For much of last night’s GOP presidential debate, I found myself playing Rae Sremmurd’s “Up Like Trump” in my head. The chances of me voting for Donald Trump for president are about as likely as me extending an invite to Rick Santorum to film my gay honeymoon, but I take great joy in him exposing the current state of the GOP presidential primary system for the crock that is. Trump’s persona makes him a standout, but substantively, he is no less silly or vile than his peers and the party’s base.
As the Beyoncé of the crowded field, the first question went to him—and it was loaded as they come. Trump was asked if he would support the eventful Republican presidential nominee and forgo a third party bid, which he has teased of running in recent weeks. Ever defiant, Trump answered, “I will not make the pledge at this time.” Why would he? He’s not the only person putting himself ahead of party.
After all, if these 17 Republicans running for president were genuinely about their party, they would have taken cues from the nasty 2012 GOP presidential primary and only declared candidacies if they had the means and organization. Many of them do not, but they’re in the race anyway. A presidential run can lead to book deals, talk show radio contracts and FOX News contracts, among other things.
The likes of Ben Carson know this, which is the only conceivable reason he’s running for president. Carson danced around the questions the majority of the time and always leaked “grateful to God” when the buzzer rang, momentarily freeing him from the farce. With his plans to create a tax system based on tithing, defense of torture, and pleas for us to look beyond color, Carson was more so running for America’s next Black friend.
Despite having actual experience in government, the others were just as asinine. Mike Huckabee—a master of presenting evil ideas with a smile—made comments like, “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.” This was his answer to a question about transgender rights in the military, noting we don’t have time for “social experiments.” Yeah, like letting another religious zealot run the country.
When asked about his position on forbidding abortion even in the case of a mother’s life being threatened, Governor Scott Walker told FOX News’s Megyn Kelly, “I’ve got a position that’s in line with everyday America.” Walker said this seconds after Kelly introduced a statistic disproving that very notion. Then there is Senator Ted Cruz, who gleefully shouted about him never being for amnesty.
The only memorable thing about Chris Christie and Rand Paul’s respective performances involved their mini tit for tat over the Patriot Act. Paul was Drake, Christie, Meek Mill. Both should have run four years ago. Oh well.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio was quite prepared with his answers, though conveying sincerity still isn’t his strong suit. And when it comes to his fellow Floridian, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, he wasn’t bad, but not particularly memorable either. Though he was initially seen by his family as the Beyoncé to George W. Bush’s Ciara, the Jackie album, his political gaffes (five and growing) and so-so energetic levels during a debate will ultimately prove that “Dubya” is the superior politician. That is, if you haven’t been convinced of the obvious yet.
Current Ohio governor John Kasich sounded more like the “compassionate conservative” than Jeb Bush did. To wit, when asked about what he’d do if his child were gay, Kasich said: “Our court has ruled and I said we’ll accept it. And guess what? I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who is gay. Just because they don’t think the same way doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love them. That’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith.”
The crowd erupted applause for the homegrown candidate. It was almost frustrating to have to consistently refer to Kasich as the “reasonable one” given Kasich’s very complicated record in Ohio.
That said, this same crowd cheered for Trump as Megyn Kelly read off the list of insults the businessman and media personality has leveled against women over the years. Trump did not back down from critiques on tone—from her or from Jeb Bush—though he notably informed Kelly, “Honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me.”
Trump was Trump: rude, hyperbolic, charismatic, and utterly ridiculous. But that is the GOP and its bosom buddy, FOX News’s, entire mantra. If the point was to see Trump fizzle under pressure of a real political event, the mission failed miserably. He’s a clown, but they know better than anyone how to act at the circus.