On Tuesday night, the country was subjected yet again to another Republican presidential debate. In Oregon, we had a Democratic debate for the three candidates running to replace disgraced Congressman David Wu. So I went to the campaign headquarters of my chosen candidate, the only female in the race and the one who is expected to win. The debate was low key, but I saw the full staff of her campaign. All I can say is that I have never seen so many people on a non-presidential campaign before. This is the most professional and organized campaign I have ever seen, which has good points and bad points. It seems more like a Senate campaign than a Congressional campaign.
Anyhow, I did not get to see the Republican debate yet. In fact, I've missed the past several. I don't know why they are having weekly debates. What more could they discuss that they haven't already? I don't remember this many debates in 2004. In 2008, there were a lot on both sides, but I figured that the interest in the presidential campaign was higher in 2007-2008 because of the desire of the country to move on from the Bush disaster, as well as the historic nature of the real prospect of having our first black or first female president.
In the post-debate analysis, it appears that once again, Mitt Romney was the winner. Herman Cain was the center of controversy this time as the moderator Anderson Cooper and the other candidates just harped on his 9-9-9 plan. Things got really testy between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, which led to Romney at one point putting his hand on Perry's shoulder. Wow, you don't see that very often!
What these debates are good for, though, is seeing the audience reaction. Its become a gladiatorial battle of sorts, with the conservative audience screaming out for blood. In previous debates, the audience showed a preference for killing prisoners, for letting someone without health insurance to die, for disrespecting an active duty soldier serving in Iraq just because he happens to be gay. In this debate, the idea being promoted is a fence along our 2,000 mile border with Mexico. Cain said that it should be electrified so it could kill Mexicans who dare to climb it. Wow. Really? Bachmann was in favour of a double fence. How strange this party has become! From Reagan's famous declaration in Berlin: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" to now advocating an ugly wall to seal our border with Mexico. Even Perry had some sense about the futility and expense of this. He said that it would take a decade to a decade and a half, and tens of millions of dollars. Who's going to pay for it? Its doubtful that corporations care about illegals coming into the country, so that leaves cash-strapped state governments or our federal government to pick up the bill, which teabaggers don't want to pay for. What a freaking party! It is baffling that anyone in 2011 could still consider themselves a Republican. This party is such an embarrassment that I wish they would just stay in Vegas and shut the fuck up.
For me, one of the most telling things about the debate is the line-up, which is based on the candidate's popularity in the polls. Notice how Michele Bachmann is now on furthest edge (the far right for those watching them). A few debates ago, she was in between Romney and Perry. Now, she's practically marginalized. Herman Cain has moved into the top three positions occupied in the center. Huntsman opted to campaign in New Hampshire rather than participate in another debate. That's probably a smart choice.
Let's hope that this is the last debate for awhile. I wish moderators or pundits would read the Miranda rights before the debate. They should tell the candidates: "Everything you say can and WILL be used against you in the general election next year!" So, pandering to the ignorance and prejudice of the conservative evangelical Christian base might help win the primary, but it will not win the independent voter. A famous Abraham Lincoln quote comes to mind about remaining silent so people can think you are wise, rather than risking it by speaking your mind and removing all doubt. This is good advice for the Republican candidates to follow (though it's too late now).