"Well you're a waste of space..."
Plenty of half-wit shysters are throwing their half-baked hot takes out into cyberspace tonight, so I figured, why not me?
I actually managed to finish watching the whole damn thing, with much aid from beer and tequila. That was the only way to swim against the tide of bullshit while keeping my sanity intact. Plenty of other people will be talking about who "won," but that's not my concern here. Instead, I'd like to get into what the debate says more broadly about the Republican party.
In the first place, it shows the centrality of Fox News to the GOP, to the point that by cutting off the debate at ten according to their own criteria, Fox was allowed to essentially be the gatekeeper in this election. Watching the debate it was also obvious that Trump was getting questions not about the issues, but about himself, questions obviously intended to undermine him. Fox seems desperate, like the GOP leadership, to make him just go away.
The debate also illustrated quite a bit about the Republican party line, and the positions one must hold to be a contender for the Republican presidential nomination. Here, in no particular order, are the policy positions that seemed universally supported by the candidates:
- Lowering taxes
- Increasing defense spending
- Reducing the deficit (evidently by magic if taxes are cut and defense increased)
- Slashing the social safety net
- Limiting immigration
- Denying the existence of structural racism
- Banning abortion
- Starting new wars in the Middle East
- Letting Israel dictate American foreign policy
- Refusing to back the nuclear deal with Iran
In addition to these basic notions, several candidates called for a flat tax, border wall, and elimination of the Common Core. Gay marriage dropped off a bit, replaced by the "religious persecution" dog whistle, which implies that not allowing Christians to discriminate against gay people is some kind of oppression against Christians. There actually weren't a lot of points of friction, apart from everyone other than Trump going after him. The biggest came between Chris Christie and Rand Paul over government surveillance.
It is also obvious after this debate that the Republican party needs Ben Carson as a cover for deflecting charges of racism. Carson himself attacked the very notion that racism exists in this country, allowing Republicans to say that a Bonafide Black Person backs them up. Carson was the only candidate asked about "race relations," which seemed to make the intentions of the debate organizers pretty obvious. (Or just expose them as racists.) Scott Walker got a question about police brutality, but completely deflected it. There was no real discussion of racist policing, a burning issue in this country for the past year. That silence is telling indeed.
Another thing I noticed was that the Republican party is dancing on a volcano, as far as religion is concerned. The question at the end about whether candidates had talked to God was pretty ridiculous, but some of the answers were downright scary. Scott Walker talked about being washed in the blood of the lamb in a way that would make anyone who's not an evangelical Protestant nervous about having him as president. Many candidates, like Cruz, also sounded the alarm about "religious persecution" which is a neat trick to avoid being direct about their homophobia, but still made him sound like someone suspicious of those who don't hold his beliefs.
Last, but not least, the debate has raised the profile of John Kasich, who had barely made it in. Unlike the likes of Cruz, Paul, Trump, et al, Kasich actually seems like a serious man. I got to thinking about this, and realized that this might a long con by the Republicans who are putting out a bunch of loonies so that a candidate who still follows their limiting and damaging ideology gets elected because he looks sane by comparison. Kasich, despite not being a nutter, has still gone after labor and abortion rights in an aggressive fashion. He also distinguished himself by discussing attending a gay wedding recently, unaware of the irony that if it was up to him, that wedding never would have actually happened. Despite this hypocrisy, Kasich's star has risen because he looks like a gem compared to the turds he's surrounded by. I will enjoy watching the continuing saga of my favorite reality TV show.