During the last presidential election, Rick Santorum famously told the media that he felt like “this campaign is like an episode of ‘Survivor.’ It’s just a matter of staying in there and doing well.”
It’s hard to disagree with Santorum, especially when the field is this crowded and complicated, stuffed with minor characters and distractions. But to me, there is something that it resembles even more than Survivor. It reminds me of a science fiction movie, specifically one in which the ensemble cast is picked off one-by-one.
It’s standard for Science Fiction films to either wipe out all the characters, all the characters except for one, or leave us with a small rag-tag team of survivors. Examples include: Alien, Predator, Pitch Black, Armageddon, The Matrix, Sunshine, Deep Blue Sea, any zombie movie ever made, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Each of these films begins with a large cast, which we see gradually whittled down until only one or two actors are left. Usually, it’s the actor who got paid the most to be in the movie, just like it’s usually the candidate who spent the most.
Sometimes you know exactly who will make it. And other times, it’s hard to predict who the last human standing will be.
(Please note: when I draw these comparisons and ask if a candidate will “make it,” I’m referring only to their chances of remaining until the end of the election. I’m not suggesting anyone is getting eaten by aliens or turned into a zombie I also haven’t included the photos of the candidates, only their counterparts, because I think we all know what these candidates look like).
Let’s take a look at the who’s who.
Rick Perry is Randy Quaid in Independence Day
He’s a southern good ol’ boy who can’t remember his lines. No one takes him seriously. But he’s good for a few laughs, right up until his storyline resolves itself through a self-inflicted crash (“oops”) and then we go back to the serious characters.
Will he make it? No.
Scott Walker is Kane in Alien
He looks and talks and dresses like he should be the hero and the one who makes it to the end, but it’s far more likely that we will see him as an unexpectedly early exit.
Will he make it? No. And his exit will likely have some drama.
Rand Paul is Mouse in The Matrix
He’s the young hothead, reckless and outspoken. He pushes unique ideas and seeks to change things. But not in a main character way. No, more in the kind of way of that the guy who isn’t going to be in the third act of the film.
Will he make it? Unlikely.
John Kasich is Agent Smith in The Matrix
The most defining characteristic of John Kasich is not fiscal conservatism or his ability to win a swing state. It’s the fact that he hates film and he hates music. In fact, he hates some of the most loved and respected film and music of our time. He hates the Roots. He hates Fargo.
To hate things this deeply, and to hate things that are this deeply human, is to resemble not a human but a machine. His proud philistine stance is what makes him Agent Smith. Smith hated humanity. Kasich hates culture.
Will he make it? Hmm. No.
Marco Rubio is Ben Affleck in Armageddon
He’s young, handsome, and kinda annoying. And if he is with us when the credits roll (i.e. the 2016 election day), it will be because someone older and wiser did him a favor.
Will he make it? Only on someone else’s ticket.
Mike Huckabee is Wilford Brimley in The Thing
He has some strong opinions. Very strong opinions. But his finger-pointing and suspicion of the others does not make him more likeable to anyone. He feuds with the main characters and gets hysterical over his own theories. At times, you wonder if he is someone’s bizarre version of comic relief.
Will he make it? No. But he might destroy a bunch of stuff with an ax.
Ben Carson is Idris Elba in Prometheus
If this weren’t an ensemble cast, this guy would be the main character. He’s cool, well-spoken, smart, and tough. But, too bad for Ben Carson, it is an ensemble cast and he’s not the main character. Maybe next time.
Will he make it? Not this time.
Ted Cruz is Jesse Ventura in Predator
He is a complete scene-stealer, but mostly because of his shocking antics rather than his thoughtful contributions. He’s homophobic, spouts one-liners, and mostly just distracts. It’s okay if you don’t remember he was in the movie, because his character isn’t that important.
Will he make it? No.
Chris Christie is Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception
Inception begins with Leo literally washing up, on a beach in a dreamworld. The entire rest of the movie is him pining for when things were different. Christie is self-admittedly washed-up, polling ninth, pining for a time when the world wanted him (remember 2012?)
They both should have been something greater, but instead they are trapped in a world they created.
Will he make it? If he does, it was a dream the whole time.
Jeb Bush is Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator
The only reason that you know Arnold will survive in Predator is that he’s Arnold. He’s not the most interesting character, or the most likeable, or the best at what he does. But he has one thing that all the others lack: the most recognizable name. And likewise, if Jeb makes it to the end, it will be for this same reason.
Will he make it? If he does, it’s because he had top billing all along.
Donald Trump is LL Cool J in Deep Blue Sea
If there is one character who outlives his expectations, it’s chef “Preacher” Dudley in the super-shark movie Deep Blue Sea. If you haven’t seen Deep Blue Sea, you should. You should also know that it’s completely insane and it makes no sense.
LL Cool J’s character seems initially to be nothing more than a comic relief side character whose story doesn’t even connect to the others. There’s no reason to expect him to live. However, he gradually becomes a central character and is one of the last two characters standing.
This is not to say that Donald Trump will clinch the nomination or the presidency. But just like LL Cool J fighting sharks, he’s already exceeding his expectations and will be a factor until this show is over.
Will he make it? Yes, in one way or another he’ll still be in the spotlight as the story ends. We cannot escape him.
Ronald Reagan is Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars
Based on how often Reagan is mentioned, it’s hard not to imagine that he is attending the debates and press conferences as a force-ghost, offering wisdom and guidance to the living candidates.
Hillary Clinton is Sigourney Weaver in Aliens
She’s tough. She’s smart. She’s uncompromising. And just like Weaver’s Ripley in the 1987 sequel to Alien, we are 99% certain that she will be one of the final survivors.
Will she make it? The only reason she wouldn’t is if it turns out that this isn’t Alien or Aliens but is actually Alien 3 .
Martin O’Malley is the CIA agent from the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises
All right, here’s the joke: Martin O’Malley was depicted by actor Aidan Gillen in The Wire. That actor went on to play the guy who tries to capture Bane at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises (aka Batman 3).
The other way that this fits is that neither Martin O’Malley nor the CIA agent from the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises are relevant to the overall story.
Will he make it? No.
Joe Biden is Matt Damon in the fourth Bourne movie
He’s not in it. Get it? Joe Biden affects the 2016 election in the same way that Matt Damon’s conspicuous absence will affect any Bourne film he isn’t in. And he won’t be in it. He just won’t. Okay?
Will he make it? Guys, he’s not in it.
Bernie Sanders is Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day
He’s fated to never be the main character. He can’t be the protagonist or the hero or the star. Why? Because he’s too honest, he doesn’t look like a star, and he has a funny voice. But his ideas are great. Maybe Will Smith will run for president and Bernie can be his co-pilot?
Will he make it? Maybe.
Is that everyone?
As for the remaining candidates? Republicans Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore? Oh, and Democrats Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee? All of them, as of now at least, are the lawyer in Jurassic Park. They’re just not gonna make it.