Opinion

Democalypse 2016: CNN’s GOP debate

I’d like to start out this edition by thanking the Macalester community for the overwhelmingly supportive response to my first article. I didn’t expect such a positive reception, especially from my Democratic peers and I’m very happy to have initiated some sort of discussion through a conservative lens on such a liberal campus.

Wednesday night brought the country’s attention back to the candidates vying for the GOP nomination, adding a fresh face to the prime-time, “varsity” stage: Carly Fiorina.

The second debate was critical for many of the candidates lagging behind in the
polls. For those performing poorly in the numbers, this debate was do or die in the sense that donors are getting worried. While money in politics continues to be an issue, there is no argument that funding at this stage is critical to the vitality of campaign; Rick Perry knows this sad truth all too well having suspended his campaign earlier last week. For this reason it is all too important to gauge those who performed exceptionally well (Fiorina, Rubio, Christie) and the one big loser of the evening.

So what are the takeaways from this showdown? One important component I’ d like to touch upon is the loser of the debate: the host, CNN. The FOX News debate was praised for doing away with “softball” questions and asking tough, substantive questions of each of the candidates. CNN framed the questioning in this debate as if it were a Real Housewives “tell all” episode. A Politico article described the format as “too long and loosely governed.” The questions were intended to spark a reaction and mudslinging amongst candidates in a way to get ratings. Very few substantive policy issues were even addressed and if the candidate didn’t fully answer a question, Jake Tapper just moved on.

Fiorina was asked to respond to Trump’s recent comments about her appearance, Trump was asked about his comments toward Jeb Bush’s wife Columba, the business records of Fiorina and Trump were compared at length even though the American people could “care less about [their] careers” as Governor Christie so bluntly declared. The questions focused on the candidates personal lives and attacks rather than their plans for the future of our country, culminating in the substantive question of “what would you want your secret service code name to be?”

While CNN clearly lost the purpose of the debate, voters were brought back to substance and leadership from a few shining stars. Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, has been cloaked in controversy over the past several months from the questionable closure of the George Washington bridge as a potential act of political retribution. Christie has struggled to regain the trust of the electorate despite his no nonsense, “tell it like it is” form of governing. This debate may serve as the comeback of Christie who became the adult in the room when he effectively brought the attention from business track records back to the middle class, saying, “While I’m as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth about the history of Donald and Carly’s careers, for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education, I’ve got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers, they care about theirs. Let’s start talking about that on this stage and stop playing the games.” Christie said what so many Americans had wanted to say for months: This election isn’t about the careers or personal lives of the candidates, it’s about getting the country on the right course and addressing the needs of everyday Americans. He took a stand for the American people at this point in the debate and I believe that exemplified the rationality and strength of a leader.

Aside from the leadership demonstrated by Christie, another candidate showed substantive ideas and policies in an otherwise vague display of foreign policy amongst the candidates. Marco Rubio, the junior Senator from Florida, proved why so many see him as main contender for the GOP nomination through his strong policy ideas and astounding oratory skills. When Trump attacked him on his absence of Senate votes, Rubio acknowledged these missed votes but explained he wasn’t there because he was in Florida with the constituents, something the Washington insiders seem to never do.

Rubio also used Trump’s attack on Jeb Bush’s Spanish language use as a means to show his leadership. Rubio argued that he will continue to speak Spanish because he doesn’t want those who don’t speak English to get their information from a translator; he wants it to come directly from him. This break away from the stereotypical “Anti-Dual Language” rhetoric of the Republican Party is outstanding as it shows there are candidates who understand the importance of bilingualism in a new American century.

Despite the questions of some skeptics, Carly Fiorina proved why she belonged in the primetime spotlight — she not only held her ground on a stage of all men, she crushed it. While she hasn’t been polling well over the last few months, Fiorina has proved she is a force to be reckoned with. Answering each question with substantial policy positions along with dominating the discussion of business records with Trump, she put him in his place. I think Fiorina is the new candidate to watch on the Republican side. Forget Trump, to paraphrase Fiorina: “I think [this country] heard very clearly what
Trump has had to say.”

So what can be said about this debate?

I believe it shows the beginning of the end of Mr. Donald Trump. He looked exhausted, low energy and wasn’t quick on his feet. The campaign may be taking a toll on him and I believe voters can see that. In addition, establishment candidates have held their own consistently and voters are beginning to see why the Rubios and Christies may be just what America needs. The main conclusion I have made, and hope remains true in weeks to come: Donald Trump fever may finally have a cure.

September 25, 2015

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