Some reflections on the latest Republican debate.
The fourth Republican debate occurred on November 10, and with it, the American people once again had a chance to see candidates argue about who is the best option to take on the Democratic nominee (also known as Hillary Clinton — sorry Bernie). The major change from the prior debates was the dropping of two more candidates, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee, from the main stage. As a result, eight major contenders remain. In order of the most recent poll numbers, they are: Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich.
Many of the hot button issues, from immigration to health care, were touched upon and many of the candidates did what all politicians, left and right alike, do best — spin the question to make the point that they actually want to talk about. If you’re Marco Rubio, it’s about how your parents are immigrants who built themselves up and gave him a chance to succeed. For Donald Trump, it’s about vague words like greatness and how he doesn’t have time for the losers around him. For Jeb Bush, it’s about how much better of a candidate he would be than Secretary Clinton. And for Ted Cruz, it’s probably about anything other than the fact that he was born in Canada.
But, despite the pandering, dodging, and spin, the debate truly did reveal many interesting points surrounding the candidates. When asked about immigration, two of the debaters — Trump and Kasich — were able to argue over the proper way to deal with undocumented immigrants. Trump took the economically, socially, and humanitarianly unfeasible stance of shipping eleven million people over the border. He even praised President Eisenhower’s Operation Wetback, a mass deportation on which history does not shine very brightly. Kasich would not have that, and gave one of the most impassioned responses of the night, arguing that such an idea — beyond being impossible — is a complete disregard to the families and children of law-abiding, good people who simply want to live in this country. He, at this moment at least, urged for the return of compassion to the American people, something that the left often accuses the right of lacking. Unfortunately, his fire and passion led to him constantly interrupting and appearing un-Presidential throughout the night.
This moment was one of many throughout the night that showed two or three candidates talking earnestly about a topic that they seemed to understand and want to grapple with. There were moments when Fiorina analyzed, with poise and expertise, health care and foreign policy, showing her acumen despite being a political outsider. There were moments when Bush finally grew a spine, stood up to the bashing he has received, and made intelligent, if not soft-spoken, defenses of his policies. And there were moments where Rand Paul called out American intervention and then called out Trump for not even knowing the countries involved in a trade deal.
These are all important moments. This debate was an important moment, insofar as it is seen as a demonstration that, when give the opportunity, the GOP candidates have interesting, thought-out opinions on matters that affect the public.
What is more important, however, is that it doesn’t seem to matter. Trump and/or Carson have kept a stranglehold on the polls since summer and no one seems to know when or if that will end.
As a self-identified libertarian, I would most likely be inclined to vote Republican in the next election, as I have in the two elections in which I have had the privilege to vote. As a self-identified libertarian, I tend to enjoy political outsiders as refreshing alternatives to the cronyism, greed, corruption, and willful ignorance of the establishment. But, as a self-identified libertarian, I could not, in good conscience, support either of those leaders as the next President. I could never wish for a President who will inhumanely tear apart families and deport eleven million law-abiding immigrants. I could never support a President who is wiling to lie about admission to our noble service academy or claim that homosexuality is a choice and the proof is found in prisons, despite his brilliance in surgery.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a coalition that does wish to vote for these men. There seem to be very few people who like the idea of a relatively moderate candidate, like Kasich, who has experience in banking, as well as the congressional and gubernatorial levels. There seem to be very few people who like the idea of a strong-willed, incredibly articulate business woman, like Fiorina, who has fought cancer and, regardless of her rocky record as CEO of HP, rose from the bottom of the business chain to the very top. There seem to be very few who want the sons of immigrants, like Rubio and Cruz, who have experience in overlooking foreign policy and domestic issues in our senate.
I am not saying I support each and every opinion of these candidates. Far from that, in fact. I am saying that this election process is making me become disillusioned in American politics in general. The Democrats are seeing a one-person race, hiding behind the illusion that two others have a shot and dethroning someone whose entire career has been centered on this moment. The Republicans are seeing a race led by two people who are unequivocally unfit to hold the position of the Presidency.
Maybe this is the America that we have found ourselves in. This article is not going to end with me supporting a specific candidate for this or that. Maybe I’ll write that article one day.
But for today, I will simply sigh and continue to watch this election cycle unfold. I hope that change will come and the Republican Party will see that it is digging its own grave with the support for Trump and Carson. Hope and change seemed to work for the other party, after all.
Sean Frazzette ’16 (firstname.lastname@example.org) likes writing sports more than thinking unhappy thoughts.