Thursday, August 11, 2011

A marriage between reality TV and politics

It's past my bedtime but before I go, I have to weigh in on tonight's Republican presidential debate on Fox News. I feel very strongly that these debates need to move to a reality-tv format where one candidate is voted off of the stage every 15 minutes. Given the size of the field, they'll have to be voted off in pairs to begin with, but the only thing that will make these forums tolerable in the future is a political Jeff Probst saying, "The tribe has spoken. It's time for you to go." Or even better, since Trump toyed with the idea of running but opted out, he could still be part of the process by sitting at a table across from the podiums shouting his trademark, "You're fired!" Just to fire the candidates from the debate, of course - not from the campaign trail altogether. I still believe in the electoral process for choosing a candidate. The next day they can go back to campaigning and sucking up to Iowans. There will be plenty of other debates to brush up on their survival skills and come back to the podium again.

In my opinion, the Mormons were the big winners tonight and the Minnesotans came off like bickering siblings. First, the Mormon victories: Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman both came across very strong. Romney had all the right answers (and often vague ones) on the economy. Jon Huntsman (seen above in WSJ photo between Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich) presented himself as a shrewd businessman and didn't back down on his record, even on his more unpopular opinions.

Then we have the bickering Minnesotans: Governor Tim Pawlenty and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. These two dominated far too much time by criticizing each other's records, defending themselves by criticizing the other person in turn, and then going back and forth, much to the chagrin of Rick Santorum - who never missed a chance to point out how little screen time he was getting. I say to all three of you - you're not going to win the nomination. The tribe has spoken. Goodbye. You're fired. Whatever other reality catchphrase applies here that means "go away." Do that.

Newt Gingrich had a bit of screen time tonight. His standard answer to any given question sounded the same (this is not verbatim, but pretty close): When I was Speaker of the House, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan, I'm very smart, Ronald Reagan, shut up about my disastrous campaign, and quit staring at my oddly-shapen head. (This last part was implied, but I found it to be very astute, as I was in fact staring at said head.)

In all seriousness, my true inspiration to write about the debate is Jon Huntsman reiterating his support for civil unions. I am neither Republican nor Democrat and I have equal contempt for both parties. But Huntsman's defense of civil unions inspires me. I have a hard time watching presidential debates because I tire of hearing constant pandering, but this was the opposite of pandering. Anyone who is running for the Republican nomination knows one of the essential catchphrases is, "Marriage is between a man and a woman." It is right up there with, "Life begins at conception." It is a standard survival technique in the early stages of any campaign, but Hunstman strayed from the script and stuck to his guns. He defended his position by saying, "I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to equality. I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to reciprocal beneficiary rights. I believe this is something that should be discussed among the various states... as for me, I support civil unions."

You are correct, Mr. Huntsman. This country can do a better job when it comes to equality. Not only that, but this country can do a much better job of staying focused on things like our financial crisis and our men and women in uniform who are repeatedly deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and too many of them coming home broken. Those are the things we should be talking about, in presidential debates and in congress. I've heard enough about the hot-button issues.

The only thing that would inspire me more than hearing John Hunstman stick to his principles on civil unions, is if Republican voters will see past this and not use it as a sudden-elimination round because he has gone off script. I for one would like to hear more of what Mr. Hunstman has to say. Judging by the amount of post-debate analysis Fox News focused on candidate Huntsman (zero!) I would say he has an uphill battle ahead of him. It is a shame if his voice is stifled after this debate. As an independent voter in the general election, I would like to hear more of what Mr. Huntsman has to say. Of course, he'll have to make it past his own party's primaries first before he ever has a chance in a general election. After the voters held their noses last year and voted for John McCain, I have a feeling the Republican candidate is going to tow the party line pretty heavily this year. I hope I'm wrong because it would be a shame. I can't be the only person voting in the general election who is in favor of civilized debate and rational ideas. Then again, there really is no room for that sort of thing in politics, is there?

1 comment:

Paul said...

I missed the debate for two reasons: (1) I don't have cable, and (2) even if I did, I probably would have turned it off in disgust at the posturing and petty bickering you highlight--exactly the same thing that got me fed up with the nomination process in both parties for the 2008 election.

I saw Jon Huntsman on ABC the Sunday morning after the debate and liked what he had to say, but, like you, I also fear his voice of moderation will disappear in the din of gibbering fringe monkeys.