I feel like a person should be forgiven for, upon hearing of the field for the first Republican debate for the 2024 election, saying, "Nah, I'm good. I don't need to watch that."
Which, of course, feels terrible to say. This is our country we're talking about. This is our democracy. Don't we owe it to ourselves (if not our fellow citizens) to watch the cvil exchange of ideas, to weigh the policy differences of the candidates, to assess them with an open mind?
But Charles Pierce, on his politics blog for Esquire, summed it up succinctly:
It was in no sense a debate because the Republican Party is in no sense a political party any more. It is an incoherent rolling ball of negative energy that feeds on grievance and victimhood and political punchlines, most of which are not funny, except for the initiates. Hence, we got what we got Wednesday night, which was in no sense a debate, but which also was...something.
I guess the part that I struggle with is questioning whether it was somehow wrong of me to assume that would always be the case, and as a result, to opt out of watching. I feel both vindicated from the podcasts I've reviewed of the night's highlights and from Pierce's words, which could be read as comedic but only slightly, but I don't think I feel good about feeling vindicated.
I think I wish I'd checked all the sources I trust and value to find out that I'd missed a real exchange of ideas. That the candidates went after the guy who's leading the field, spoke honestly about why they're running against him, and then presented ideas that represented their political ideology.
But, as Pierce highlights, a straightforward question from a high school student about climate changed saw the candidates tripping over themselves not to acknowledge the reality of the issue.
Unless you count the response of Vivek Ramaswamy, whom many consider to have "won" the debate last night, in which he said:
“Let us be honest as Republicans — I’m the only person on the stage who isn’t bought and paid for, so I can say this — the climate change agenda is a hoax...And so the reality is more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change.”
It's hard to feel like I missed anything worth a count if this is from the guy who "won." And it's hardly any consolation to know that it's not going to be any more substantive when the guy leading in the polls joins the debate.
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