The American people are angry and they want they want their anxieties and fears put to rest. From the Republican presidential candidates they are getting slogans, platitudes, sound bites, and fighting words geared to do just that. They love it. This indeed was the takeaway from the Republican presidential candidates’ debate on Tuesday night.
None of the politicians care about giving real answers. The rhetoric was not about what is feasible or believable or doable or legal. All the listeners heard from these leaders was how they would make their problems disappear. Being tough will do it and then we all will be happy again.
No candidate suggested that while they may agree with the public’s desires, but it does not really work that way. As Peter Finch’s character Howard Beale, said in the movie NETWORK: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”. Unfortunately presidents lead and not by merely following the shouting. What we have seen is that whoever is more outrageous and responds to the public drum beat becomes the leading voice, as the Republican Party prepares to actually begin its selection process in Iowa at the beginning of February.
CNN tried to make the candidates focus on national security and foreign policy issues but most of the candidates kept the conversation away from substantive answers. Donald Trump proclaimed his recognition that with respect to defense, nuclear means having power and passed on explaining what the nuclear triad meant. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz supported carpet bombing Syria and getting the bad guys with no consideration of collateral damage. Ben Carson was commenting on his visit to Jordan and Carly Fiorina was stressing her long experience dealing with China.
Beyond the pettiness and pushing of the one liners, sarcastic personal digs, and pushing up the volume it was a rough scene, although it was a visual love fest. Trump pushed his poll numbers again and again; Christie his success as a prosecutor; Cruz his religious faith; Rubio tried to look presidential; and everyone hated immigrants—in way or another. The voters meanwhile continued to search for slogans.
In fairness, in many American homes it is these very outrageous ideas which have dominated conversations over dinners for years. Now there are presidential candidates who are speaking that talk and the Republican base is excited. The most experienced and educated of the candidates all know that this is not a recipe for governing. They are afraid to tell the truth of how difficult it will be to itself; meanwhile they feed the growing anger of the public with a continuing menu of raw meat.
Maybe Santa Claus will force them all to take a break.