Prior to tonight’s Republican Presidential Debate, my friend Marilyn asked, “Why are you going to watch? It won’t change your mind or opinion and you will only get upset….” A reasonable question, I suppose, given my particular political persuasion, but I pride myself on listening to both sides of things and — while I remain a left-leaning democrat — I felt better about things than I have in awhile about the political future of the country.
I couldn’t see the debate. My wife and I were able to hear it on the internet on Fax News Radio. Perhaps that helped and it forced me to focus on their messages. When I first heard about it, I was astounded that there were so many candidates and I expected a free-for-all full of one-liners and talking points as the news frequently is.
While I hated the FOX commentators extraneous comments and some of the candidates’ attempts to be cute. I still don’t get Ben Carson, who seems convinced that Blacks’ problems are because people complain and divide “us”. As a therapist, I am so “over” people blaming victims for what perpetrators do. The problem is not the complaining, the problem is that something to complain about. Getting shot is, it seems to me, something to complain about.
Yes, Donald Trump is a blowhard. Yes, Mike Huckabee seems like a bit too simple to me. Yes, I thought Marco Rubio played to his anger at Cuba. Yes, I’m still for Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.
What I did hear is that someone on that panel — maybe two or three — recognize that we have problems, that people need to eat, that the rich getting richer is not helping anyone, that not everyone is doing well or feels included. Someone on the panel sounded like a Democrat. Some of the candidates had switched positions and could justify it. In short, they sounded like people who wanted to be seen as leaders.
I have come to believe that the “Democrat-sounding” guy may be Hasich? Kasich?, a man I have never heard of. Another one might be Rand Paul and I believe that there was another sane-sounding person in the debates. Still no sense of who that was, but he was there.
There may well have been an attempt at “litmus-testing” (How conservative/right wing can you be?) as we have had for years with the questions being asked. This time, however, there were different voices, dissident voices from the standard Republican platform. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was with the answer, “I would follow the constitution and enforce the law” when asked someone was asked about gay marriage. It didn’t have to be that subject, but I haven’t heard a Republican candidate say that he wasn’t going to “overthrow everything that Obama has done” in probably 8 years. No one asked for the President’s birth certificate or if he was a Muslim.
In addition, on the faith/free speech vs.homosexual-marraige/civil rights thing, I was thrilled to hear a variety of voices that took the question seriously. Their opinions are in a spectrum, but it was a wide spectrum, including the man who said “of course, if my child were gay, I would love them, even if we disagree on it. Christians can do that… God doesn’t want me to break up my family. God wants me to love it.” And he was applauded! I never, ever expected that to happen in a Republican debate— either for him to take that stance or the audience to respond that way. And yet, there it was!
Donald Trump, nearly always the jerk, explained his change in stand on abortion with a heartfelt, credible story and answer. Rand Paul scored some points with me, both when filibustered earlier in the year and during this debate. He has some ideas worth listening to. Those ideas aren’t enough of his platform to make me vote for him, mind you. But to be a part of the government debating ideas ? Absolutely.
What’s the one thing about Republicans that I don’t think Democrats or liberals in general get? As blustery as they are, the Republicans debating things don’t want to be told how to say things. They dislike the idea that there’s a proper way to talk about this group or that. They talk about them as they always have. They come across as honest, genuine and strong that way. They don’t seem to be shucking- and-jiving with their language. They are not trying to pull one over on people by using big words. I, for one, respect that idea. That said, being sure of yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Hitler knew what he believed, but that didn’t make it true or morally right. Yes, Stalin and Krushev thought they were right, too and that didn’t make it so either.
Human beings should use their thoughts and their feelings and their senses to make decisions about people’s lives. Some of the candidates did that. I may not agree with how they came out on this issue or that in the end, but I respect their process immensely when they do. To the extent that any politician tries to be wise, using all their resources and help people, I support their being leaders. To the extent that they don’t, I wish they would leave Washington and go sell shoes.
The free exchange of ideas is what makes a democracy strong and flexible enough to deal with any situation. For the first time in years, I have heard leaders in the other party do that. I am beginning to have faith in the health of our government once again. If people in my party can do that as well, democracy will happen again.
That’s why I watched, Marilyn. That’s why I should have watched, and why I did. Thanks for asking…