I watched last night’s Republican debate so you wouldn’t have to. Leaving aside the usual mugging by Donald Trump, the usual jousting over side issues like whether Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen, I thought I’d take an impressionistic approach to the debate. You can read the debate transcript here (if you dare), but here is my admittedly personal take on the main messages of the debate.
- Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are coming to take your guns. So you need to elect a Republican who will allow you to keep your guns and to buy many, many more guns while carrying them openly in public.
- Related to (1), ISIS is coming to these shores. In fact, they’re already here. That’s one big reason why everyone needs guns – to protect ourselves from ISIS and other terrorists out to kill Americans on Main Street USA.
- America is weak. Obama has gutted our military. The Iranians and Russians laugh at us. To stop them from laughing, America needs to rebuild its military, buy more weapons, and use them freely. In fact, all the next commander-in-chief needs to do is ask military leaders what they need to win, give them exactly that, then stand back as our military (especially Special Ops troops) kicks ass. Victory!
- America is weak (again), this time economically. The Chinese are kicking our ass. They’re tougher than us and smarter than us. We need to teach them who’s boss, perhaps with a big tariff on Chinese imports, combined with intense pressure on them to revalue their currency.
- The American tax system is unfair to corporations. We need to lower corporate tax rates so that American companies won’t relocate, and also so that American businesses will be more competitive vis-à-vis foreign competitors.
- The most oppressed “minority” in the U.S. are not Blacks or Hispanics or the poor: it’s the police. Yes, the police. They are mistreated and disrespected. Americans need to recognize the police are there to protect them and to defer to them accordingly.
- The only amendment worth citing in the U.S. Constitution is the Second Amendment.
- The National Security Agency, along with all the other intelligence agencies in America, need to be given more power, not less. They need broad and sweeping surveillance powers to keep America safe. Privacy issues and the Fourth Amendment can be ignored. People like Edward Snowden are traitors. “Safety” is everything.
- Bernie Sanders is a joke. Hillary Clinton just might be the anti-Christ.
- Immigrants are a threat, especially if they’re Muslim. They must be kept out of America so that they don’t steal American jobs and/or kill us all.
What I didn’t hear: Anything about the poor, or true minorities, or gender inequities, or the dangers of more war, and so on.
My main takeaway from this debate: Republican candidates live in the United States of Paranoia, a hostile land in which fear rules. Think “Mad Max, Fury Road,” but without any tough females about. (I have to admit I missed Carly Fiorina/Imperator Furiosa on the main stage.)
Only one candidate struck a few tentative notes of accord through bipartisan collaboration and compromise: Ohio governor John Kasich. In his closing statement, he spoke eloquently of his parents’ working-class background. He’s also the only candidate with the guts not to wear the by-now obligatory flag lapel pin. I’m not a Republican, but if I had to vote for one, it would be him. Why? Because he’s the least batshit crazy of the bunch.
Yes, it was a depressing night, one spent in an alternate universe detached from reality. In the end, old song lyrics popped into my head: “paranoia will destroy ya.” Yes, yes it will, America.