By what they said and by what they didn’t say last night the array of Republican presidential candidates, led by the billionaire Donald Trump, managed to insult workers, women, African Americans and other minorities, immigrants, foreigners, and just about anyone who has some kind of compassion for other human beings.
The debate opened with the refusal by Trump, the billionaire and reality-show star, to join all the others in a pledge that he wouldn’t run as an independent if he loses the GOP nomination. That was about the only time he was booed by the carefully chosen audience that robustly applauded any time he bullied anyone, any time he bashed immigrants or foreigners, and when he made an outrageous opening attack against women.
Megyn Kelly, early on, said to Trump: “You call women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”
“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” he said, instantly winning approval from most of the GOP cheering squad selected to attend.
Trump then said he wouldn’t be bound by “political correctness” and said to Kelly: “I’ve been very nice to you, even though I don’t have to be given the way you treat me, but I wouldn’t do that.”
Leaving Kelly to fend for herself, not one of the other nine men on the stage, each of them candidates for the presidency of the United States, rose to call Trump out for his behavior.
Their failure to do so wasn’t surprising considering the ugliness of the spectacle that unfolded repeatedly during the night. Ten men wrestled with one another over and over again trying to prove which among them had launched more effective attacks on Planned Parenthood and women’s health.
Ten men struggled on the stage to outdo one another in their attacks on President Obama’s diplomacy with Iran. One after another they pledged to tear up the nuke deal on “day one” of their presidency.
Nine of the ten men on the stage had no problem explaining that they would cut millions off health care on their first day in office. Only Gov. John Kasich of Ohio made a half-hearted attempt to appear human by saying that he took the Obamacare Medicaid extension in his state because it gave healthcare to many who did not have it.
All of the ten men on the stage backed the erection of something akin to the Great Wall of China on our southern border and stoked fear of countless foreign countries including not just Mexico but Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, the Central American nations, Iraq , Syria, and Libya, among many others.
To the GOP candidates debating last night, attacking and beating down workers is apparently a badge of honor and a qualification for fighting terrorism. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin boasted that his ability to “deal with” hundreds of thousands of workers protesting his attacks on their basic right to organize unions was proof of his ability to handle “terrorists” overseas.
Both he and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey bragged how they beat unions in their states.
Although only Trump described Mexicans as “rapists” they all refused to back the comprehensive immigration reform package put together by a bi-partisan group of senators. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the authors of that compromise, continued to show he lacks the spine to back his own bill.
Not one of the ten mentioned anything about the need to strengthen Social Security or Medicare. Most, in fact called for cuts in both programs and for raising the retirement age.
Civil Rights was never mentioned by any of the candidates either in the context of yesterday being the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act or in the context of today’s civil rights movements, particularly the Black Lives Matter movement. The police killings of African Americans and the mass movements of resistance against those killings were not on the GOP’s radar last night.
Republican presidents including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush each pushed for and signed renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 during their terms. The Republicans on stage last night might just as well never have heard of the Voting Rights Act.
The only actual debate of the night broke out during an exchange between Chris Christie and Rand Paul over Paul’s opposition to warrantless wiretapping. with Christie backing the right of the government to spy on all Americans and Paul telling Christie that he didn’t understand the Bill of Rights.
The America on display last night was a scary one indeed. It was a country where “normal” means bullying, putting thugs in leadership, hatred of foreigners and immigrants, support for policies that protect only the rich, racism, sexism, and war mongering. It was a country in which the people cheered for all of those things.
Hopefully for us all, between now and November 2016, the real America will turn out in unprecedented numbers to ensure that none of these men ever become president.
Photo: AFL-CIO Blog