Reality TV Politics Gets Blood in the Water

It’s like a political version of Survivor: 10 candidates in the running, with a few you simply want to stick around for a while for their entertainment value…but hell if you want them to win! Well, maybe that’s just me.

Let’s attempt to take a more serious look at the third GOP debate, now that even NBC’s backers have declared it an outrageous failure and added some drama (perhaps intentional?) to the whole spectacle.

Saying the debate was a bit chaotic would be putting it mildly. While Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump all stepped out onto the stage like ducks in a row, clearly not all of them had their ducks in a row. Furthermore, the fairly obvious attempts of the moderators to turn the debate into popcorn-worthy entertainment rather than an actual opportunity to explore the candidates’ views were finally attacked by a few debaters themselves—namely Rubio and Cruz.

To be fair, many of the questions aimed at specific candidates seemed to also be about those sharing the stage with them, whereas Democratic debate moderators kept their questions closely aligned with the candidate they were addressing. But I think Rubio’s assertion that there is a “left wing” media bias is preposterous. If there was, they wouldn’t have been declaring Clinton the winner over Sanders despite public polling to the opposite effect. They wouldn’t be focusing on him—Rubio—either, as he’s a bit of a centrist compared to quasi-outsiders like Rand Paul.

What you believe about politics is pretty damn near irrelevant during these debates. Political beliefs only become important when you step into the voting booths or mail your ballot. What matters during debates? Your beliefs about the candidates, of course. And those views are arguably shaped by the moderation of the debates, accessibility of the media videos and transcripts following (not everyone is on a schedule where they can view the debates live), and the quality of each candidates answers.

Unfortunately, while some of the GOP candidates have a point about the quality of debate moderation and the methods of questioning—as well as the treatment of certain candidates before the event, that’s not exactly a free pass, for the following reasons:

(1) Bad testing occurs everywhere. If they don’t like the questions and think their odds aren’t as good because of an unfair system, perhaps that’s a good insight into what it’s like to be an average American. Maybe they’ll start to understand the frustration of teachers and students struggling with piss poor excuses for education via standardized testing. Maybe they’ll understand for a moment what it’s like to realize that sometimes you can’t “win” without either lying or dodging the rules.

(2) Just because the moderators ask questions that allow them an opportunity to attack another colleague doesn’t mean they have to take the bait. They also don’t have to get defensive. They don’t have to raise their voice (*cough, cough* Kasich! *cough*) either.

(3) The blatant lies in responses to many of the questions prove that the quality of moderators is not the primary catalyst for the disgracefully disorganized interactions on stage. Ideally, your character and your record should, by this time, be your greatest defense. Debates are mostly a way for citizens to grow familiar with those asking for their support. It’s largely a gimmick, and mostly a show. If you waste the opportunity to answer the decent questions with truthful answers, then that’s your fault.

With fact-checking becoming a popular post-debate habit, you would think that candidates would settle for ambiguous statements or occasionally stretching the truth, rather than flipping the truth onto its side, putting it in a chokehold, and driving a spear through it.

Yes, in the age of easy fact-checking, please tell me why Trump can flat out deny his own well publicized criticism of Rubio and Zuckerberg, as well as the details of his campaign financing (only 50% self-funded) without being called out on it? Why can Ben Carson act like he’s never even heard of the controversial company, Mannatech, when the company’s video ads featured him as a supporter, and still be seen as an “honest, likeable” candidate? How can Cruz lie about women’s wages, saying they’ve decreased when we’ve actually seen them go up during Obama’s presidency, and not be seen as someone trying to falsify information and use a women’s issue to garner support?

But no matter which debate you’re watching, dishonesty is to politicians like dishonesty is to politicians. (Did you need an actual analogy?)

Like the Democratic debates, despite there being a few of the candidates who chose to be less than frank, but there were occasional moments of where they stepped up to the plate and played hardball, taking on the difficult questions with enthusiasm.

A lot of enthusiasm.

Kasich yelled a lot, Paul provided no surprises but stood up aptly against Cruz, Carson rambled a bit and mostly had his points either proven, disproven or stolen by other people, Fiorina complained about Democrats and big government before defending her CEO tenure and suggesting that we trim the tax code by approximately 70,000 pages, Trump was shockingly subdued, even when bragging about his long history of business success and skirting the issues of bankruptcy in the hotel industry (although he did admit to packing a gun at times), and Rubio alternated nicely between a political machine and a human being with personality.

But all the enthusiasm, fantasy football jokes (really, Bush?), moderation bashing and political prowess in the world can’t save what was a mockery of a debate. If the gusto and bravado of this last debate could somehow be refined to a point where it was more than just a shit show and provided a higher level of awareness regarding the candidates potential actions if elected, I’d vote for that.


Megan Wallin

Megan Wallin is a writer from the Seattle area. She's been writing, drawing, singing and picking out tunes on the piano ever since she escaped the womb. Post-utero, she's enjoyed jobs in education, grocery, dual diagnosis, and foster care/residential housing. She can neither whistle nor skip smooth stones, but is otherwise a fairly competent human being. Feel free to contact her.