I have a confession: I have never read one of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Nor have I taken the time to watch any of the blockbuster films that catapulted Daniel Radcliffe and his co-stars to international fame.
I have no idea if former New Jersey governor and current GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie has read the books or watched the films, either.
But fortunately for me, Ms Rowling’s work has so entered the common lexicon that when Mr Christie invoked the overarching villain of the series during last night’s debate, I understood the reference.
Asked by ex-Fox News star turned NBC News flameout turned right-wing podcast host Megyn Kelly about his dismal approval ratings among the Republican voters who he would need to successfully court in order to displace former president Donald Trump as the party’s nominee in next year’s election, Mr Christie pointed out — quite accurately — that the bizarre scene playing out at the University of Alabama on NewsNation television network was a ridiculous farce.
Not only was Mr Trump snubbing the Republican National Committee-sanctioned debate for the fourth time this election cycle, but three-quarters of the also-rans who were on the stage that night seemed content to attack each other as if Mr Trump didn’t exist.
“We’ve had these three, acting as if the race is between the four of us. The fifth guy who doesn’t have the guts to show up and stand here, he’s the one who as you just put it- is way ahead in the polls. And yet, I’ve got these three guys who are all seeming to compete with, you know, Voldemort…he who shall not be named. They don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
According to Screen Rant, the reason the Potterverse villian’s name is taboo was fully explained in a deleted scene from the second-to-last film in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. In that scene, viewers learn that the reason Voldemort’s name is not spoken aloud stems from a curse that allows his henchmen, known as Death Eaters, to find anyone who would dare utter it.
In a way, the explanation provided in that deleted scene can also explain why Mr Christie’s on-stage opponents — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — are so reluctant to attack Mr Trump in the same way they’d go after the frontrunner in any other election in which they were running.
Not saying Mr Trump’s name — or at least not invoking it critically as Mr Christie has been wont to do since launching his quixotic bid to deny the ex-president the GOP nomination — is a matter of basic self-preservation.
By not attacking the twice-impeached, quadruple-indicted ex-president or criticising him in any but the most oblique terms, each of the candidates is doing what they believe they need to do to stay safe from the more unhinged of Mr Trump’s supporters, who have shown no qualms about threatening the lives of anyone perceived as a threat to him.
It also might be their way of preserving their supposed viability in what looks to be a race to be Mr Trump’s running mate or the nominee for some cabinet post.
But the problem with this sort of thinking is that it’s delusional and requires a suspension of disbelief about Mr Trump’s very nature.
Each of these candidates put themselves on his enemies list by declaring themselves a candidate for the nomination to the office he believes is rightly his.
Because for a man who once declared that “[he] alone can fix” the country’s problems, thinking that you could be president when only Mr Trump is entitled to that office is the ultimate betrayal.