Summarizing the 5th Republican Debate: An Absurd Sideshow of Propaganda and Dangerous Ideas

Tonight’s Republican debate on CNN was, quite possibly, the most anticipated debate thus far. Not because it carried with it any significance other than being the last debate of 2015, but because it was the first debate following the Paris attack; the San Bernardino attack; the Planned Parenthood attack; and Donald Trump’s incredibly inflammatory remarks about Muslims. Personally, I was as pumped for tonight’s debate as I have been for any so far this year.

And I was not disappointed.

Not because the debate offered any real substance – Republican debates rarely do – but because it was every bit the circus I expected it to be. Clearly led by the lead clown, Donald Trump.

I knew I was in for a long night when the first debate was filled with some of the most over-the-top fear-mongering I think I’ve ever witnessed. I’m not really going to get into it too much (because who cares) but I’ll toss out a couple of highlights:

  • They blamed President Obama for Trump’s bigotry.
  • Said if George W. Bush was still in charge, ISIS wouldn’t exist. No, seriously – that happened on that debate stage tonight.
  • The movie The Princess Bride was quoted.
  • The right for the government to intrude into any aspect of your private life they want was encouraged – but denying guns to suspected terrorists was frowned upon.
  • The government cannot be trusted – but should be allowed to use their discretion to violate the Constitutional rights of every American.

…and that was just the kid’s table debate from earlier in the evening.

Now, on to the main circus show.

The big question: Will Trump’s numbers fall after this debate? I think they will – as I predicted – though probably only slightly. He was booed several times throughout the evening and put on a national stage just how radical he really is. Not only did he say he wants to censor the Internet; ban Muslims; and target the families of terrorists – but he also essentially said we should act with the same moral convictions as our enemies.

Toward the end of the evening he became visibly annoyed at the fact that much of the focus was on his inflammatory rhetoric. I could be wrong, but I do see Trump’s numbers taking a little bit of a hit after tonight. Though when it comes to his supporters, thinking rationally is pointless, so he could very well go up 2-3 points in the next set of polling as well.

Marco Rubio did well, though he typically does during these debates. He took on several attacks from Ted Cruz and usually got the better of the Texas senator. Rubio still strikes me as someone who, if ever put under the intense scrutiny of the national spotlight, is going to crumble. I guess we’ll see. He’s clearly one of the two candidates the RNC wants to emerge as the nominee.

He did, for the first time, put his support behind a form of a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. So I’ll be curious to see how that impacts him in the polls.

I feel Ted Cruz got completely exposed tonight. As I’ve said before, he’s great when it comes to hitting his talking points during a speech – but he crumbles whenever he’s pressed. Tonight, Rubio pressed him fairly well and he faltered pretty badly during most of their exchanges. His weakest moment, in my opinion, came when he was asked whether or not he would be willing to “carpet bomb” ISIS in cities that are heavily populated by civilians – only to suggest that ISIS apparently isn’t based inside of cities. Which, of course, is completely ridiculous. ISIS has been using civilians as cover to try to avoid airstrikes.

It also didn’t help that he literally mocked the push by many Republicans – including the entire foreign policy of George W. Bush – to promote democracy within the Middle East.

Though I would like to point out that while he had no problem battling Rubio, he was still too big of a coward to take on Donald Trump.

Ben Carson did nothing that made me think he’s gong to regain any of his momentum. It seemed painfully obvious throughout the night that he was struggling to remember what he had rehearsed beforehand to appear more knowledgable. He was specifically asked what he thought about an exchange Rubio and Rand Paul had on national surveillance – and he said to ask them. Yes, to ask other candidates what he thinks about national surveillance.

As far as Fiorina… if you liked her before, you liked her tonight. She did nothing to stand out and I wouldn’t expect her standing in the polls to change at all. If she makes it to Iowa, I would be shocked.

Then there was Chris Christie – the guy who seems unable to give a response without mentioning Hillary Clinton, 9/11 or the fact he was a prosecutor. Much like Fiorina, if you liked him before, you probably liked him after tonight. He did nothing at all to stand out, at least not in my opinion.

John Kasich, who cares? Why he’s still in the race is beyond me, though I will give him credit for sounding the most reasonable on a couple of issues. That’s not a huge accomplishment on a stage where he’s surrounded by ridiculous ideas and dangerous rhetoric on almost every issue.

Rand Paul, despite the fan club that apparently showed up to cheer everything he said, is done. With a conservative base that’s becoming increasingly war-hungry, a candidate with an isolationist approach isn’t going to play well to many voters outside his libertarian loyalists. Though, as hard as it is for me to say (which is a testament to how ridiculous the GOP has become) Paul might be the most rational candidate of the whole bunch on many of these international issues.

I will say Jeb Bush surprised me a little. He came off looking fairly strong several times throughout the night, though I couldn’t help but laugh when he tried to blame the chaos that’s going on in the Middle East on President Obama. Blaming Obama for the mistakes of his brother is nothing new for Jeb – heck, Republicans have been doing it since 2008. While his poll numbers might see a slight increase… he’s currently polling around 3 percent. Even if his numbers triple (which I doubt), he still wouldn’t even be in double-digits.

What to say other than – wow. No matter how many of these sideshows I watch, I can’t help but walk away astonished that there are people gullible enough to buy into the propaganda and lies Republicans often sell. This is a party that is built on fear and driven by paranoia. A party running mostly against what Democrats support rather than on what they actually will do. And even in those rare moments they actually offer specifics as to what they want to do – it’s the same worn out rhetoric Republicans have been using since the 80’s. The same ideas that have proven time and time again to be absolute failures.

These GOP debates are comically absurd. Again, it’s stunning that there are millions of people who are simple-minded enough to buy into the outrageous propaganda these con artists are selling.

But more than anything, tonight made me realize that – whether it’s Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malleywe cannot allow Republicans to win the White House in 2016. I’m not sure this country can survive the idiocy that I just spent 4+ hours witnessing tonight.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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