Blogging the North Florida Republican Debate

I'm very glad that I don't watch television, especially cable news. (What kind of college student these days would do that, anyway?) If I did, I'm sure I would be constantly inundated with information on the Republican presidential primaries - which would not only be distasteful, but also a waste of time. The most I've actively done so far to keep up with the process is to see who won which states. This evening, though, I did decide - largely because of procrastination - to watch the Republican debate in Jacksonville that took place three days ago on the 26th, the first and probably only debate I'll see. Thus, I thought I'd make the most of it: I blogged it.

To begin with, I could barely get past the first few minutes - not because of the candidates, but because of my shock at the stupidity of the debate structure. One minute to respond to questions? Thirty seconds to rebut? Even the Gettysburg Address, known as one of the most brief, poignant and powerful orations in American history, still took over two minutes to say. A debate is supposed to contain substance - enumerated points of argument and logical back-and-forth - especially concerning complex questions of policy. Instead, it is reduced to soundbites, jibes, and one-sentence expressions of faith.

The first question was supposed to be asked by an audience member, yet Wolf Blitzer immediately spun their query to relate it to a stupid media-manufactured issue of Mitt Romney talking about "self-deportation." Why do corporate media organizations so intently shape conversations in a way that insults the public's intelligence? It's really a self-fulfilling prophecy: If news centered on critically-analyzed issues of policy, rather than day-to-day blown-out-of-proportion tiffs, people would expect a lot more coherence from politicians.

That aside, here's the link to the video I watched, as well as my random observations and comments, referenced by the approximate minute. (I apologize in advance for the imbalance in frequency and length of the comments over time.)

  • 26: Rick Santorum seems to indicate there's a threat of militant Islam growing in Latin America.
  • 32: Romney reveals that, indeed, both he and Newt Gingrich are rich and corrupt barons of the system.
  • 36: Santorum plays nice guy and defends Romney and Gingrich's baronial statuses.
  • 42: As horrible idea as a flat tax is for the U.S., it's oddly refreshing that Gingrich would reference Hong Kong as a model. (I mean seriously, since when did Republicans want to emulate anything foreign?)
  • 56: Ron Paul dares to speak truth to the Republican deity Reagan's failure to have a balanced budget (which in itself is a huge understatement).
  • 1:11: Ron Paul says the other candidates have too much faith in government and that he wants everything to be decided by the people. I guess after decades of being an elected congressman, he doesn't think government is decided by the people. Go figure.
  • 1:15-18: Santorum ends up being the only candidate to talk about his wife in anything close to a romantic way (calling her his "hero" - no candidate using the word love), and everyone except Gingrich seems to have had a plenitude of children.
  • 1:22: Gingrich claims the Reagan mantle. But, disciples present, do you believe this was a holy anointment?
  • 1:26: Following Santorum's idiotic fearmongering concerning foreign policy in Latin America, Ron Paul says nothing about the speaker who preceded him and simply sticks to policy - a very admirable way to go about a discussion.
  • 1:28: Romney says Obama has ignored Latin America, and basically in the same sentence mentions the new free trade agreement with Colombia. Ironic much?
  • 1:37: Romney says our law is based on Judeo-Christian values, which perpetuates a pretty widespread and misleading belief that completely negates the secular European foundation and significant Native American influences that created American government. 
  • 1:47: It's very interesting to me that Santorum frames his ideas as pushing for change from the bottom up. In a way, this makes sense as a thrust against the more government-oriented policy of liberals, but on the other hand it is certifiably false that, given all of the Republicans' ideals of free-marketeering and unencumbered corporate dominance, people at the bottom of society might have any more agency after putting these politicians in power. In fact, they'll have even less, as has been demonstrated by the widening inequalities in opportunity and wealth and increasing corporate takeover we've seen across the country. That, of course, is the fundamental reason why I'm a liberal, and proud to call myself one. (And if anyone is reading this, feel free to discuss these issues with me in the comments below as much as you would like.)

I think I'll finish up with some general comments about the debate: In the first half or so, Romney and Gingrich were given most all of the time to talk, but most of the chatter wasn't about America's present and future, but rather their television ads and personal jabs. (I blame CNN for this and the media establishment in general. Politicians may be behind the idiocy, but it is fully in the power of journalists to force them to talk about real issues.) Gingrich took every opportunity he could to attack, whether it was Romney, Blitzer, or anyone else, and by and large it seemed he was pretty successful in doing that.

By the second half of the debate, though, I felt like things had evened out a little bit, and candidates carefully picked out tactical points of agreement with the others and tactical points of criticism. Although I can't seriously favor any of the candidates by any stretch of the imagination (except to say that I appreciate Ron Paul's foreign policy stance of peace) I will be interested to see how the Florida primary goes on Tuesday and I hope that the primary race remains wide open. Someday I hope that American politics becomes more intellectually diverse and vibrant, unencumbered by this unhealthy two-party system. Until then, though, these sorts of spectacles are, at the very least, somewhat interesting to watch.