The Washington Post has a full transcript of the prime-time debate, and also a transcript of the “undercard” debate. It’s also worth checking out Factcheck’s quick overview of both the main and the undercard debates.
“Businesswoman and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina” had the greatest success at distinguishing herself from the pack, and seems likely to “advance” to the prime-time debate in the next round. In my personal estimation, Chris Christie wins the contest for most vacuous fluff, by answering a serious question about civil liberties by crying “nine eleven! Nine eleven! Nine eleven!”
On the substance… well, it’s all pretty dire, isn’t it? All of these candidates seem to agree that the main thing to do about immigration is to build a “wall,” even though there’s strong evidence that doing so will not only kill some immigrants (admittedly, not something I think any of these candidates care about), but actually increase the number of undocumented immigrants (which is something they claim to care about).
Meanwhile, Cruz derides the 2013 “Gang of 8” bill as “amnesty.” But if that bill – which would have hired thousands of new border patrol agents, spent billions on wallbuilding and security measures, and the “amnesty” would have required potential immigrants to “wait for 13 years, pay all back taxes, learn English, no legalization for people with criminal records, and citizenship or permanent residence only after the border becomes fully secure.” If that’s unacceptable “amnesty,” then basically nothing is acceptable to the Republicans Cruz represents. And no one disagreed with Cruz.
Cruz also called for a mandatory five sentence for any undocumented immigrant who is deported and then returns to the USA. A disproportionate and vindictive idea, and again, no disagreement from any of the other Republican candidates.
Republicans like to say that they’re not anti-immigration, but in practice, they are. Favoring unreasonable and vindictive “reforms” to immigration is not, for any practical purpose, different from opposing immigration in general.
Also depressing: Everything said about Iran. Everything said about abortion. Transphobic comments from Huckabee, misogyny from Trump. Well, basically, everything.
(The opposition to same-sex marriage is, for me, beginning to seem less depressing than pathetic. You lost, people. Move on.)
Part of the problem is that the Republican base wants this; they have genuinely terrible policy preferences, and of course their candidates reflect this preference. And they also clearly want belligerence, hence the Trump moment.
The non-debate debate format is a lesser part of the problem, but as a debate geek it’s a part I find especially irritating. The debates are designed to keep candidates from pressing each other, and to prevent any candidate from being able to discuss anything in depth. Rather than the “clown car” approach, I wish that the Republicans (or the Democrats, if the Democrats had a large number of candidates) would have a series of small debates – three candidates per debate. In each debate, one of the better-known candidates should face off against two of the lesser-known candidates. This would both make the better-known candidates have to work harder and justify their positions more, and give the lesser-known candidates a better chance to show voters who they are in (relative) depth.
So that’s how I’d have the debates run if I were dictator (although if I’m a dictator, then what are we having an election for?). What did y’all think of the debates?