I did it! On August 6th 2015, I completed my first endurance test as I slogged through a national tragedy called the Republican debate. It was a brutal display of predictable nativism, ignorant bluster, safe generalities and tactical avoidance. The format and the number of candidates (ten) guaranteed a disjointed and substantively incomplete outcome. Nevertheless, any reasonable, rational citizen that encompassed the 24 million people who watched the debate, would have walked away deeply disturbed about a political party in shambles.
On paper, one would purport that most of the men on the main stage (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul) hold or held political positions of heft as governors, former governors or current senators that could bring potency to their candidacies. The potential in a democracy for independents to challenge the orthodoxy and status quo was represented by Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson (no apologies for the lack of focus on the kiddie club of other candidates that are reportedly vying for the nomination). But when you dig deeper into their records, proposals and ideas, you come away alarmed and nervous about an America under their watch.
The debate didn't assuage any of those concerns, only enhanced them. Donald Trump denigrated women as ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,' brought to light by Fox News Channel moderator Megyn Kelly. His other disparaging comments regarding Mexico, China, Blacks and the birther movement have also been chronicled. You had Dr. Ben Carson as the second prominent independent up there on stage actually talking about a ten percent tax plan through nationalized tithing? You can't make this stuff up. It is especially disheartening for me to see this brilliant surgeon who transformed neurosurgery, mastered groundbreaking operations and wrote a wonderful book on his journey called The Gifted Hands, align with these men and that party.
There were Mike Huckabee and Marco Rubio talking about unborn fetuses deserving due process under the 5th and 14th amendments; Jeb Bush trying to convince viewers on how conservative he is; and Scott Walker scares me the most because he seems to be the least invested and easily influenced by the worst of the hard right -- downright sneaky in his person and politics, over his head and he simply can’t be trusted. His heartlessness on abortion and the life of the mother was called out and he didn’t own his words. Ted Cruz claimed to be the truth-teller of the bunch and his voting record validates his extremism. Chris Christie was doing his best interpretation of Obama in saying ‘look at what the previous administration left me’ impersonation. But Chris Christie has been running for president for three years now and his abandonment of New Jersey and ineffectual record will ultimately doom him. John Kasich, touting accomplishments, reasonableness and moderation will need to hold up under scrutiny of his record and democratic research groups. Rand Paul, what can I say? He was there, I guess. Paul and his Republican colleagues may have circumvented Kentucky law that says a Kentucky Senator can’t run for president and remain in his/her position at the same time, but his presidential adventure is dead on arrival.
Well, there you have it, the best and brightest the Republican Party has to offer. Are you reaching for the prescription drugs, yet? When I think about the conservative vision for America in its current state, I see a Republican Party that is systematically stripping away voting rights of Blacks, Hispanics and young people of all stripes, regardless of color. Machetes to domestic programs that aid the poor and middle class. A maniacal thirst to reduce the roles of the insured; a party that is waiting for the right circumstances to cut Social Security and Medicare programs irresponsibly; cuts to research and development; starve or pay for infrastructure with callous offsets of programs that benefit the most vulnerable among us; more corporatization of Supreme Court judges; reversing Roe v Wade; cutting food protections; reduce safety protections; tax cuts for the rich; the dismantling of bank and consumer protection laws as if the trillion dollars in lost household wealth never occurred. And any discourse on ‘race’ and diversity in America will somehow be channeled back to white rage and fear.
The GOP debate only confirmed my suspicion that the modern conservative vision of awfulness is in safe hands with this cast of characters. The Republican Party owes this country an apology for what it's become. And I’ve seen enough.