Opinion: GOP debates lack substance

Lucas Misera

CBS is home to various reality television programs, ranging from “The Amazing Race” to “Undercover Boss”. On Saturday, the GOP debate looked more like a heated Tribal Council on “Survivor” rather than a discussion between presidential candidates.

Saturday’s debate was teeming with theatrical content: featuring several spats between fellow senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, pleas from Ben Carson and Governor Kasich to cease the personal attacks and a cringe-worthy moment in which Trump suggested that Jeb Bush’s brother, George, was at fault for the September 11 attacks. The Economist, a periodical based out of the United Kingdom, called the debate a “deplorable evening.”

Understandably, each candidate is making a push to gather the public’s attention, but these events rarely take the form of debates. Frankly, referring to these events as ‘debates’ is misleading. The word, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is an argument ‘in a formal manner.’ Most meetings between GOP candidates result in damaged reputations and an abundance of unique insults, but rarely do productive discussions on substantive policy matters take place.

Disappointingly, it seems as if Trump’s rhetoric has set the tone for elections leading up to November. Finger-pointing and invective have diminished legitimate talent and intelligence within the GOP, allowing name-calling to determine the efficacy of a candidate. Kasich is relatively moderate, capable of bridging the gap between parties; Rubio is a younger candidate with a positive following in his state and Bush brings more than enough experience and pedigree to serve as a legitimate candidate.

Of course, Democrats feature their share of bickering, but these debates often flow more seamlessly and contain less of the behavior exhibited by their counterparts. Bernie Sanders continuously dismisses opportunities to attack Hilary Clinton on her email scandal, and Clinton similarly refused to confront Sanders concerning a potential breach of confidential voter information within the DNC database. Democratic debates are, for the most part, exemplary in nature. Although heated, Clinton and Sanders stick to important issues and focus more on how they would function as president. Inversely, Republicans most commonly discuss what they believe to be President Obama’s shortcomings and explain why other candidates are unqualified for the presidency.

Debates are a critical part of primaries when running for the presidency. In such a crowded field of Republicans, a candidate that can effectively pitch his or her policies on such a wide platform could pull ahead. Unfortunately, Trump has set the stage, so the GOP might be won by whomever best launches and fends off unruly attacks.

Lucas Misera is a columnist for The Kent Stater, contact him at [email protected].