on other charges.

Exit, stage right.


‘America’s Mayor’ is Desperate for Attention

Rudy Guiliani (Photo by By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Rudy Giuliani) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Rudy Guiliani (Photo by By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

When the brightest liberal star on the eastern seaboard, New York City, gave the nod to a Republican mayor, the country took note; particularly when the world telescoped to Ground Zero, and Mayor Rudy Giuliani stepped onto the international stage on 9/11.

Earning the nickname, “America’s Mayor,” he mounted a mediocre presidential campaign in 2008 and has since struggled to remain in the spotlight, milking the pathos of his position on September 11th to the point of eye-rolling desperation; a real feat given the gravity of the event. And with the ever-growing distance between him and actual public service and relevancy, it seems Giuliani’s true spirit of service is to self.

Groping for relevancy like Donald Trump in a first class cabin, Guiliani has become a talking head for some of the GOP’s fouler points of venom, jumping onto the Trump trash-wagon whole hog as his most vicious attack dog. Guiliani has said Hillary Clinton was never at Ground Zero (despite photo evidence of him and Clinton there, together.) As Christie fades into the background, Guiliani’s desperation for the limelight has driven him to attempt to trump Trump, by dismissing Trump’s sexually assaultive language, then calling the growing group of women accusing him a “bimbo squad.”

As it has grown ever clearer that Trump is likely headed for an historic loss and his petulant “whining” (President Obama’s words) about the election being “rigged” has amplified, Guiliani has parroted this highly dangerous and anti-democratic line of rhetoric by saying that, “Dead people tend to vote Democrat.”

And thus, it seems Guiliani’s fall from grace is complete. It can only be hoped that he, and his strident barking at the heels of relevance, will go down with the sinking SS Trump.


Shay V. Carlstrom


Born in Walden, North Park, Colorado, Shay V. Carlstrom is an educator and writer living in Denver.



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