Darn, I missed yet another GOP debate last night. Oh well. If you want to get a good re-cap, check out Andrew Sullivan’s live-blogging thread. I’m more inclined to listen to what Sully has to say because he is, ostensibly, a conservative and therefore isn’t programmed to automatically react negatively to a Republican. So his summation is worth noting.
I’m not sure what to say about this evening, except I want to take a shower. I’ve rarely been repulsed by the atmosphere of a debate as I was tonight. But this is the Republican core of South Carolina. One of the biggest applause lines was about waging war on the federal government.
Well, this is South Carolina, and this was where the Civil War began, so this kind of noise is to be expected. Giving Newt Gingrich a standing ovation for calling President Obama the “food stamp president” was typical; the dog whistles have been replaced by air-raid sirens and it’s only a matter of time before he or someone in this crowd comes out and calls Mr. Obama that word that you know they just want to say. Oh, and this happened on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Really.
Jon Huntsman did us a favor by dropping out; he was supposedly the last bastion of rational thought and moderation in the race, but he never had a chance with his dry humor and refusal to hang out with the bat-shit crazies. Now what’s left is this collection of candidates who each in their own way represents a constituency in today’s Republican party: Mitt Romney, the corporate grifter; Newt Gingrich, the moral reprobate and shameless hypocrite; Rick Santorum, the kinky sex prude; and Rick Perry, the mental midget who cannot even rise to the level of a bad caricature of George W. Bush. Ron Paul is a world unto his own.
These debates — all 14,000 of them — have served as a combination of those MSNBC “documentaries” about prison lock-ups that fill their weekend schedule and WWF: designed to horrify and titillate with their mixture of staged violence and a peek at the underbelly of humanity caught in the grips of raw survival instinct. The idea that any one of the rich white guys on stage at a GOP debate could end up in the White House is enough to scare the crap out of any rational person.
Knowing the attention span of the American electorate, all of these shows will be a distant memory by the time the real hard-core campaigning begins this summer. In a way, that’s too bad; the scripted performances of the campaign aren’t half as much fun to watch as the improvised grand guignol and freak show that we’re getting now.