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OP-ED | GOP Presidential Debates - Another Dismal Night for Progress

by | Sep 19, 2015 2:00pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Analysis, US Foreign Policy, Election 2016, Opinion, Millennial Voices, White House

This week’s Republican presidential debates supplied plenty of evidence that the GOP candidates are still pandering to the extreme right-wing factions in their party. For women and people of color, for students and seniors, for middle class Americans of all stripes, the 15 Republican candidates offered little reason to be enthusiastic.

While expounding at length about the rights of homophobic florists and bakers, Donald Trump and Co. blatantly ignored many of the most pressing issues of our time. Only one question addressed the urgent crisis of global warming, and the three candidates who responded to it whiffed big time. Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Chris Christie, and Gov. Scott Walker all reaffirmed their commitment to put profits ahead of our planet.

During five hours of debate, not a single candidate mentioned income inequality, college affordability, police brutality, or campaign finance reform. And those are just a few of the important issues ignored by the Republicans last night.

They had plenty of time to talk about shutting down the government, however, and to take President Obama to task for refusing to traffic in their brand of Islamophobia. It was striking really — asked about discrimination against Muslims, Gov. Bobby Jindal claimed the real victims were Christians like Kim Davis, the bigoted Kentucky clerk engaged in a futile attempt to impose her religious views on gay couples seeking to be married in her county.

Former Govs. Jeb Bush and George Pataki were the only candidates to vocally oppose Davis’ stance, because, they said, it was important to follow the law even if you personally disagreed with it. In a country where a solid majority of people support marriage equality, not a single Republican candidate took a stand on the right side of history.

On the subject of foreign policy, only two candidates hesitated to support further Republican warmongering in the Middle East. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked his fellow candidates to commit to deploying thousands of American troops to fight a ground war against the Islamic State, and two of three readily agreed. Left unexplained was how the toxic combination of American military misadventures and violently anti-Muslim rhetoric would help to defeat radical Islam. You cannot drone strike an idea — Western values are only going to gain ground in the Middle East if we can change hearts and minds.

But nuance is not the GOP way. On issue after issue, Republican candidates chose simplistic and blunt solutions over more thoughtful ones. Trump’s infamous pledge to build a massive wall along the Mexican border went unchallenged, and indeed it seemed to have support from most of the candidates. Never mind the fact that such walls have a historically dismal success record over the long term (China’s Great Wall and Hadrian’s Wall being just two examples).

When it comes to dealing with adversarial foreign leaders, the GOP candidates have a simple solution — don’t. Carly Fiorina promised to give Vladimir Putin the silent treatment, and Walker suggested disinviting Xi Jinping from a White House state dinner. Gone are the days of Republican leaders like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, men who could sit down with foreign adversaries and make progress for the good of all involved. These days, the Republican approach to diplomacy is simple: just say “no.”

At some points, the debate veered into the realm of the surreal. Sen. Ted Cruz, in his never-ending effort to get to the ideological right of Attila the Hun, blasted the Bush family for appointing insufficiently conservative Supreme Court justices. Zeroing in on Chief Justice John Roberts, Cruz took issue with the Court’s two 5-4 decisions that upheld Obamacare.

Cruz is partly right; the Roberts Court did make a disastrous 5-4 decision opposed by most Americans — Citizens United. But if you thought Bush or Cruz would to take issue with the legalized bribery Citizens United has unleashed, you clearly must have forgotten the nearly $200 million from wealthy donors they’ve raised since entering the race in the spring.

All in all, it was a dismal night for progress, yet another reminder that one of our country’s two political parties has veered right off a cliff. Even they would seem to agree. All of the candidates seem to be ignoring the 2012 post-mortem, which says they need to focus on immigration reform and embrace minorities and gays.

Sooner or later, Republican voters have to wake up from their five-year Tea Party bender. I just hope they realize their mistake before it’s too late, and we’re reading President Trump’s Inaugural Tweet. Until they sober up, however, it’s up to the rest of us to prevent our country from falling into their hands.

Kiernan Majerus-Collins, 20, is a student at Bates College and a Democratic Town Committee member from West Hartford. He can be reached on Facebook

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(15) Archived Comments

posted by: rpk31 | September 19, 2015  6:54pm

SCHOCK: Loyal Democrat, member of his local Democratic Town Committee wasn’t impressed by the Republican Presedential debate. In other news, the sky was blue today.

posted by: Lio | September 19, 2015  7:55pm

This kid seriously thinks Muslims invading our country is not a serious issue? Look at all the sodier age men “seeking refuge”. Wake up.

posted by: oldtimer | September 20, 2015  9:22am

The headline should read… “Another Dismal Night For Progressives”. The Republican debates have shown there are 10-12 candidates aptly capable of running the country and undoing the grave damage Obama has done to our once proud nation. As for the Progressives, they have Hillary, (who is sinking fast, even among dems and women), and no one else…

posted by: LE 2015 | September 20, 2015  10:39am

Neither party is doing anything for middle or lower class?

posted by: MGKW | September 20, 2015  12:39pm

What scares me most is the we will be involved in another war within 12 months of their election despite what they are saying now—-don’t trust them….we saw what happened the last time that was tried…see GW Bush…the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and getting the same result…see Einstein…note to rpk31 shock is spelled without the c.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | September 20, 2015  7:53pm

“...urgent crisis of global warming…”


Blood letting, flat earth, and an earth centric solar system were once also “settled science”.

posted by: Politijoe | September 20, 2015  8:38pm


@Kiernan: I think you summed up the GOP campaign circus quite well and the GOP clown car certainly didn’t disappoint. The Republican field is a dysfunctional mess between bad and worse. As a result, the GOP will ultimately nominate the established candidate, Jeb Bush if for no other reason, he remains their only viable choice. The Dems unfortunately are in the same boat with Sanders as a real long shot without party affiliation or enough funding and the possibility of a Biden-Warren ticket, which would be a game changer for HRC, but lacking this, simply by default, they will nominate Clinton.

The worse part of all this would be the dismal reality of another Bush-Clinton election and what that says about our national politics. Both these candidates and their respective family policies have done irreparable harm to the middle-class. They are each part of the problem, not the solution and thats the point. Both parties have sold-out the middle-class and working poor. Candidates from both parties have become Wall Street ventriloquists and corporate shills.

It’s time we take our country back from the plutocrats who’s strategy has been to neutralize middle-class representation, concentrate the wealth and create the oligarchy we have today. They have consolidated the political power and confiscated the nations wealth. The only thing left is our collective vote, which is the one thing they fear. So long as they keep us distracted with silly notions of African Americans, Gays, Muslims, War, Immigrants, Mexicans, birth certificates, Sharia law, freeloaders, takers, and instability, they keep us divided. This insidious strategy is designed to squander our rights, pilfer our treasury, spill our blood, and produce death by a thousand cuts. We must begin to recognize the broader dynamics at play and demand change.

posted by: Truth_To_Power | September 21, 2015  9:58am

I have to agree with Politjoes’ statement dated September 20, 2015 8:38pm.

I reserve the right to disagree with some or all of his ‘solutions’, etc, but this summary is spot on

posted by: Politijoe | September 21, 2015  10:19am


@Truth:  I’m pleased we have agreement on the fundamental issue that Washington is not looking out for the best interests of the middle class. The Washington elite are beholden to the monied interest of corporate America and have sold-out the middle class. Recognizing this reality is the first step in taking our country back from the brink of an oligarchy. I believe we have to determine what got us here and what keeps us here. That will point us to the solutions we need to make the necessary changes

posted by: Greg | September 21, 2015  1:44pm

O pls, Kiernan…

Democrats talk a big game on Citizens United, but sure don’t slow down once they get to Greenwich for fundraisers. Perhaps we can take a look at all the wealthy donors to Hillary’s campaign and the Clinton Foundation…

“All of the candidates seem to be ignoring the 2012 post-mortem, which says they need to focus on immigration reform and embrace minorities and gays”

And what did your party just do in Hartford with Bronin…ya know, the wealthy white boy from Greenwich?  Perhaps not national news, but illustrative of your own party’s hypocrisy around “minorities and gays” in a VERY minority inner city.

“On issue after issue, Republican candidates chose simplistic and blunt solutions over more thoughtful ones”

Bernie’s platform?  “Free everything for everyone!” Blunt and simplistic, maybe?

And I’ll end with Democratic foreign policy since you had this gem of a line:

“You cannot drone strike an idea”

O RLY?  Perhaps you can take that to Obama (D) or Clinton (D) or Biden (D) on the subject of drone strikes, or supplying ISIS with weapons in Syria, or destabilizing Libya & Egypt to the point of radical Islam filling the void, along with the constant saber rattling with Russia. Oh, and getting punkd by Putin on the subject of Syrian chemical weapons while Obama and Kerry were itching to invade, only to be met with vicious public opposition to the idea?

Care to tell us how the Democrats are agents of spreading peace and stability all over the planet?

Please, kind sir, stop acting like the Republicans have a monopoly on corruption and warmongering since we can go tit-for-tat on how the Democrats have gone straight off the cliff with the GOP. Sure, make a mockery of the GOP field since they certainly deserve it, but please cease the party-hack arguments of Democratic purity since they are absolutely indefensible when held to the same standard you hold the GOP.

posted by: NoNonsense | September 21, 2015  2:54pm

@MGKW: The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.

posted by: Salmo | September 21, 2015  4:53pm

To Politijoe: Sir, if by chance or circumstance we should ever meet it will be my very great pleasure and privilege to buy you a beer!

posted by: art vandelay | September 21, 2015  8:42pm

art vandelay

And what’s your solution? Which candidate do you feel will fulfill your wishes?  The only one I can conclude from your outline is Bernie Sanders.  I don’t believe we are ready to elect a devout Socialist.  Wait one second.  This nation has had a Socialist in the White House for the past 6 1/2 years.

posted by: art vandelay | September 22, 2015  12:31am

art vandelay

@Kieman Majerus-Collins,
Your naivety and innocence of the world reminds me of the character Pavel Pavlovich in the epic novel Dr. Zhivago.  When the change he sought became a reality, he was simply used as a pawn. My advise is beware of what you wish for.  The grass is not always greener on the other side.

posted by: Politijoe | September 22, 2015  6:50am


@Salmo: Thank you

@Art: If you think Obama is a Socialist you don’t have a clue about the definition of Socialism. You ask which candidate I think understands the system of oligarchy that threatens this nation, who understands and speaks about the need to restore middle class economics, what candidate mentions wealth concentration, taxation, corporate welfare, bloated defense budgets, failing infrastructure, accessible healthcare, and educational opportunities? the same candidate that’s talking about unfettered capitalism, deregulated markets, trade imbalances and citizens united. About the only candidate that discuss the issue of mass incarceration or perpetual war, militarized police departments, campaign finance reforms, voter suppression, living wages for the working poor and middle-class wage stagnation. Bernie Sanders and although she hasn’t announced Elizabeth Warren. If Trump-the devout capitalist-cared enough about the middle-class to include half these issues on his platform, I would support him. For me, it’s about the person, the issues and the middle-class….simple.

Your consistent attempts to demonize “Socialism” is based on a false argument and myth. The U.S. already employs socialist medicine in our V.A and Medicare healthcare systems. Our fire, police and public schools, our libraries and public universities are also socialistic models.

A Democratic Socialist is not a Marxist or Communist. A Democratic socialist, like Sanders, is one who seeks to restrain the self-destructive excesses of unfettered capitalism and channel the government use of our tax dollars into creating opportunities for everyone. Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet public needs and not simply for the profit of a few. Most importantly, for your reference, a Democratic Socialist does not want to destroy private corporations or steal their wealth but does want to bring them under greater democratic control as they were intended. This can be through regulations and tax incentives to encourage corporations to act in the best interest of the public good and hold those accountable who engage in destructive activities. For example, tanking the global economy and losing trillions in middle-class wealth. Out sourcing jobs for greater profit-at the expense of middle-class wages, willfully engaging in corporate inversion to avoid contributing their fair share (ratio relative to income) to federal tax revenues. Polluting our water and air with financial and legal impunity.

Many European nations are Democratic Socialists. Many are doing extremely well and most have a much higher rate of organized labor. As a result of these things most European citizens enjoy a better quality of life as a result. Namely because in Europe, the governments fear its people….in the U.S the people fear its government.

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